Press Release
July 3, 2006


Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, in filing Senate Bill No 2095, or the Anti-Torture Act of 2006, aims to fulfill what our country had promised when we ratified several international treaties and conventions against torture.

Santiago, an acknowledged expert in constitutional law, said she is pushing for the bill which proposes the following: to penalize all forms of torture; to provide for the protection of complainants and witnesses; to provide for special measures for the protection of children; and finally, to provide for the establishment of a rehabilitation program through our social welfare, justice and health departments.

Santiago noted while the Revised Penal Code provides safeguards, no law covers torture and involuntary disappearance.

She said her proposal stemmed from the spate of extrajudicial killings, the rising number of arbitrary arrests, disappearances and illegal detentions allegedly committed by the military against persons critical of the government.

Freedom from torture is a human right. Human rights are inalienable, they are our birthright, Santiago said, as she made mention of the five members of the pro-Estrada Union of the Masses for Democracy and Justice (UMDJ) who were reportedly picked up last month by armed men in civilian clothes at a house in Kamuning, Quezon City. The military initially denied involvement in the incident but later admitted that they had the five in custody.

The prohibition of torture is expressly enshrined in the Constitution and in the international treaties and conventions that we signed as signatories and parties. And yet, we are still being found wanting in terms of providing legislative, administrative and judicial measures to put an end to it, according to Santiago.

Under Santiagos proposal, torture is committed when an act of severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted in a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession; or when he is being punished for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed; or he is being intimidated or coerced; or, for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or within the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.

The time of talking should be over. Congress owes it to the electorate to buckle down to work now and urgently pass this proposal, said Santiago, who also authored Senate Bill No. 1622 (Comprehensive Torture Victims Relief Act of 2006), that seeks to provide torture victims with medical rehabilitation, and social and legal services.

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