Shift in mindset on respect for human rights key to AFP reforms under PNoy administration

QUEZON CITY, Dec. 6 -- It was during the term of President S. Benigno Aquino III that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) took concrete steps to institutionalize respect for human rights in the military establishment, given the administration's direction of pursuing security, peace and justice under the Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016.

In December 2010, the AFP established a Human Rights Office which serves as the main platform for addressing all human rights and international humanitarian law issues involving the Armed Forces.

AFP-HRO Chief Col. Jose Antonio Carlos B. Motril said the role of the military in society is greatly influenced by policies of the national government.

“Una sa lahat, dapat maintindihan natin na ang military is an instrument of national policy. So the AFP is what we make of it,” Motril said during the Kapihan sa Media ng Bayan yesterday . “Kung ano yung AFP, binuo rin siya ng society...So yung tao, influenced din siya ng environment niya.”

(“First of all, we should understand that the military is an instrument of national policy. So the AFP is what we make of it. It is also shaped by society, and the people in the military are influenced in turn by his or her environment.)

In August 2010, the AFP launched its Human Rights/International Humanitarian Law (IHL) Handbook to serve as a soldiers’ guide in the conduct of operations. This project is one of the government’s effort to institutionalize human rights concepts as part of its overall security operations.

These measures gave a boost to implementation of existing Philippine laws safeguarding human rights such as Republic Act 9745 of the Anti-Torture Act of 2009 that act penalizes torture and other inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.

The President took his oath of office in July 2010. His father, former senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr. suffered human rights abuses along with thousands of activists who opposed the military-backed martial rule of former president Ferdinand Marcos from 1972-1986.

Motril said reforms in the military, especially the soldiers’ regard for human rights, should begin with changing “how the AFP thinks and how they behave.” Thus, respect for human rights and the rule of llaw are integrated in education and training of elements of the AFP, and in the rules of engagement, and policies.

He added that this include the military’s observance of the provisions of the RA 7438 which protects the rights of a person arrested, detained or under custodial investigation.

Motril’s comments were in response to questions on the reforms the AFP had undertaken the Martial Law period in the Philippines (1972-1986), and if torture remains a tool in so-called tactical interrogation.

Kapihan sa Media ng Bayan airs live every Friday over Radyo ng Bayan DZRB 738 AM, from 10am to 11am, telecast over PTV4 from 7 pm to 8pm, and IBC 13 from 10.30 to 11.30 pm, in cooperation with the Philippine Broadcasting Service, People's Television, Philippine Information Agency and Philippines News Agency. (Patricia-Ruth Cailao-PIA/RDA-MnB Opcen)


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