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Activities Promoting OPCAT

This is a list of activities carried out in the Philippines by United Against Torture Coalition (UATC) in promotion of the OPCAT and towards preventing torture in general.

A. UATC General Assembly

On the 1st of June, 2006, the United Against Torture Coalition (UATC) held its 2nd General Assembly to strengthen the collective resolve of member organizations to prevent and eradicate torture in the Philippines. Here,  representatives of UATC member organizations gathered together to talk about what the coalition had undertaken and accomplished for the past years. The main concern of the UATC steering committee at the General Assembly however was to revive member commitment to the struggle against torture.

 Proceeding of the event included:

  1. Introduction to and discussion on the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT);
  2. Providing information about updates to anti-torture law;
  3. Action Plan for June 2006 to January 2007—to reiterate shared commitments by the participants  in the course of there was lively interaction and many suggestions especially by the UATC steering committee members. ;

Unfortunately, participation among UATC member organizations was lower than expected.


B. UATC Campaign Against Torture Press Forum

On June 27, 2006, the UATC held a Press Forum to raise public awareness to the ever-continuing use of torture in the Philippines. The event's panel of speakers included Representative, Loretta Ann P. Rosales, Attorney Karen G. Dumpit of the Commission on Human Rights, Ernesto A. Anasarias of Balay, and Bernardo B. Itucal, who spoke about his experience of the legal process.  The event was covered by two TV networks, ABC5 and GMA, in their evening news. It was also published in three National Broadsheet newspapers—The Philippine Daily Inquirer, The Manila Bulletin, and, The Manila Standard Today. Four smalltime national circular papers also published an account of the activity. These were the Balita, Remate, Abante, and Tumbok.


C. Four OPCAT caucuses for stakeholders:

Four caucuses to discuss the OPCAT were held from September to November 2006 for different stakeholders. The first and second were for Civil Society Organizations, the third for government agencies and the fourth was for standing committee members of the House of Representatives. The main purposes of these caucuses were to enhance knowledge and understanding of stakeholders of the OPCAT instrument, and the rights of every person to be free from torture. It was also to pool ideas and suggestions on how best to work towards signing and ratification of the OPCAT by the Philippines state. These events played a significant role in building a support base for the OPCAT at the national level.


D. Three-day OPCAT National Multi-Stakeholders Forum:

The collective efforts of individuals and group committed to the ratification and implementation of the OPCAT in the Philippines reached its pinnacle last year during the three-day multi-stakeholder forum held on November 27-29, 2006. Accordingly the participant stakeholders bound by a common declaration, decided on a multi-stakeholders plan at this forum. It was also collectively agreed that a  working group would soon be set up to serve as a platform for carrying out the multi-stakeholders action plan. The event was a great success in that it brought together people from various background together to focus on developing good avenues to advance the treaty.


E. Engagement with the CHR to arrive at a formal CHR position on the OPCAT 

Several meeting between the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) office on  NGO and Media Relations and the UATC took place with the main focus being to encourage the CHR to officially issue a position paper on the OPCAT. Two further meeting with  Dr. Basas and Commissioner Calamba were also conducted for the same purpose. Though these meeting were very positive the CHR is still to issue such a document.

F. Coalition efforts to advance the the PHRC OPCAT resolution: 

Ever since UATC learned that the PHRC was going to issue a resolution recommending the ratification of the OPCAT, its steering committee member, FIND has ceaselessly tracked and followed-up on its development during government committee’s meetings.  Numerous courtesy calls and communications were also made to government line agencies to encourage them to take action on this initial step in installing the OPCAT.


G. Coalition critique on APT's OPCAT briefing Note

Having put together a briefing note on OPCAT to dispel any wrong notions about the instrument  as well as to highlight the advantages that ratifying the OPCAT will bring to the Philippines,the APT presented its prototype to the UATC steering committee members for critique and comment. 

 Accordingly the group conducted a study of the document and  submitted its  suggestions to APT. This briefing note has been included in UATC's campaign to promote the OPCAT. It has also been replicated by some government agencies in presenting the treaty to their principals, colleagues and other line bureaus.


