Press Release
March 6, 2012

Senate approves two resolutions

The Senate today adopted on third and final reading two resolutions concurring in the ratification of two international conventions which seek to: 1) provide greater protection to Filipinos abroad from international armed conflicts, and, 2) ensure a more humane treatment for prisoners in the country. Sen. Loren Legarda, chair of the Committee on Foreign Relations, said Senate Resolution No. 663, which concurs in the Ratification of Protocol I of the Geneva Convention of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts, adopts humanitarian standards to present-day realities and protects persons who are not or no longer taking a direct part in international hostilities.

On the other hand, Legarda added, Senate Resolution No. 664 which concurs in the ratification of the Protocol against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT,) aims to help national government in improving jail conditions in the country's penal system.

Both bills were unanimously adopted with 22 affirmative votes, zero negative votes and zero abstention.

The concurrence of the two resolutions, Legarda said, reaffirms the Philippines' commitment to promote and support basic human rights. "The ratification of Protocol I is a vital instrument that strengthens the protection of victims of international conflict as it places limits on the way wars are fought. This measure effectively extends protection to overseas Filipinos who may be caught in the middle of such conflicts," she said. Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said the approval of SRN 663 and SRN 664 will provide the civilian population ample protection from the direct effects of hostilities abroad and improve the deplorable conditions of our penal systems, respectively. "Our country will benefit from any assistance that the international protocol will offer, such as advisories, technical and financial assistance in addressing institutional problems," Enrile explained. Legarda said Protocol I will make sure that Filipinos, who are on peacekeeping missions or any other similar military operations abroad, will immediately receive medical attention should they fall ill, become wounded, shipwrecked, missing or captured.

She said Filipino soldiers working for medical units or medical transportations such as nurses or ambulance drivers will be entitled to extra protection under Protocol I.

The treaty also prohibits the starvation of civilians, ensures protection of cultural objects, places of worship and the protection of the environment.

Meanwhile, Legarda said SRN 664 seeks to protect persons in detention from torture and abuse as well as institute much-needed reforms in jail conditions, noting that 20% of the jails in the country are congested.

"Harsh prison conditions, overcrowded jails, inadequate nutrition and medical attention for prisoners--that sums up the condition of our detention facilities today," she stressed.

She also called attention to the prisoners' meal and medical allowances which are hardly enough to cover their needs.

"As for allowance of an inmate's meals, the government provides P50 per inmate each day. The budget for medicines is a meager P3 per inmate per day," she said.

Under the treaty, Legarda explained, the country is obliged to establish a national system of inspections of all places of detention.

"This will provide the impetus for the allocation of bigger resources to improve the country's detention facilities and hasten the adoption of more transparent processes with regard to the government's treatment of detained persons," the Senator said.

"We are confident that SRN 664 will strongly assist us in keeping in check acts of torture, as well as the cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment of detainees. We are hopeful that by our accession to this instrument, our jail conditions will finally be improved, making them conducive to promote the rehabilitation of the detainees, Legarda," added. (Jenny Macrohon, PRIB)

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