House approves anti-torture bill

MANILA (Apr 4)  — The House of Representatives has recently approved HB05709, also known as the Anti-Torture Act of 2009, on third and final reading the Anti-Torture Bill that will serve as antidote to human rights.

The bill aims to sustain the Consitutional mandate that “the employment of physical, psychological or degrading punishment against any prisoner or detainee or the use of substantial or inadequate penal facilities under subhuman conditions shall be dealt with by law.”

Under the measure, torture among other definitions refers to an act by which severe pain or suffering whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him/her or a third person information or a confession.

Among other acts of torture as specified under the measure are: systematic beating, punching, kicking, striking with a rifle or truncheon, food deprivation, electric shock, cigarette burning, submersion of the head in the water polluted with excrement, urine or vomit, rape and sexual abuse, dental torture, pulling out of fingernails, and other analogous acts of mental or psychological torture.

No person shall be placed under investigation or held in custody by any person in authority or agent of a person in authority shall be subjected to torture, physical harm, force, violence, threat or any act that impairs his or her free will.

The bill imposes 40 years imprisonment on violators for torture resulting in death or mutilation, torture with rape, torture with other forms of sexual abuse resulting to the victim being insane, imbecile, impotent, blind or maimed for life and torture committed against children.

It also provides 20 years imprisonment to those who commit any act of mental or psychological torture resulting in insanity, complete or partial amnesia, fear of becoming insane or suicidal tendencies of the victim due to guilt, worthlessness or shame.

Violators shall also face 12 years imprisonment if the victim as a consequence of torture has lost the power of speech or the power to hear or to smell.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, one of the authors of the bill, said the measure aims to ensure that the rights of all persons, including suspects, detainees and prisoners, shall be respected and followed at all times as declared in the 1987 Constitution.

On the other hand, Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Satur Ocampo said the bill may stop or deter torture or summary execution against suspected political dissenters or a plain criminal.

“It is high time to enact a measure that will address the act of torture which violates the rights of those who espouse political beliefs, ideology, religion or views,” he said.

Other authors of the bill are Reps. Teodoro Casino (Bayan Muna), Junie E. Cua (Quirino), Rep. Matias Defensor (Quezon City), Lorenzo Tanada III (Quezon),  Liza Maza and Luzviminda Ilagan (Gabriela), and Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora (San Juan).

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