[Personal Note] I am back

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

[Literary] We All Cried Out: A Poem for ORLY by Darwin Mendiola

WHEN Tado took his last ride,
Leaving us with his eccentric humor and wit to bite…

WHEN Ka ROMY fought his final battle to cancer,
Leaving all workers to muse in how to break their own shackles…

WHEN Typhoon Yolanda hit the south,
Leaving thousands unprepared with the nature’s wrath…

WHEN Jennifer Laude was strangled to death,
Leaving the LGBTs to demand for justice and respect…

WHEN the SAF 44 was killed in a bungled operation,
Leaving the public to wonder who made such a stupid decision…

WHEN injustices and abuses were committed everyday,
Leaving victims and their families nothing left to pray…

THIS GUY makes us all see the brighter side of life,
Bringing laughter when hope seems to be out of sight…

AS his LAUGHTER finally runs dry,
Leaving us without even saying goodbye …

We will always REMEMBER you right up to the END.



Photo courtesy of http://www.quotehd.com/Quotes/jason-cook-quote-farewell-to-a-friend


[Note] MAG’s Position Paper on the Proposed Law Establishing the National Preventive Mechanism

The Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention against Torture (OPCAT) establishes “a system of regular visits undertaken by independent international and national bodies to places where people are deprived of their liberty, in order to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”.

The setting up of the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) as one or several visiting bodies designated or maintained, at the domestic level, is in fact already long overdue as the Philippines is obligated to establish this preventive system within one year from its ratification of the OPCAT in 2012.

Nonetheless, the Medical Action Group (MAG) welcomes the on-going legislative process at the House of Representatives for the enactment of the NPM to complement the implementation of Republic Act No. 9745 or the “Anti Torture Law of 2009”. This piece of legislation seeks to prevent the act of torture and other forms of ill-treatment and to complete the necessary protection mechanism to end torture impunity.

While the OPCAT does not specify a specific form or structure for the NPM and the states are free to designate one or several new or existing bodies as their NPMs. It does however provide minimum requirements for the NPM according to which it should be:

  • Independent (its function, personal and institutional capacity);
  • Provided with sufficient resources (financial, human, logistical or material);
  • Have the expertise necessary to fulfil its mandate;
  • Have powers and guarantees, in particular access to all places of deprivation of liberty, information and persons; and
  • Enjoy privileges and immunities (i.e. protection from sanctions and confidentiality of information).

One of the possible organizational forms that the NPM can take is the designation of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR). Under the 1987 Philippine Constitution, the CHR is to ‘exercise visitorial powers over jails, prisons, or detention facilities. But these are merely general visitorial powers. However, the visiting mandate of the NPM is specifically aimed at the prevention of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and has particular features prescribed by the OPCAT for unrestricted and unannounced visits. Thus, the NPM should be proactive and non-adversarial in its approach.

The MAG is fully supporting the proposed set up reflected in House Bill No. 5193 authored by Reps. Kit Belmonte and Barry Gutierrez for the establishment of the NPM as an attached agency to the CHR. An attached body to the CHR can make possible the diversity of expertise, but also gender balance and the adequate representation of ethnic and minority groups.

Nonetheless, whatever form the NPM may take, what is essential is that the NPM can carry out its mandate to conduct regular visits to all places of detentions without restriction. Their visits should lead to reports and concrete recommendations to improve the protection of persons deprived of liberty. After which, an annual report on their activities and their findings must be published after consultations with relevant government agencies and non-government organizations. The NPM can also give comments on relevant laws and regulations and propose for necessary reforms.

However, the setting up of the NPM should not be limited to legal consideration as it also involves health issues. The MAG believes that the participation of medical and health professionals in these visiting mechanisms is essential to address health issues related to torture and ill-treatment, examines and gives treatment to detainees, recommending actions to be taken to improve the treatment of detainees, to evaluate the health system and to assess the impact of general conditions of detention on the heath of detained population.

