PH now member of Group of Friends of Mandela Rules

The Philippines is now the 37th member of the Group of Friends (GoF) of the Mandela Rules that “respect and value the dignity and human rights of persons deprived of liberty (PDLs),” the Department of Justice (DOJ) said on Monday, May 29.

In a press statement, the DOJ said that the Philippines became a GoF member when it co-sponsored a meeting of the group in Vienna, Austria last May 22 as a side event at the 32nd session of the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice.

The protection of PDLs had been laid out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.  In 1955, the first UN Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders adopted the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.

In 2015, the UN General Assembly expanded the rules, now known as Nelson Mandela Rules, in honor of the South African anti-apartheid activist and politician.

The Rules “are based on an obligation to treat all prisoners with respect for their inherent dignity and value as human beings, and to prohibit torture and other forms of ill-treatment.”

In his speech before GoF members, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin C. Remulla said that “as principal guiding principle in our prison reform program, we treat every single PDL not as a number but a human being– with dignity and rights.”

“That is why making our prison facilities in the Philippines more humane and more dignified is one of our priorities,” he said.

He also said that the Philippines is “determined to ensure that except for their liberty, our PDLs continue to enjoy all their other fundamental human rights while in detention.”

At the same time, Remulla said the Philippines key programs for PDLs include the enhancement of social rehabilitation and reintegration, establishment of state-of-the-art rehabilitation facilities and prison infrastructures, expeditious evaluation and processing of PDLs’ records and releases through digitization and effective legal representation.

The 37 members of GoF are Algeria, Argentina, Austria, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, India, Italy, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Mexico, Namibia, Norway, State of Palestine, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, South Africa, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Uganda, United States, and Uruguay.