To my valued readers,

Have you ever experienced being crazy passionate about writing and then, seemingly all of the sudden, you lost interest?

It became less exciting, less fun, less of something you wanted to do but more of something you want to express.

I am very sorry for more than two years of a slump.
Even I, myself was wondering what happened.

But I have finally bounced back and clawed my way out.
The interest to write my opinion is once again become an obsession I can’t resist.

I am back.
And still imbued with the spirit of carpe diem…
to seize the moment…

be critical…

be involved…

be heard…

 

carpe diem

[Document] Position Paper of the United Against Torture Coalition on the National Preventive Mechanism


By Atty. Ricardo Sunga III

Within one year from ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Philippines is obligated to establish a national preventive mechanism. It is one or several visiting bodies, set up, designated or maintained, at the domestic level, for the prevention of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

There is range of possible forms that the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) can take. This paper explores them. Section I of this paper considers the standards that the NPM must observe. Section II critically examines the various possible forms of the NPM through the lens of these standards.

This paper was written by Atty. Ricardo A. Sunga III for the United Against Torture Coalition in 2012.

Ricardo Sunga III, LLB (University of the Philippines) and LLM (University of New South Wales), is a member of the Philippine Bar. He has been a professorial lecturer at the University of the Philippines College of Law, and is currently a Law Reform Specialist of the University of the Philippines Institute of Human Rights. He is also the Regional Coordinator for the National Capital Region of the Free Legal Assistance Group, an organization of human rights lawyers.

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Photo File: Courtesy of www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk

You can download the UATC Position Paper here.

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[Notes] RECOGNIZING THE RIGHTS OF MENTALLY IMPAIRED INMATES AS PART OF PRISON REFORMS


By Medical Action Group

The Medical Action Group has recently received a query from AB Communication undergraduate students of the Ateneo de Manila University who are doing a study on the health conditions of mentally ill inmates in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) as part of their academic requirements.

To make their response institutional, the MAG staff members have discussed and deliberated the issue and come up with the following insights.

I am posting their response in order to further encourage a public discourse on the issue and to help shape up public policies and programs.

QUESTION:

“Do mentally ill patients share the same rights and limitations as regular prisoners? Is it humane to keep them imprisoned if they are in a mentally delicate condition?”

RESPONSE:

THE MEDICAL ACTION GROUP subscribes to the World Health Organization (WHO) assessment recognizing imprisonment by its very nature has an adverse effect on mental health.

Prison conditions have adverse impact on mental health in general, because of overcrowding, nature of violence, isolation from families and friends, uncertainty of life after prison, and of course, inadequate health services. The impact of these problems is even worse for prisoners who are already mentally and emotionally impaired which may have pushed them to commit a crime.

Considering that prison system operates according to a certain system of rules, policies, and procedures that regulate the conduct of all inmates, it will definitely run in constant tension with the vulnerabilities of prisoners who have mental illnesses for they are more likely to break any of these rules and may be subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment.

Given that most prison systems especially in the Philippines do not provide correctional officers with proper trainings in dealing with mentally ill inmates. The jail officers, who are usually trained like police officers whose main goal is to enforce the rules, do not understand and can’t distinguish normal social behavior to that of mentally ill. This may result to mishandling of mentally ill inmates that may constitute to human rights violations.

The United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Standard Minimum Rules), adopted by the Economic and Social Council in 1957, although not a treaty, imposes obligations to the states to humanely treat prisoners—including providing mental health care to those who need it.

To wit:

Section 22.

(1) At every institution there shall be available the services of at least one qualified medical officer who should have some knowledge of psychiatry. The medical services should be organized in close relationship to the general health administration of the community or nation. They shall include a psychiatric service for the diagnosis and, in proper cases, the treatment of states of mental abnormality.

(2) Sick prisoners who require specialist treatment shall be transferred to specialized institutions or to civil hospitals. Where hospital facilities are provided in an institution, their equipment, furnishings and pharmaceutical supplies shall be proper for the medical care and treatment of sick prisoners, and there shall be a staff of suitable trained officers.

In fact, the Standard Minimum Rules go beyond providing health care and treatment services but rather recognize that prisoners with serious mental illness should not be confined in prisons at all. They should be put in mental institutions, where they can be properly observed and treated by mental health professional. It further clarifies that while they are still considered as prisoners, they shall be placed under the special supervision of a medical officer.

While we do recognize the existing efforts of the government to improve the health facilities including provision of psychological wards particularly in the National Bilibid Prison (NBP) to meet the internationally accepted Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, sad to say, the general prison condition is still far below these standards. While the NBP, one of the biggest correctional facilities in the country is in a better situation than the others, it is still being confronted with various even perennial problems. Not to mention that the controls and supervisions of jail facilities are at various levels given the devolution of authority of central government to the local government units. Political dynamics usually plays around the layered bureaucracy.

The most common problem of prisoners or detainees is the insufficiency or lack of food provision due to the delay in release of food allotment and inadequate or unsanitary food preparation. In some instances, relatives of inmates have to supply them with food.

