AFP checking own camps for torture

By Alexis Romero, The Philippine Star

Posted at Feb 03 2014 09:41 AM | Updated as of Feb 03 2014 05:41 PM

MANILA - The Armed Forces will help the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) monitor military camps to ensure that soldiers are complying with the Anti-Torture Act.

In a text message, Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, Armed Forces public affairs chief, said respect for human rights and the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) is one of the pillars of the military’s security plan.

“Every soldier is committed to uphold this and if found to have violated will be met with appropriate sanctions,” he said. “The AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) fully supports the CHR by dutifully complying with the Anti-Torture Act.”

“We recognize past mistakes and the AFP’s institutionalization of adherence to IHL and respect for human rights is the result.”

The CHR has asked the Armed Forces for help in monitoring military camps to ensure that soldiers are complying with the provisions of the Anti-Torture Act following reports of the discovery of a police torture facility in Laguna.

Marc Titus Cebreros, CHR information and communication division chief, said the military is prohibited from keeping people in detention.

“The CHR must make sure that first, the AFP is complying with this prohibition and second, it’s not maintaining any detention facility,” he said.

Signed in 2009 by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the Anti-Torture Act criminalizes physical and mental torture and other degrading punishment.

The law also prohibits solitary confinement in detention cells even during times of war.

Persons found guilty of torture can be imprisoned from six months to life, depending on the degree of the offense.

The law defines torture as “an act by which severe pain or suffering is intentionally inflicted for the purpose of obtaining information or confession, by or at the instigation or with the consent or acquiescence of a person in authority or his agent.”