The United Nations Manual on the effective investigation and documentation of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (or ‘Istanbul Protocol’) was developed to specifically use for torture documentation using scientific evidence based gathering. The Istanbul Protocol is now an internationally recognized guideline for medical and legal experts. It can be used as a tool to gather and document accurate and reliable evidence in connection with cases where torture is alleged and to help practitioners to assess the consistency between allegations and medical findings.

The medical professionals are in essence a key to prevent torture impunity. The medical documentation and medico-legal reports (MLR) that they write are important facts that can be used as pieces of evidence in legal or administrative proceeding for prosecuting torture cases and facilitating redress and reparation for survivors. It is therefore important to increase the capacity of medical practitioners in evaluating the physical and medical conditions of persons deprived of liberty using of the Istanbul Protocol. Thus, the Department of Health (DoH) needs to take an active role in the work of the NPM.

While the Republic Act (RA) No. 9745 or Anti-Torture Law has a number of strong provisions relating to victim’s access to a physical, medical and psychological examination, but until now, torture victims still rarely have access to a legal counsel and a medical doctor immediately after arrest and during detention. And even if investigating authorities guarantee the access to medical examination, the lack of formal knowledge and capacity of the medical doctors who are often among the first persons to come into contact with torture survivors creates a medical complicity as some doctors don’t perform the medical examination properly and diligently either due to low awareness on torture documentation or because of the intimidation or the fear of reprisal from the government authorities.

Thus in many cases, the investigations concerning allegations of torture are either completely unreliable. In some cases, medical examination is only allowed after inquest as torture victims were only seen by doctors assigned to any police or military health centers or to government hospitals who often just do cursory “check list” physical examinations with no inquiries about how torture marks may have been inflicted and the medical certificates have no reference to torture and the need for medical treatment.

Prevention of torture must also go hand in hand with prison reform. Prison condition as MAG observed is the most punishing aspect of doing time in jails. The general prison conditions are not only found dangerous to health and to human life. It breeds diseases, breaks down of one’s sanity and exacerbates tensions among inmates. Sexual violence and abuse are also being reported rampant in the correctional and custodial system. This is despite the passage of the Republic Act 10575 or the Prison Modernization Act of 2013. Major reforms must be undertaken that could give prison inmates a chance at rehabilitation and a meaningful life after imprisonment.

MAG has been advocating for prison reform for the past three decades. We have in fact submitted a recommendation to the Office of the Executive Secretary in 2011 on the Amended Guidelines for Recommending Executive Clemency particularly on Section 3 regarding Extraordinary Circumstances. We then proposed that:

  1. for humanitarian reason, to lower the age cut-off requirement to sixty (60) from seventy (70) years old; and
  2. for medical reason, to include terminally ill prisoners and debilitating diseases.

This as we argued conforms to the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for Treatment of Prisoners.

For the NPM to effectively work, the Subcommittee on the Prevention Against Torture has given special value on civil society’s involvement. Not only that individuals working for civil society members should be give a place in the NPM but the appointment procedures should be made transparent, inclusive and participatory.

For MAG, the creation of the NPM should not be considered merely a “quick fix solution” but rather should be given careful review of the its mandate, jurisdiction, independence, membership, powers and responsibilities and working methods, to ensure that it fully complies with the international human rights standards.

The work of the NPM should go beyond regular visits and recommendations by conducting awareness-raising, training, or even launching of localized public inquiries, consultation and coordination meetings on how to address torture and ill-treatment and the general conditions of detention.

Ending impunity requires accountability. But it can start from preventing the commission of the human rights violation through collaborative efforts.  

Medical Action Group

Note: MAG’s position paper was presented during the Technical Working Group Meeting of Committee on Human Rights, at the House of Representatives on 10 February, 2015.



[Blog] Yes, it is good to be online. But we can still do it better offline -HRonlinePH.com

[Blog] Yes, it is good to be online. But we can still do it better offline -HRonlinePH.com.

