Statement of Rep. Barry Gutierrez on the Commemoration of the International Day to Support Victims of Torture

Rep. Barry Gutierrez delivering his solidarity for the victims of torture during the Basta! Run Against Torture (BRAT) event organized by the United Against Torture Coalition (UATC), in commemoration of the International Day to Support Victims of Torture.

Rep. Barry Gutierrez delivering his solidarity message during the Basta! Run Against Torture (BRAT) event organized by the United Against Torture Coalition (UATC), in commemoration of the International Day to Support Victims of Torture.

 

On this day, in commemoration of the International Day to Support Victims of Torture, Akbayan joins the human rights community, the victims of torture and their families in pledging to work towards a torture-free country. Consistent with our common mission to end all forms of human rights abuses and violations, we continue to call upon the government to set in place discernible efforts that prevent any person from falling victim to torture and all other forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment.

It’s been 28 years since the Philippines acceded to the United Nations Convention Against Torture (UNCAT), a historic treaty in which nations agreed to end torture, investigate and punish perpetrators, and provide redress to victims. Rising from the dark days of Martial Law, this was a great stride in our struggle to fight for a torture-free country. In reality, however, our country continues to grapple with the prevalence of torture cases.

Four years since we marked the historic passage of RA 9745, or the Anti-Torture Act of 2009, more progress must still be done to overcome this unfortunate state of affairs, and for us to truly reap the gains of the law we passed.

Consistent with our Constitution, existing laws and international commitments, as signatories to UNCAT and the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT), we continue to work together to ensure that our country and our children will soon enjoy a future without torture.

Together, let’s end torture!###

Solidarity Message Delivered by Rep. Barry Gutierrez during 9th National Congress of SCAP

Rep. Barry delivered his solidarity message for the 9th Congress of the Student Council of the Philippines (SCAP) on June 21, 2014, at the Central Philippine University, Iloilo. Read full text of speech below.

 
Good afternoon.

First of all, I want to thank the SCAP officers who invited me to speak on this important occasion. It’s wonderful to be here and it’s wonderful to see all these outstanding young leaders and students gathered here today. This just affirms that, unlike what some people think that this is a #selfie, apathetic and self-absorbed generation, that the Filipino youths of today are just as engaged and as active in our nation-building. And this is important because, no matter how cliched this statement is, I firmly believe that the young leaders gathered here today will shape the future of this country, and with the impending ASEAN integration, the future of this region.

I know a lot of you here are excited to learn and find out the extent of success of our collective campaigns in the halls of Congress. While I may not be able to speak for the Senate, I am happy to share with you what we have we have achieved, so far, at the House of Representatives. But before I proceed, I would like to apologize for not being able to attend the session this morning. I was supposed to be a member of the panel, along with Marlon and Gio, to discuss the young progressives’ education platform.

At this point, I would like to commend this assembly for recognizing the need to reform and its proactive involvement in creating a new direction in the country’s educational system. In a world where education is now the currency for economic mobility or professional success and the crucial tool in developing well-informed citizens as meaningful participants in the democratic processes, it is essential that we continuously adapt our educational system according to the needs, the condition and the progress of our times.

But crucial to the achievement of this goal, we recognize the need for a system where the civil and political rights of the students are respected, protected and promoted. Of course, we have laws like RA 6728 for the students of private educational institutions, and RA 7722 for the students of public higher learning institutions. In reality, however, discriminatory policies, inadequate student services, lack of student representation and participation, imposition of unnecessary fees and unjust disciplinary sanctions continue to exist within educational institutions.

The suppression of the rights and welfare of students is furthered by the weakness in the state’s ability to regulate the private institutions in the provision of education, as a result of the deregulation of the education sector. As a result, the enforcement and application of policies have become skewed and there is a need to correct that. This has been one of our unifying objective, one that has led to the creation of a bill that we continue to work hard and push for in Congress.

