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Torture prevalent in Philippines prisons: rights commission

[JURIST] Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHRP) [official website] chair Leila de Lima [official profile] said Tuesday that torture is prevalent in the country's prison system and that her organization has documented over 300 cases of abuse in the past three years. De Lima said that in an effort to end the mistreatment, her office has tried to plan unscheduled visits to prisoners suspected of being tortured, but last week was denied access to three military prisoners. In response to the lack of access and prevalence of abuse, De Lima sent a letter to General Alexander Yano [official profile] demanding access to military detention facilities under the CHRP's constitutional mandate [text], and has urged lawmakers to ratify the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention Against Torture (OPCAT)[PDF text]. The Senate of the Philippines [official website] was expected to ratify the protocol, which would establish stronger monitoring standards, later this year, but on Tuesday Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita [official profile] said the government would likely seek to defer the implementation of OPCAT [GMANews report] for at least three years in order to ensure compliance with the agreement. Reuters has more.

With the support of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo [official website; BBC profile], the Philippines signed on to OPCAT in April, but the agreement will not take effect until it is ratified by the country's senate. In March, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged the United Nations to scrutinize the government's response [JURIST report] to accusations that the military has engaged in extrajudicial killings of left-wing activists, as the UN Human Rights Council [official website] asserted in its Universal Periodic Review of the Philippines [UN backgrounder, PDF].

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