Over-crowded or prison congestion is still a major concern as there are no enough shelter/living space or worse it is not even suited for human existence. Some prisoners have to take turn for their sleeping schedule because there is a lack of sleeping paraphernalia and the undersized cells have poor ventilation. Unsanitary conditions are compounded by defective comfort rooms and lack of potable water system. In NBP, prisoners have to draw water from a deep well.

Due to these old prevailing problems, inmates have easily acquired different kinds of diseases. This is in spite the fact that the NBP Infirmary has a capacity of 500 patients. But apparently it is not being fully utilized because of the absence of sufficient medical supplies and laboratory facilities.

This is attributed to the abysmal low budget for prison improvement. Take note, each inmate has a budget of three pesos only earmarked for medicine, except for major medical problems which would need referrals with the Department of Health (DoH) for the needed medical treatment. More often that not, only those rich and influential inmates who are given VIP treatments can avail such services because they can afford to pay for their own medical expenses. Take for example the case of former Batangas Gov. Leviste and just recently Atty. Gigi Reyes, Sen. Enrile’s former Chief of Staff who can immediately go out of NBP escorted by the police to have their own medical check ups.

While poor, ailing and aging prisoners are usually just left to wait for their time to finally come
Just like what happened to the political prisoner, Mariano Umbrero who passed away two years ago as a result of his deteriorating medical condition and lack of medical care.

So how do we expect for our correctional system to address the need of the mentally ill inmates?

Prison time can only exacerbate the psychological problems of mentally ill prisoners. Given the fact that they are incarcerated, removed from the general public and separated with their families is already psychologically stressful. Usually they are likely to turn to negative coping mechanisms to survive in jail.

Although, insufficient funding is not the only reason why mentally ill prisoners do not receive the treatment they need, the existing prison conditions in the country are not rehabilitative in nature and further undermine the prisoners’ mental health.

Putting mentally ill inmates into segregation may be an option depending on their specific behaviors, but they should also be housed in specialized secure units where they can still participate in meaningful human activities, especially to have human interaction, and receive the proper mental health services.

However, Medical Action Group (MAG) believes that whatever improvements are made, prisons will never be a good place for the mentally ill.

The rights based approach to health affirms that the end-goal of any medical and health interventions should enhance the ability of the mentally ill prisoners in particular to lead a productive and law-abiding life as possible upon their return to society.

A restorative understanding of justice opens new pathways for both the response to crime and treatment of offenders. While most restorative processes take place in community settings, the underlying framework of the right to health is creating prison environments that contribute to rehabilitation, healing and change. It is for this reason that MAG together with other human rights NGOs is pushing for prison reforms in accordance with international human rights standards.

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[Video] Death Penalty: Facts and Figures of 2013


By Amnesty International

The death penalty is a premeditated and cold-blooded killing of a human being by the state in the name of justice. It violates the right to life as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The human rights organizations around the world have been opposing the use of death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender, or the method used by the state to judicially execute anyone. It is not only legally and morally wrong, it is practically unacceptable as well.

  • It is not necessary for an effective system of criminal justice. The deficiencies in due process is irreparable.
  • There is nothing that can justify the taking of any life. Its sever social costs and values disintegration outweigh against its supposed social benefits.
  • The financial burdens it puts on the state are far heavier than those of a system that includes only life imprisonment without parole.

Death to Death Penalty! Watch the video at  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1VZjD96C9uk

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[Document] Bangsamoro Basic Law


The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) has made public the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law, which President Benigno Aquino III personally submitted to Philippine Congress.

The Bangsamoro Basic Law will abolishes the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and will establish the new Bangsamoro political identity in its place. The law is based on the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed by the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in March 2014.

You can download the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law here.

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Courtesy of www.hatawtabloid.com

[In the Web] What Crime Deterrence?


By Benedicto Sanchez

Pro-Capital Punishment advocates claim that death penalty can “strike fear in the hearts of the criminals.” This is what the writer, Mr. Benedicto Sanchez is trying to refute by  using the Amnesty International Philippines myth-busters contesting the efficacy of the death penalty.

Here are some interesting conclusions he presented.
MYTH #1: The death penalty deters violent crime and makes society safer.

FACT: There is no convincing evidence that the death penalty has a unique deterrent effect. More than three decades after abolishing the death penalty, Canada’s murder rate remains over a third lower than it was in 1976.

A 35-year study compared murder rates between Hong Kong, where there is no death penalty, and Singapore, which has a similar size population and executed regularly. The death penalty had little impact on crime rates. In the Philippines, former Sen. Joker Arroyo, a long-time human rights lawyer and activist, asserted that the revival of the death penalty from 1993-2004 failed to reduce the number of violent crimes.

MYTH #2: The threat of execution is an effective strategy in preventing terrorist attacks.

