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Philippine News Digest 29

July 10, 2002 · 

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Contents:

  • Prison sentence to Australian child sex tourist
  • 6.6 million in Asia-Pacific have AIDS/HIV
  • Rights groups demand law banning tortur
  • 14,500 Zambaleños evacuated

Prison sentence to Australian child sex tourist

Raymond Colin Smith, 41, of New South Wales was sentenced on June 7 to three years’ jail for committing three sexual acts with two 6 year old girls in Olongapo City. Judge Coolahan also sentenced Smith to a concurrent 18 months’ jail sentence on each of the two other offenses. On the day he committed the offenses, Smith admitted the molestation to David Cowie, director of the Mercy Ships Youth Ministry to which Smith is working, who decided to return him to Australia for prosecution rather than the possibility of Smith’s facing a death sentence if convicted in the Philippines. Smith is the 12th Australian to be prosecuted under the child sex tourism provisions of the Commonwealth crimes Act for child sex offenses committed overseas on children under 16 years of age. Source: New Castle Herald, 8 July 2002.

6.6million in Asia-Pacific have AIDS/HIV

Some 6.6 million people were estimated to be infected with HIV or AIDS in the Asia-Pacific region at the end of last year, according to the latest UNAIDS report for 2002. The figure puts the region as a whole in second place behind sub-Saharan Africa where the epidemic affected 28.5 million people. “It serves as a reminder that no country is immune to a serious HIV epidemic,” the report said. It added that low national prevalence rates conceal serious, localized epidemics in several areas, including China and India. In China, HIV infections rose more than 67 percent in the first six months of 2001 while in India, 3.97 people are estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS “more than in any other country besides South Africa”. Source: AFP report in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, 3 July 2002.

Rights groups demand law banning torture

Human rights groups said they would press Congress to revive a bill that seeks to outlaw the torture ofprisoners. Max de Mesa, deputy executive director for Mindanao of the Task Force detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) said the bill, filed by Rep. Satur Ocampo has not been acted upon. The Commission on Human Rights in Southern Mindanao admitted that although the Constitution guarantees civil and political rights, a law penalizing torture would have to be passed first before the practice is totally stopped. But while alaw on torture is being adopted, de Mesa the government could prevent it from happenning if it would act on the recommendations of the United Nations. Among the UN recommendations include the abolition of all secret places of detention, a stop to the use of blindfolds and hoods during interrogation, transparency in the entire process of arrest to detention, and quick investigation by authorities of cases of complaints of torture. Another group, Karapatan, said that the country was a signatory to the UN-led International Covenant Against Torture but it has not stopped the government fromcommitting abuses agaisnt suspected criminals. In Southern Mindanao alone, there were at least 29 cases of torture under the Macapagal administration, according to Bishop Felixberto Galang, the chairperson of Karapatan. Source: Philippine Daily Inquier Mindanao Bureau, 1 July 2002.

14,500 Zambalenos evacuated

An estimated 14, 500 residents of 41 barangays from seven towns of Zambales were evacuated to highwer grounds as two more typhoons are expected to enter the country after the exit of typhoons Gloria and Florita. Heavy rains had triggered some low-lying barangays to be swamoped with floodwaters. Several portions of the national highway, particularly in Barangay Alusiis in San Narciso and the Sto.Nino stretch in Cabangan , as well as the Bucao Bridge in Botolan, were rendered impassable to light vehicles. Classes in all levels in both public and private schools were also suspended. Source: Today, 10 July 2002.

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