H. UATC campaign material at HR week exhibition:

The UATC was invited by the Committee on Human Rights of the House of Representatives to display materials during the 2006 Human Rights week exhibition. Most UATC materials were displayed together with for instance, Amnesty International’s anti-torture campaign materials. UATC representatives saw the launching ceremonies through and had a formal dialogue with the Committee on Human Rights Chair, Rep. Beinvenido Abante on Torture and Prison Conditions. The exhibition lasted for five days.


I. Developing a partnership between UATC and the Committee on Human Rights

The causes aforementioned (C above)  yielded many results and advantages amongst which was the importance of enhancing relations between government institutions and UATC. Accordingly, in recognition of UATC's expertise and familiarity in visiting jails and penitentiaries, the House of Representatives, Committee n Human Rights requested UATC to help set up a programme based on the issues that were discussed at the caucuses—for a COHR-UATC joint ocular inspection of the largest national penitentiary, the NBP.   The UATC submitted its proposal for a half-day programme and also recommended organizations that can best join the delegation. Unfortunately, this activity was derailed by the Cha-Cha deliberations and has been reset to a later date yet to be finalized.


J. E-group exchanges between coalition members and partners:  

The UATC steering committee e-group assisted and enabled the UATC steering committee and its partners to make efficient exchanges and updating via electronic means.


K. Strengthening the UATC:

In an effort to reawaken the so-so member organizations, from time to time,  UATC member organizations are sent  updates on work that is being carried out by members especially regarding red letter day activities. All members were also requested to formally declare their capabilities to commit to UATC campaigns and undertakings.


L. Engaging the Senate – Santiago, Drilon, Osmena

Last May, a representative of the office Sen. Drilon met with UATC members to be informed about the provisions of the Optional Protocol and the freedom from torture campaign. At this meeting, both parties agreed that it was important for the Senator himself to learn about this instrument to enable him to support the OPCAT campaign. Later, Senator, Drilon's s staff promised to persuade the senator to have a subsequent meeting with the UATC.  The UATC reciprocally made many follow-ups but such a meeting was made impossible by events occurring at the national stage.

Meanwhile, Senator Osmena  has twice committed through informal lines  to meet with the UATC and discuss how he can assist the right to be free from torture campaign. However such a meeting never materialized due to his busy schedule.

Then last November a fully represented UATC visited the office of Senator, Santiago to meet with her Chief-of-Staff. Armed with  materials on the OPCAT and Anti-Torture Law Campaign, the representatives appealed to the author of one of the anti-torture bills filed at the senate to be more aggressive in encouraging her colleagues, particularly the committee on justice and human rights chair to start working on the anti-torture legislation. The senator was also requested to lend support to the OPCAT once it  reaches the senate. In response, the senator requested UATC to send a letter with its requests and under the signatures of UATC steering committee members.


M. Engaging government line agencies and regional offices

The UATC has for the past nine months made many courtesy calls and dialogued  with personnel from different governmental agencies—i.e.  DOJ, DFA, DILG, DND, BJMP—as well as  other government line bureaus to discuss the use of torture and the conditions of prisons in Philippines. Also discussed were the advantages of OPCAT for  individuals deprived of their liberty. Adding the visits to governmental regional offices and their regional directors, a national and regional following for the OPCAT was consolidated.


N. Pre-testing  and promotion of the use of adopted IP version

During a recent UATC steering committee meeting, MAG presented their version of the IP form to the UATC representatives. It was subsequently decided by the group that all shall help in pre-testing this instrument as well as to promote its use to others.


O. Collaboration with government to submit CAT report:

UATC has receive information that the government is finally seriously considering submitting their report to the Committee Against Torture. Accordingly, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has asked UATC steering committee members to provide them with useful data to fulfil this obligation. A committee for the CAT report has been set up to for the purposes of pooling resources and preparing the report covering June 1990 to June 2006.

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