[Statement] Families of desaparecidos hail approval of anti-enforced disappearance bill -FIND

Families of desaparecidos hail approval of anti-enforced disappearance bill

The passage on third and final reading by the House of Representatives of House Bill No. 98, the proposed “Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012” yesterday inevitably leads to the light at the end of the tunnel. Having been in the forefront of the 17-year uphill battle for the enactment of this law, we believe that final victory will be ours before the year ends.

The House passed on third reading similar measures in the 13th and 14th Congresses. The Senate had made up for its failure to pass them in the last two Congresses by approving its own current version of the bill on final reading on 26 July 2011.

The imminent enactment of an anti-enforced or involuntary law is indeed long overdue even as it is seasonable as forced disappearances remain unabated and committed with impunity.

Fifteen victims have already been reported under the current Aquino administration, including three Muslim students en route to Sudan. They were allegedly disappeared at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 on January 4, 2012. Their families now join other kin of desaparecidos in their anxious and laborious search for their missing loved ones and for the elusive justice.

A law that penalizes enforced disappearance as a distinct and separate crime will help the families bring to justice the perpetrators of this heinous offense that violates practically all human rights.

Justice demands immediate investigation by concerned authorities once a commission of enforced disappearance has been reported; immediate apprehension of the suspected offenders; speedy prosecution and if warranted conviction of the accused; reparation to the victims and/or their families; and State guarantees of non-repetition. These, the proposed anti-enforced disappearance law seeks to carry out. Specifically, among its salient features are:

1) adopting the UN definition of enforced disappearance that limits the offense to State actors;
2) declaring the right against enforced disappearance as non-derogable;
3) providing mechanisms to protect, promote and fulfill the right to truth;
4) inapplicability of the Statute of Limitations for victims whose fate and whereabouts have not yet been established;
5) maintenance of up-to-date register of detainees and prisoners;
6) expeditious disposition and enforcement of court orders and rulings;
7) penal sanctions ranging from arresto mayor to reclusion perpetua;
8) criminal liability of commanding officers or superiors;
9) restitution and compensation to victims and next-of-kin;
10) psychosocial rehabilitation of both victims and offenders.

22 MARCH 2012

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