The Students’ Rights and Welfare (STRAW) bill that we drafted together, which seeks to protect and promote the rights and welfare of the students, was successfully filed as House Bill 4435 last May 18. I was joined by some of our student-leaders from UP Diliman, Manila and Ateneo during the filing where we also had a short press conference, thereafter. The bill is now referred for deliberation under the Committee on Higher and Technical Education. We are optimistic that the deliberation will happen soon after the session resumes. Right now, there are similar bills also pending for deliberation under the Committee such as HB 102 filed by Cong. Grex Lagman and HB 2870 filed by Cong. Diosdado Arroyo. (There’s also HB 1098 filed by Cong. Ridon)

As students and young leaders of your respective colleges and universities, everyone here understands the importance of this pending bill in our common struggle to protect the civic and political rights and welfare of the students. And making sure that there is fairness and equity on how each student is treated is right. Your active involvement and vigorous participation throughout the process will remain crucial as we work harder for its immediate passage.

But as crucial as protecting the students, I also commend this organization for its proactive leadership in helping the youths, in general, create a dent in the country’s political affairs and contribute in nation-building.

One of the legislative initiatives that paved the way towards our closing relationship is the Sangguniang Kabataan reform bill.

I’m happy to give the news that the deliberation for our proposed SK reform legislation has started rolling in the House. The Committee on Local Government, of which I am a member, is undertaking its deliberation. Last Wednesday of this week, the Technical Working Group (TWG) set to consolidate the different versions of the SK reform bill has already convened. While I was not able to attend, as I was in another TWG where I served as the Chair, some of you here were present during the meeting and I must commend you for that. With your unwavering commitment, I am optimistic that we could succeed in ensuring that your voice, the voice of the youths, remains represented and relevant in government’s policy-making and decision-making.

Further deliberation of the bill was already set on July, with the primary objective of deciding whether the consolidated Senate version shall be adopted by the Committee or not. And I’m already set to attend the next meeting. Until then, we expect your continuous partnership with us in pushing for the passage of the bill.

The other campaign we’re working on is the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill, which, until now, is under deliberations at the Sub-committee level. Developments are a bit slow in here and we (the authors) have been working hard to fast-track the passage of the bill. Actually, even before deliberations of the bill has started, we have been strategizing. Last Monday, another meeting was organized to confront the continuing slow progress in the deliberations, and to ensure that an approved consolidated FOI bill will finally emerge from the TWG as soon as possible. Of course, as in the other two bills, your active participation and continuous lobbying for the bill are crucial in generating popular support. And hopefully, as a consequence, will generate greater pressure for the House and the Senate to act immediately and effectively on the bill.

There is still a lot of works that we must undertake to ensure that this set of bills will finally pass Congress. We are confronted at all fronts by various challenges, aimed at reversing whatever gains we have made. But with your enthusiasm and continuous support, I am positive that we can move forward from these setbacks. Through patient and persistent effort, we’ll witness more milestones in our shared goals.

Thank you.###

Lawmaker urged student-leaders to ‘step-up’ support for swift passage of STRAW bill

Rep. Barry Gutierrez delivering his solidarity message before the assembled student-leaders at the 9th Congress of SCAP.

Rep. Barry Gutierrez delivering his solidarity message before the assembled student-leaders at the 9th Congress of SCAP.

 

Iloilo City 6/22/2014 — Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez on Saturday addressed a nationwide alliance of student-leaders to ‘step-up’ their support for the ‘swift and immediate’ passage of the Students’ Rights and Welfare (STRAW) bill, saying ‘ the absence of a national policy on the issue has exposed the rights and welfare of the students to various forms of suppression and violations’.

The lawmaker made this call during the 9th Congress of the Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (SCAP) held at the Central Philippine University (CPU) in Iloilo City where 200 student-leaders from across the country were assembled.

“As students and young leaders of your respective colleges and universities, everyone here understands the importance of HB 4435 in protecting the rights and welfare of the each student,” Gutierrez said.

HB 4435, which was jointly drafted by Akbayan Rep. Gutierrez and SCAP, seels to create a comprehensive national framework on the protection and promotion of the rights and welfare of students.

The proposed legislation also seeks to combat the discriminatory policies, inadequate student services, lack of student representation and participation, imposition of unnecessary fees and unjust disciplinary sanctions continue to exist within educational institutions.

