Amnesty International (AI) raised concerns over shortcomings of legislation to prevent arbitrary arrest and unlawful detention, political killings and impunity for human rights violations, unfair trials, and torture and ill-treatment, through a submission to the United Nations for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the Philippines in April 2008. This document was also submitted to the Presidential Human Rights Committee (PCHR) during its consultation on the UPR with civil society organizations held in Malacanang on 31 January 2008 where Amnesty International participated.
Through the five page document, AI raised specific concerns on the following:
- the provisions of the Revised Penal Code and the Rules on Criminal Procedure which could put individuals at risk of arbitrary detention. This is exacerbated by extensive jurisprudence that has interpreted certain crimes, including “rebellion”, as “continuing offences”. The use of arrests without a warrant is extensive and that many of these arrests may be arbitrary.
- Section 26 of the Human Security Act (HSA) which places restrictions on freedom of movement of an individual placed under house arrest, even on the basis of weak “evidence of guilt”.
- failure to deliver justice to the victims of extrajudicial killings that reflects a reluctance on the part of the government to fulfill its obligation under national and international law to protect the right to life of every individual within its jurisdiction. Amid reports of ineffective investigations and with the failure of the state to provide an effective witness protection programme, perpetrators are rarely brought to justice.
- torture and ill-treatment persist within the criminal justice system and the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Despite government ratification of the Convention against Torture, the revised Penal Code does not penalise the crime of torture.
Amnesty International welcomes the repeal of the death penalty by Congress and the accession by the Philippines to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights aiming at the abolition of the death penalty. However, the Philippines has not ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, which it pledged when it was seeking a seat at the UN Human Rights Council.
Amnesty stresses the need to strengthen fundamental mechanisms to ensure effective implementation of laws to prevent abuses and the amendment of those codes and rules that facilitate the corrosion of human rights. Amnesty International recommends the following: