PHILIPPINES: Torture victims mark Anti-Torture day with poetry, music and painting 

(Hong Kong, June 26, 2015) Torture victims and their families will mark the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture today, through art and literature; by reciting their poems, singing their own compositions, and painting live murals.

Through art, local event organizer Defend Job Philippines, hopes they could draw attention to the lack of “legal remedy and snail pace justice system” for victims of torture and their families, not only in Metro Manila, but also elsewhere in the country.

Co-organized by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), the victims’ families, friends, artists and human rights defenders, will gather at the Iglesia Filipina Independiente Conference Room, Escoda St., in Manila, to sing and recite their poems.

“…internationally, all men and women have the right to live free from torture. Yet, in the Philippines, torture has been implemented as part of the systematic repression of the government to suppress peoples struggles,” stated Nicolette Gamara, Research Staff of Defend Job Philippines.

The struggles, Gamara added, were not only about being free from torture, but also for “land, decent work, adequate housing, access to social services, and protection.” In fact, many of the torture victims, either now incarcerated in jails or in hiding, were tortured and targeted for defending the rights of other people.

Gamara’s father, Renante, was himself a victim of torture (for details, read). Her mother, Amelita Bravante, was implicated with fabricated charges. This “prolonged period in jail and hiding (due to fabricated charges) has been a 24/7 torture to all of them for many years already,” Gamara said.

In solidarity with Renante, Mr. Nestor Ala, a victim of Marcos’ Martial Law, and presently organizing unions in the community, will share the song ‘Detenidong Pulitikal’ (political detainees) at the prisons in Bicutan, Paranaque City. He will also lead the community singing of bilangguan blues – a song composed by political prisoners, including Renante, presently detained in Camp Crame, Quezon City.

Anna Velez, wife of trade union leader Roy Velez, will read a poem composed by her husband as a tribute to the struggle for land in Silverio Compound, Paranaque City, and the murder of Arnel Leonor. Arnel was killed during a violent demolition on April 23, 2012. (A video of the violent demotion can be seen here.)

Velez is one of the many human rights and labour rights activists who were falsely charged with murder due to their advocacy (for details, read). Velez, in his poem, speaks about Arnel’s murder, and why the people who live in Silverio compound, resist the demolition so they can live.

For the victims and their families, “This day is not only a day of remembering our loved ones and colleagues. It is a day when we pledge of making everyday a struggle for justice and for our rights,” Nicolette said.

Over a period of many years the AHRC has documented torture cases and conducted interviews of torture victims and their families. The webpage, “Torture victims speak out,” contains their stories.

Two years after the Anti-Torture Act of 2009 took effect in the Philippines, the AHRC’s special report on torture indicates how and why the law fails, and analyses how torture can be addressed.

In February 2014, five years after the law took effect, none of the torture perpetrators had been convicted.

In solidarity with torture victims, the AHRC supports their call in urging the Philippines government to take effective, concrete and practical measures leading to the elimination of torture in the country.

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Document Type : Press Release
Document ID : AHRC-PRL-003-2015
Countries : Philippines,
Issues : Torture, Victims assistance & protection, Violence against women, Women's rights,