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Noting that prohibition of torture had been highlighted in the United Nations' review of the Philippine human rights report, a group over the weekend called on the government to adopt the UN call to end all forms of inhuman acts in the country. "The Philippine government must adopt the UN Human Rights Council's recommendation to prohibit torture as this and a number of human rights violations were being highlighted in the review," the Medical Action Group (MAG) said. The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the Philippine human rights report at the United Nations Human Rights Council took place last May 29. According to MAG, the human rights issues being tackled there resonated with civil society issues, especially the absolute prohibition of torture. MAG stressed that "victims of torture and ill-treatment should have effective access to a medical evaluation and the establishment of a rehabilitation program for torture victims.” It noted that while some states commended the Philippines for enacting the anti-torture law, torture continues to be used by state security forces and law enforcement agencies. MAG said that various States also called on the Philippine government to enhance human rights-based training for all law enforcement personnel on the absolute prohibition of torture and ill-treatment. “We support the recommendations made by various states, specifically from Denmark and Ireland, to effectively implement the anti-torture act, with a particular focus on ensuring that all alleged victims of torture and ill-treatment have effective access to a medical evaluation of their injuries by institutionalizing the use of the Istanbul Protocol and the establishment of a sufficiently resourced rehabilitation program for torture victims,” MAG said. For his part, Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) Chairperson Max de Mesa said “the government, with its security forces, must address the continuing impunity especially of perpetrators of torture, enforced disappearance and extra-judicial killings." He said, "the government perpetrates torture and perpetuates impunity by ignoring the exercise of its obligation of command responsibility." "Many of the victims are human rights defenders who earlier were vilified and/or criminalized,” he added. Sixty seven states that participated in the discussion recommended the following for the Philippine government:
- Step up efforts to fully prohibit and address cases of torture, extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances and ensure there were mechanisms in place to address such cases;
- Ensure that victims of torture and ill treatment had effective access to a medical evaluation; to improve the condition of prisons and detention centers;
- Ensure adequate protection of human rights defenders and journalists and effectively investigate and prosecute attacks against journalists and to introduce into domestic laws strong legislation prohibiting these acts and imposing criminal penalties;
- Step up efforts to combat human trafficking and strengthen relations with countries of transit and origin for victims of human trafficking and to establish programs for the rehabilitation and social integration for women victims of sexual exploitation;
- Step up efforts to combat child labor and to fully prohibit corporal punishment; to increase measures on the rights to education to ensure equal access to education for all children, to special attention for children with disabilities and street children; and
- Consider establishing legislation to combat discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons.