Rights group urges the Philippine Senate to ratify OPCAT now!

KARAPATAN welcomes the news that the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) is being sent by Malacañang to the Senate for ratification.

“For a long time we have been urging the government to ratify the OPCAT as it offers additional remedy to victims of human rights violations; we, therefore, call on the Senate to ratify it as soon as possible,” said Marie Hilao-Enriquez, secretary general of KARAPATAN.

The Optional Protocol provides for the visit of places of detention in military camps. If genuinely implemented the protocol, in conjunction with thorough and effective investigation, prosecution and punishment of violators is one of the ways that can end the culture of impunity presently prevailing in the country.

The rights group also notes that the belated sending by Malacañang of the OPCAT to the Senate is one of the promises declared by Secretary Ermita to the Human Rights Council during the Philippines Universal Periodic Review last April 11. Were it not for the Philippines UPR, we wonder if the OPCAT would have been sent to the Senate. “That is why we hope that the Malacañang action will not remain as a token gesture of the regime to show the international human rights community that indeed the GMA administration protects the rights of its citizens,” Hilao-Enriquez added.

If ratified, we should monitor government’s compliance to the OPCAT. “There is a big difference between signing a document and its implementation on the ground. Compliance remains to be seen in actual practice. The citizens must ever be vigilant of their rights and defend and protect these, “ said Hilao-Enriquez. “Ratification is a first step for State parties to be made accountable for the violations, therefore we call on the Senate to ratify the OPCAT now,” concludes Hilao-Enriquez.