By Leila B. Salaverria, Norman Bordadora, Philippine Daily Inquirer
October 18, 2012
After a campaign over two decades by human rights activists, Congress finally passed a bill principally directed against state agencies that would outlaw acts that result in disappearances, allow the prosecution of perpetrators even though their victims remain missing and impose a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
Once signed, the measure will become the first national law in Asia that makes enforced disappearance a distinct criminal offense, according to Representative Edcel Lagman of Albay who described the bill as “a culmination of more than 20 years of militant advocacy for the desaparecidos.”
Both the Senate and the House of Representatives approved on Tuesday night the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Bill earlier crafted by a bicameral conference committee. It will now go to President Aquino for his signature.
“Enforced disappearance was an atrocious tool of the martial law regime to silence protesters and human rights advocates and continues to be employed by subsequent administrations after the end of the martial law regime,” Lagman said.
Lagman’s brother Hermon, an activist lawyer, went missing in 1977 and has not been found to this day. His mother, Cecilia, was the first chairperson of the group Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND).
Enforced or involuntary disappearance is defined in the reconciled bill as “the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty committed by agents of the state or by persons or groups of persons acting with authorization or support from the state, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared.”
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