AFAD expresses concern over the delisting of cases in UNWGEID
The Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) expresses serious concerns over the proposal of the government of the Philippines to delist 625 cases from 1975 to 2012 of enforced or involuntary disappearances from the records of the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (UNWGEID).
Even before the news broke out, AFAD, having meetings with the Permanent Mission of the Philippines to the UN in Geneva, suspected that the purpose of the Philippine Mission in meeting the WGEID in Sarajevo was to “clarify” the existing 625 cases because the latter expressed that such cases were old cases that occurred during the Marcos period. The news from the Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed the suspicion.
Although it may appear that the Philippine government is taking a step towards engaging with the UNWGEID, it is an attempt to suppress the truth and conceal the fate of the disappeared. This decision by the Philippine Mission has come without credible investigations into the cases and thus it points to its dubious intentions. Before making the proposal to the WGEID, the Philippine Government could have coordinated with the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines and NGOs that have direct contacts with the family members of the disappeared, who will be affected by the delisting.
Enforced disappearance is a continuing crime. Section 21 of RA 10353 provides that “An act constituting enforced or involuntary disappearance shall be considered a continuing offence 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.” The Article 8 of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance likewise provides for the continuing character of the crime.
Delisting cases is tantamount to deleting evidence of the disappearance, thus is contrary to the right to truth enshrined in the Convention. Moreover, it is contrary to the very elements of transitional justice, which are truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence.
The families of the disappeared have the right to know the truth about what happened to their loved ones. It is their right to be informed about every step of the investigation that is initiated in case of disappearance and the results of the investigation. For the families of the disappeared, who have fought for long for truth and justice, this proposal by the Philippine government is disappointing as it takes away hopes of justice.
The delisting of the cases would mean impunity of the perpetrators and will not ensure that this is not repeated in the future. It defeats the very purpose of the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act, which the Philippine Government enacted in 2012.
AFAD urges the Philippine Government to not serve as a negative example to other Asian governments to likewise delist cases, but instead pose itself as a model to its co-UN members by considering first and foremost in all its actions the interest of victims of human rights violations.
Finally, AFAD urges the Philippine government to finally respond to the incessant official requests of the UNWGEID for official invitation to visit the country. Moreover, AFAD reiterates its call on the Philippine Government to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and to recognize the competence of the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances.
MARY AILEEN D. BACALSO
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