Anti-Enforced Disappearance Law:
A Precious Christmas Gift to All Filipino Desaparecidos
The Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) joins the Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND) and other human rights groups in the Philippines in jubilation for Pres. Benigno Simeon Aquino III’s signing into law the Republic Act No. 10350, otherwise known as the Anti- Enforced Disappearance Act of 2012.
His Excellency’s signing of this new human rights law is a precious Christmas gift to all Filipino desaparecidos and their families. Not only does the law aim to address the phenomenon of enforced disappearance, which has persisted in the country even after Martial Law; it is also worthy of emulation by other Asian countries being the first domestic law against enforced disappearance in a region marred by disappearances reported to the UN in recent years and bereft of strong regional mechanisms for human rights protection.
Although the Republic Act 10350 is one concrete answer to the problem of enforced disappearance, it is not its absolute answer. It is not a one size fits all nor it is a quick fix solution. Other legal measures and institutional reforms must be made in order to complete the mantle of human rights protection for everyone. It is therefore, imperative for the Philippine government to accede to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance as a fulfillment of its voluntary pledges and commitment before the UN Human Rights Council. Further, the Philippines also needs to recognize the competence of the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearance as provided for by Arts. 31 and 32 of the Convention.
The Convention and the domestic law are complementary legal measures that can enhance the capacity of any state party to effectively perform its human rights obligations particularly the guarantee and protection of the right not to be subjected to enforced disappearances.
While we laud Pres. Aquino’s signing of this law as an expression of his government’s commitment to human rights, it is not the end-in-itself. The government must ensure its full implementation to make it an effective tool for accountability, thus contributing to end impunity.
The Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) for the law’s effective implementation must be formulated and jointly promulgated by government representatives and families of the disappeared within 30 days upon the law’s effectivity. The IRR can make or break the law. The formulation of the IRR must be within the minimum international human rights standards and must fully capture the law’s very spirit and letter.
While the signing of the law is an executive act, it is a people’s act – an act especially of the families of the victims and human rights advocates –they indefatigably struggled and continue to struggle to make it happen. We also take this opportunity to thank the principal authors and sponsors of both Houses of the Philippine Congress, particularly Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay for championing the cause of the disappeared and their families. We also thank our friends in the media for helping us raise public awareness and elevate this issue from a parochial to a societal concern.
The Anti-Enforced Disappearance Law is a major leap in our struggle for truth, justice, redress, reparation, memory and guarantees of non-repetition. Every step brings our collective march closer to our goal of attaining a world free from enforced disappearance.
22 December 2012
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