“Rights now, we have existing laws that attempts to address this need. There is RA 6728 for the students studying in private higher educational institutions (PHEIs); and, RA 7722 for students in state universities and colleges (SUCs),” Gutierrez said.

“In reality, however, discriminatory policies, suppression of political rights and imposition of unjust fees continue to exist,” the lawmaker added. “And there is a need to correct that.”

The lawmaker also expressed is concern the weakness in the state’s ability to regulate the private institutions in the provision of education, as a result of the deregulation of the education sector, has furthered the suppression of the rights and welfare of students.

“Due to a deregulated education sector, the enforcement and application of the various education policies that seek to protect the rights and welfare of the students has been skewed. In particular, the Commission on Higher Educational Development (CHED) mandated to regulate the tertiary educational system is severely limited in power over the PHEIs,” the lawmaker said.

CHED is the government agency that regulates and sets the required standards and condition for the SUCs.

“As a result, complaints from these institutions will be more challenging for the state education agencies to resolve,” he added.

The proposed legislation, thus, also seeks to close the policy implementation gap between private higher educational institutions (PHEIs) and state universities and colleges (SUCs) to ensure that there is fairness and equity on how each student is treated.

Immediate passage

In an effort to ensure the passage of the bill, the lawmaker reiterated the Alliance of its crucial role in the process.
“Your active involvement and vigorous participation throughout will remain crucial as we work harder for its immediate passage,” Gutierrez said.

“There is still a lot of work that must be done. But with your enthusiasm and continuous support, I am positive that we will achieve more gains in this struggle,” he concluded.###

***

The Student Council Alliance of the Philippines [SCAP] is the largest student council and student political party formation in the country representing more than 150 campuses and 30 chapters nationwide.

The SCAP National Congress takes place every two years to gather allied student political parties and student councils in a venture to welcome new members, to reaffirm the organization’s guiding principles, to report the accomplishments of the previous leadership, and to elect the new leaders of the organization.

The 9th National Congress is held at the Central Philippine University, Iloilo, with the theme: “Build Better Together”. It is a 4-day event from June 19-22, 2014.

Graphic Health Warnings on Cigarette Packs gets nod from the Health Committee

 PRESS RELEASE

03 June 2014

 

dunno

 

Sample of graphic health warnings with accompanying textual warnings on cigarette packs

After extensive discussions among authors and various stakeholders of the bill, the House Committee on Health on Tuesday approved a measure directing the cigarette manufacturers and importers to incorporate printed photographic images and accompanying textual warnings on the hazards of tobacco use in the packages of their products.

As a landmark law that seeks to regulate tobacco use, manufacturing and distribution, authors of the bill and health advocacy groups who attended the committee hearing hailed the success of the bill.

“We welcome the passage of this landmark bill, which we hope will lead to greater awareness on the hazards of tobacco use, which, in turn, will contribute to reducing the incidence of cigarette smoking in the country, especially among the Filipino youth,” Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez said.

“While the approved version did not incorporate all the features we originally pushed for, this is still a firm step in the right direction and we are happy that the House Committee on Health was able to reach a consensus on this very important issue,” he added.

One of the provisions that received a strong point of disagreement among advocates and opposing group is Section 4.a of the proposed Graphic Health Warnings Law, which sets out the percentage of area that graphic health warnings will occupy on the tobacco product packages.

In the original version of the Picture-based Health Warnings Law filed by Akbayan Reps. Barry Gutierrez and Walden Bello, the percentage of area allotted for graphic warnings is 85%. This percentage was strongly contested by the tobacco manufacturing groups and their representatives, saying that the percentage was unduly burdensome.

Representatives from the tobacco industry initially pushed to reduce the proposed area, with only 30% of each display panel area to be devoted for graphic health warnings.

Ultimately, the members of the Committee on Health settled on a figure of 40%. The compromise finally paved the way for the approval of the bill.

With the Committee’s approval of the bill, it now advances for deliberation at the Appropriations Committee. The proposed legislation is expected to be passed on Third Reading next week before session break.###