MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) will help torture and enforced disappearance survivors and their families heal through a rehabilitation program called PagHILOM.
PagHILOM or Healing Intervention Leading to Optimum Management for Victims of Torture and Enforced Disappearance and their Family Members will help survivors and their kin rebuild their lives by providing them reparation, access to justice, and ways on how to recover from emotional and psychological pain and trauma.
In a statement, DSWD Secretary Judy Taguiwalo emphasized the need to help the victims not only in processing their traumatic experiences but also in achieving the justice they deserve and recovering from their grief so they could move forward and start a new life.
“The physical wounds of torture victims may heal, but the effect of their mental and psychological sufferings caused by the brutal and inhumane treatment they experienced may last throughout their lives,” said Taguiwalo, who herself had experienced torture during the Marcos regime.
Republic Act 9745 or the Anti-Torture Act of 2009 defines torture as an act by which severe physical or mental pain is intentionally inflicted to a person by the state or state agents.
R.A. 10353 or the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012 defines enforced or involuntary disappearance as an act that deprives a person of liberty and whose whereabouts is concealed by the state or state agents.
A rehabilitation team and support group called co-journeyers will accompany and help the victims of torture (VicTors) as well as the family and relatives of Involuntary and Enforced Disappearance victims and those who surfaced alive (FRIEnDs) in their psychological and emotional healing.
The co-journeyers will address the psychological pain of torture victims as well as the traumatic loss and unresolved grief of the relatives of enforced disappearance victims.
The DSWD said the Department of Health had already been tasked to provide technical assistance to local government units and non-governmental organizations regarding medical interventions and mental health services for the survivors and their kin.
Besides medical assistance, victims of torture and enforced disappearances and their relatives could also avail themselves of a number of services from different government agencies and their partners.
Legal assistance services will be provided by the Department of Justice, Commission on Human Rights (CHR), and Public Attorney’s Office to help victims initiate the filing of cases against alleged perpetrators.
Under R.A. 9745, the penalties for torture range from imprisonment of one month to six months to reclusion perpetua or life sentence equivalent to 20 to 40 years, depending on the gravity of the acts committed.
Meanwhile, the penalty for enforced disappearance under R.A. 10353 is reclusion perpetua.
The CHR is also tasked to visit detention facilities that have custody of torture and enforced disappearance survivors to ensure that the human rights of the detainees are not being violated.
Therapeutic interventions will also be given to the survivors and their kin to help them recover their sense of well-being and again become productive members of the community.
The DSWD also coordinated with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority and Department of Labor and Employment in providing skills training and job placement for the victims and their relatives.
The survivors may also avail themselves of scholarships as well as financial assistance for food, medical, and transportation needs.
The DSWD’s rehabilitation program came into being after a memorandum of agreement was signed early July between a number of government agencies and local government units.
It is set to be implemented first in Metro Manila and Zamboanga Peninsula, the two regions with the highest recorded occurrences of torture and enforced disappearances.
The CHR recorded 51 cases of torture in 2014, and 47 more cases in 2015.
Meanwhile, the Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance has documented a total of 1,838 cases of enforced disappearance since the Marcos regime until June 2012.
Of this number, a total of 1,147 persons are still missing, 435 have surfaced alive, and 256 were found dead.