Press Release
May 25, 2011

Opening Statement of Senator Loren Legarda
Chair, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations

Good morning and welcome to the hearing of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

The Senate is once again tasked to perform its Constitutional mandate to review two treaties:

  • the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture or OPCAT; and

  • the Protocol Additional To The Geneva Conventions Of 12 August 1949, and Relating To The Protection Of Victims Of International Armed Conflicts, which we shall refer to as Protocol 1.

Our deliberations this morning will hopefully guide us toward formulating our Committee report on these outstanding instruments, for consideration by the Senate Plenary.

OPCAT bears the very principles enshrined in our Constitution on the promotion and protection of human rights. Its objective is straightforward - "it seeks to ensure that no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."

The principles of OPCAT cut across several international human rights instruments to which the Philippines is a Party due to specific or related provisions on torture. These include the Convention on the Rights of the Child , the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights , the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families , and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination . Locally, we have the Anti-Torture Act of 2009, which criminalizes "torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment".

The Committee on Foreign Relations, under the then chairmanship of Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago in the previous Congress, had filed Committee Report No. 768, but for lack of time, the Senate approval process was not completed.

You may recall that our Committee had already considered the OPCAT during its hearing of February 16, 2011. We are constrained, however, to open up discussions on this matter again in the light of a communication from Assistant Secretary Eduardo Malaya who advised this Committee that the DFA will be substituting the transmittal document from an Instrument of Ratification to an Instrument of Accession. We would like to hear from the DFA regarding this matter.

It is also vital that this hearing give due consideration to a possible declaration, deferring the implementation of obligations to allow our country time to upgrade our prisons and custodial facilities to international standards before country visits may take place, as provided for in the said instrument. It would be instructive to find out from our resource persons how much time and resources we would need to improve prison conditions to the level of international standards.

The second treaty in our agenda is the Protocol I or the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and Relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts.

This treaty is a supplement to the Geneva Conventions of 1949. The Geneva Conventions are considered to be the cornerstone of contemporary international humanitarian law. They promote the principles of respect for the life and dignity of the individual. They are anchored on the principle that those who suffer in conflict must be aided and cared for without distinction.

Today, we shall consider how to strengthen the protection of victims of international armed conflicts by placing limits on the way wars are fought. We shall consider Protocol 1, thirty four years after its adoption.

We are looking forward to hearing the enlightened views of our resource persons, particularly with respect to the ramifications of Protocol 1 upon the country's national defense and foreign policy, particularly in relation to our international peacekeeping commitments and our countrymen's substantial presence overseas.

Finally, the Philippines has ratified Protocol II. I believe there is no other country in the world that has ratified Protocol II without also ratifying Protocol I, except for the Philippines. It is time to consider Protocol I.

Before we proceed with the DFA's presentation, may we invite the Senators present to deliver their opening remarks.

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