[Today] November 23,2012, as we mark the 27th founding anniversary of FIND, we dedicate the soon-to-be law on enforced disappearance to the desaparecidos; thank the authors of the measure and all those who joined and supported us in pushing for its passage; and urge President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III to immediately sign the bill into law.
The bill seeks to institute effective mechanisms and processes of accountability. It is intended to help government prevent, suppress, investigate and penalize enforced disappearance and provide victims and their families reparation that includes pecuniary compensation, restitution and psychosocial rehabilitation.
The upcoming Republic Act makes enforced disappearance a special crime distinct from kidnapping and serious illegal detention. The law will allow the filing of an appropriate complaint—enforced disappearance—against public officers who arrest, detain or abduct a person but deny such act or conceal the fate and whereabouts of the victim. The recognition of the latter element (concealment) will facilitate prosecution despite the absence of the body of the victim.
The proposed penal law corrects the imbalance in the prosecution of private and public offenders. It has been extremely difficult to bring to justice perpetrators of enforced disappearance and other human rights violations as the offenders are government authorities who use their position and power to escape accountability. Thus, the proposed law provides for the preventive suspension or summary dismissal of government officials and personnel who, as a result of a preliminary investigation, are found to be perpetrators of enforced disappearance.
Worth noting, too, is the strengthening of sanction on command responsibility by holding a superior officer liable as a principal to the crime of enforced disappearance committed by his subordinates.
Also, persons who are charged with and/or guilty of enforced disappearance shall not benefit from any special amnesty law or similar measures that shall exempt them from penal proceedings and sanctions.
Moreover, the offenders’ criminal liability under the anti-enforced disappearance law shall be independent of their culpability under other distinct laws. Hence, a public officer who is already charged with arbitrary detention may still be accused of enforced disappearance if the detainee under his custody later involuntarily disappears.
Likewise, any investigation, trial or decision in any Philippine court or other agency for any violation of the enforced disappearance law shall be without prejudice to the same processes before an international court or agency under applicable international human rights and humanitarian laws.
These are some of the strong safeguards against enforced disappearance that should convince the President to immediately sign the anti-enforced or involuntary disappearance bill into law to show his administration’s condemnation of enforced disappearance and allied human rights violations and its commitment to end impunity.
PRESS STATEMENT 23 November 2012
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