Only real-life action is the only way to achieve a genuine social transformation. Clicking a link can never replace our voice in the streets. Nor can we rely on social media alone to get people off their screens.

Yes, it is good to be online. But we can still do it better offline.
To inform, to inspire and to mobilize people for change virtually can never outdo the way we do it in an interfaced and personal way.

We are human beings after all with all the potentials to change and to change the world.

Read full article at http://hronlineph.com/2014/12/29/blog-yes-it-is-good-to-be-online-but-we-can-still-do-it-better-offline-hronlineph-com/

[Reflection] What should be in PNoy’s Bucket List?

Happy 2015 to everyone!

I believe this New Year gives all of us a resurgence of hope and energy towards the possibility for change.

As a tradition, some people used to make a New Year’s resolution to make a promise to do an act of self-improvement or something significant for the new year.

I am not really into making New Year’s Resolution. The closest I get is just to come up with a to-do list everyday. Not that I don’t live my days before by fulfilling my personal goals and plans, and that I was just caught up in a flurry of day-to-day activities. However, as my work and personal interest involve advocating for human rights, I feel the need to commit myself more to blog about human rights this year.

That’s why I have prepared a bucket list not for myself but to the Philippine government to remind them how important human rights issues are that need to be immediately addressed.
Here are the 10 wishes in my Bucket List on Human Rights for President Benigno Aquino III (PNoy) to act this year 2015:

1. PNoy must make human rights his top priority by not only making a clear political statement but most importantly by making human rights as an indicator of its development agenda.
2. Pnoy must finally adopt the National Human Rights Action Plan to guide his administration in compliance to its international human rights obligations.
3. PNoy must ensure that all human rights legislations particularly RA 9745 or the Anti-Torture Law of 2009 must be fully and seriously implemented to ensure accountability and ending impunity.
4. PNoy must recognize and guarantee the rights of victims of human rights violations for redress, justice and reparation including rehabilitation by instituting comprehensive programs and services.
5. PNoy should impose a moratorium on mining to avert its ill-effects on the environment and health and livelihood of the affected communities.
6. PNoy must stop the increase price of basic commodities and public services like MRT-LRT fare, water and electricity.
7. PNoy must ensure public health care is focused on providing the best service to people especially to marginalized sectors and not on making money through privatization.
8. PNoy must ensure that the rights of Filipino workers for decent work here and abroad are respected and guaranteed by providing them protection and assistance.
9. PNoy must translate into policies and protection measures the Philippines affirmative vote to a UN Human Rights Council resolution on discrimination and hate crimes against LGBT persons.
10. PNoy must improve the welfare and condition of teachers who are receiving the lowest salaries among the ranks of professionals and are often exploited through long working hours and over-sized classes, and deprived of benefits, even those that are mandated by law.

There are certainly a lot more to consider and the bucket list can be bottomless. But by acting on these issues, PNoy can make a significant bend in the road towards making human rights a reality in the country.

my bucket lsit

Photo file courtesy of www.thecedarsoftownandcountry.com

[Literary] A Plea to A Torturer: A Poem

I am not a toy,
You can enjoy
Stripping me naked
helpless and scared…

I am not a toy,
You can enjoy
treating me as a play thing.
as if I have no feeling…

I am not a toy
You can enjoy
Putting a gun on my head
And make me filled with dread…

I am not a toy
You can enjoy
Asking me a million times
To confess for uncommitted crime…

I am not a toy
You can enjoy
Laughing at me
As I beg for mercy…

I am not a toy
You can enjoy
Putting my head into a pale of water
Or electrocute me to make me whimper…

I am not a toy
You can enjoy
Punching me in the face
And tease me as I grimace…

I am not a toy
You can enjoy
Listening to my scream
As your cigarette burns my skin…

I am not a toy,
You can enjoy
Locking me up in a dark, cold room
To make me feel how to lie in a tomb.