FACT: The prospect of execution is unlikely to act as a deterrent to people prepared to kill and injure for the sake of a political or other ideology. Some officials responsible for counter-terrorism have repeatedly pointed out that those who are executed can be perceived as martyrs whose memory becomes a rallying point for their ideology or organizations.

Khalid al-Mihdhar, Nawaf al-Hazmi, hijacker-pilots Mohamed Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi, and Ziad Jarrah looked forward to becoming shaheeds (martyrs) to earn their perpetual 72 virgins – and they did in 9/11.

MYTH #3: All people who are executed have been proven guilty of serious crimes.

FACT: With the advance of forensic science, the USA finds itself exonerating 144 death row convicts recorded in the USA since 1973 showing that, regardless of how many legal safeguards are in place, no justice system is free from error. As long as human justice remains fallible, the risk of executing the innocent can never be eliminated.

Crime Deterrence? We have to think again. He suggested that it is better for the PNP focus on crime detection to prove that crimes do exact payment of long stretches of jail time.

Please read full article at http://world.einnews.com/article/227573832/U8fxemA3OlQCKYfj?continued=1.

death penalty - amnesty international

Courtesy of www.amnesty.org

[Reflection] Pagpupugay at Pasasalamat sa mga Bayani at Martir ng Batas Militar: A Review


Heroes are made not born.

They are those who let no obstacle prevent them from pursuing the values they have chosen. Some simply happened to find themselves at a crossroads, confronted with the turbulent events of their time but chose to take a path less traveled and even offering their own lives.

One needs not to be extraordinary to do heroic deed. Any Juan dela Cruz, Maria or Jose – workers, farmers, fisherfolks, students, professionals, church people, informal settlers or street hawkers can make a big difference.

But there are many of them who remain anonymous until now. They are the NAMELESS —whose deeds are not known to many. Remembering them may not be enough. But reliving their legacies in us is one way to honor them.

And this is what the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines together with the NAMELESS HEROES AND MARTYRS, INC. and the DAKILA Collectives admirably did when they paid tribute to the HEROES and MARTYRS of MARTIAL LAW on September 30, 2014 at the Aldaba Recital Hall, University of the Philippines-Diliman.

The event brought together Martial Law heroes and the new generation of human rights defenders to commemorate the 42nd Anniversary of the Declaration of Martial Law through a matinee of songs, dances and theatrical play under the brilliant direction of UP Prof. Apolonio Chua.

The songs of protest like Batingaw, Sangandaan, Patak ng Ulan at Huling Awit were once again resonated on the stage by Color It Red vocalist Cooky Chua and the progressive labour theater group, Teatro Pabrika to awaken in the audience the Filipino spirit of patriotism.

May Tibak At May Tibak and Buhay Na Inalay Sa Bayan from LEAN: The Musical which run deep into our Filipino consciousness and stir intense emotions of sensitivities were given new life through the creative dance performances of the Collective Arts of Students and Thespians (CAST) from University of Makati by efficaciously translating the sufferings and struggle of the Filipino people under Martial law into series of movement and dramatic expression.

But what makes the event different from the previous commemorations is that it set the stage for the Reader’s theatre where excerpts from selected literatures were read by character roles with no needs for costumes and props for the audience to relive the social upheavals of that time that gave rise to popular discontent and resistance.

Tutubi, Tutubi ‘Wag Kang Magpahuli sa Mamang Salbahe’ (Dragonfly, Dragonfly, Don’t Allow Yourself to Get Caught by a Bad Guy) by Palanca awardee Jun Cruz Reyes, gives a satirical account of the irrationality of the power structure and how a high school student’s curiosity has turned into a conviction of joining the underground movement.

The “Written to Myself During a Fit of Depression” by former political prisoner, Doris Baffrey, a letter she wrote for herself relating her traumatic experiences while languishing in jail for almost five years which left a thick scar or welt on her very existence in the same way that many survivors of martial-law were plagued by intense, recurring nightmares. Ms. Baffrey was implicated in the PICC bombing during the American Society of Travel Agents Convention in 1980.

A more vivid account of torture was best described in the poem, ‘TORTYUR- Sa mga Kuko ng Karimlan’ written by another Palanca awardee and political activist, Levy Balgos dela Cruz which shows how torture is being used as a form of punishment until it breaks the person’s will to live.

The agony of a wife who has to pretend as a cousin of her husband in order to claim his remains after he was summarily executed by the military is given a human face and heart in the play, ‘Buwan at Baril’ by Chris Millado.

The family memoir, ‘Subversive Lives’ by the Quimpos reminds us of the personal costs at best illuminates an on-going struggle mediated by familial experiences and the sacrifices of those who joined the movement.

We owe it to those who stood and fought against the dictator in order for freedom and democracy to live. Their sacrifices and love for country are the reasons why the “selfie” generation today have the freedom to click and post whatever they want in social media. But lest we forget that the responsibility to make the country freer, humane and just now rests on our shoulders.

Salute to the Unsung Heroes of Martial Law!
Kudos to the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines!
Never Again to Martial Law!

Pagpupugay sa mga Bayani ng Martial Law