[Statement] Families of disappeared decry Philippine government’s proposed delisting of 625 enforced disappearance cases from UN WGEID records – FIND

Families of disappeared decry Philippine government’s proposed delisting of 625 enforced disappearance cases from UN WGEID records – FIND

The proposal of the Philippine government to delist hundreds of Filipinos who were disappeared from 1975 to 2012 from the records of the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (UNWGEID) smacks of deceit. Sweeping these hapless victims under the rug will never hide the truth that it was their courageous resistance to repression and injustice that led to their involuntary disappearance.

The delisting of 625 cases derogates the continuing character of enforced disappearances and the general exemption of their prosecution from the statute of limitations guaranteed under the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012 (RA 10353).

While the Philippine government takes pride in having enacted the first and only comprehensive law against enforced disappearance in Asia, it brazenly disregards pertinent essential provisions of the law that give hope to the families of the disappeared for justice notwithstanding the passage of time.

Section 21 of RA 10353 provides that “An act constituting enforced or involuntary disappearance shall be considered a continuing offense as long as the perpetrators continue to conceal the fate and whereabouts of the disappeared person and such circumstances have not been determined with certainty.” Section 22 states that “The prosecution of persons responsible for enforced or involuntary disappearance shall not prescribe unless the victim surfaces alive. In which case, the prescriptive period shall be twenty-five (25) years from the date of such reappearance.”

The deletion scheme apparently hatched in the Office of the President is of dubious legality. It mocks the judicial process as it puts the cart before the horse.
Instead of opting for the preposterous magic slate deletion, the Presidential Human Rights Committee should have first recommended to the Inter-agency Committee (IAC) chaired by the Department of Justice the conduct of a thorough and impartial investigation.

The IAC which is mandated under Administrative Order No. 35 to conduct investigations into extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture, and other
grave human rights abuses, should have informed the concerned families and those who sought the intervention of the UN WGEID, like the Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND) among others, of the investigation, its findings and recommendations.

The families of the victims and other persons and entities with legitimate interest in these enforced disappearance cases have the right to know the initiation, conduct, progress and results of the investigation. They should have been afforded the opportunity to help shed light on the circumstances that led to the disappearance and establish the culpability of the perpetrators.

If the Duterte administration desires to clear the Philippines of its reputation of having the biggest number in Southeast Asia of enforced disappearance allegations reported to the UN WGEID, then it must adhere to international norms of seeking truth and justice. Duplicity by any party should not sully well-meaning UN mechanisms.

FIND strongly urges the Philippines to judiciously reconsider pursuing its delisting proposal to the UN WGEID even as the organization believes that the Working Group will remain faithful to its mandate to serve the cause of the disappeared and their families.

FIND Co-Chairperson

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