I am not a toy
You can enjoy
Imposing your authority over me
And seeing how I endure your cruelty…

I am not a toy
You can enjoy
Because I am human being too
Just like everyone including you…

Stop torture

Photo courtesy of www.amnesty.org.uk

[Literary] Human Rights: A Poem

The world says we are different,
And that is quite apparent.
With the color of our skin…
Gender, age, creed or the way we look at things.

Discrimination, Inequality or Racism
They all have the same meaning.
Defeat is the fate to the weakest
In the survival of the fittest…

Can we accept it as true?
That the world is so cruel…
Or it is just imposed by the few
To those who are powerless to be ruled…

You can be my caring brother or sister,
a loving father or a nurturing mother
We may not have a blood relation,
But I am sure we have a historical connection.

For we are bond by a common humanity.
Born free and with equality.
We may be living in different society,
But we all have the right to live a life with dignity…


[Note] E-waste is not necessarily waste, it can be wealth

By Darwin Mendiola

Just a week ago, I attended a forum organized by Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc. regarding E-Scrap. I thought at first that this was simply about another heap of garbage problem brought about by our growing consumerism. Little did I know that the proper management of electronic waste gives the anti-mining advocate a more convincing argument to end the natural mineral extraction as there are in our very eyes bulks of metal to mine.

Just like me, people nowadays may have old and damaged electronic devices just gathering dust in their closet. They may seem to be worthless and we opt to get rid of them. This resulted in the growing number of electronic items found in the dump sites or waste streams that are creating further waste problems.

As the old saying goes, “there is wealth in waste”.

Our continuous dependence on electronic equipment at home and in the workplace has given rise to a new environmental challenge – electronic waste. Electronic waste or e-waste, refers to electronic products that no longer satisfy the needs of its original purpose. These can include a wide variety of goods, such as computers, cellular phones, TVs, refrigerators, air conditioners, washing machines, video cameras, etc.

While experts say that old pieces of equipment can be harmful as they contain hazardous materials such as lead, beryllium, mercury, cadmium, and chromium that pose both physical and environmental health threat especially if exposed to sun and rain, but they can be a new source of income.

According to Greenpeace, there are huge electronic wastes being dump at the Smokey Mountain garbage site in Manila every year. Electronic waste is the fastest growing component in the global waste stream amounting to 20 to 50 million tons worldwide with Asia contributing about 12 million tons a year.

During the forum, a study made by Dr. Eulalio R. Guieb III of the University of the Philippines, entitled “The Social Life of Retired Cellular Phones”, focuses on the need to strengthen the recycle market that will help divert e-waste from the landfills, thereby reducing waste products and at the same time providing a new source for materials recovery for obsolete technology.

In his presentation, Dr. Guieb emphasized the general strengthening of all areas for e-waste management in the Philippines more than what the Solid Waste Management Law requires. With the growing bulk of e waste disposal every year, the government and the private sectors have overlooked the potential of retrieving valuable minerals in e-waste products. Dr. Guieb said that “for every ounce of gold that has to be mined in the open pit mining field, it produces more than 30 tons of waste”.

He added that by shifting our country’s economic focus from mineral mining to e-waste recycling, will not only preserve the environment but it can also also mitigate the growing e-waste problem and to reduce the need for mineral mining. He stressed out that “there are a lot of recoverable and valuable resources in e-waste like plastics, gold, copper, aluminum, and iron. To preserve our natural resources, it is only logical to recycle and reuse e-waste products instead of dumping into landfills.

But he made it clear that it can only be done if the government will do something to make it happen. Despite the existing e-waste policy framework, it still lacks adequate facilities for recycling technologies and by financial support. There is also a need for a continuous public awareness campaign and social dialogue between the public and private sectors in order for all stakeholders to be responsible for the policy implementation.

The first step is a simple recognition that e-waste is not necessarily waste, it can still be useful and valuable to us if we know how to properly dispose them. Who knows it may accelerate our slow paced economy.


Photo courtesy of www.greenpeace.org.