Tag Archives: human rights organizations

[Press Release] Milestone Law Criminalizes Forced Disappearances, Aquino Enacts First Law of its Kind in Asia -HRW

Philippines: Milestone Law Criminalizes Forced Disappearances
Aquino Enacts First Law of its Kind in Asia

English: Human Rights Watch logo Русский: Лого...

(Manila, December 21, 2012) – The new law that criminalizes enforced disappearances in the Philippines is the first of its kind in Asia and a major milestone in ending this horrific human rights violation, Human Rights Watch said today. President Benigno S. Acquino III signed the law today.

The Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012 closely reflects international legal standards on enforced disappearance. Although Congress passed the law in October, Aquino did not immediately sign it despite reports of new abductions of leftist activists. Enforced disappearances are defined as the detention of a person by state officials or their agents followed by a refusal to acknowledge the detention or to reveal the person’s fate or whereabouts. People held in secret are especially vulnerable to torture and other abuses, and their families suffer from lack of information.

President Aquino and the Congress deserve credit for acting to end the scourge of enforced disappearances in the Philippines,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “This law is a testament to the thousands of ‘disappearance’ victims since the Marcos dictatorship, whose long-suffering families are still searching for justice. The challenge now is for the government to move quickly to enforce the new law.”

The new law reflects longtime recommendations by human rights organizations to the government to address unacknowledged detentions. Anyone convicted of committing an enforced disappearance faces a maximum sentence of life in prison and may not receive an amnesty. Superior officers who order or are otherwise implicated in a disappearance face the same penalty as those who directly carried out the crime. The government cannot suspend the law even in times of war or public emergency.

A crucial provision of the law says that those accused of forced disappearances may not invoke “orders of battle” – military documents that identify alleged enemies – as justification or an exempting circumstance. Many victims of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings in the Philippines have been listed or said to have been listed in such “orders of battle.” The law specifically allows a person who receives an illegal order to commit a disappearance to disobey it.

The law defines an enforced or involuntary disappearance 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 the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which places such person outside the protection of the law.” This definition is derived from international human rights standards.

The law also prohibits secret detention facilities. The government is to make a full inventory of all detention facilities in the Philippines and create a registry of every detainee, complete with all relevant details including who visited the detainee and how long the visit lasted. It also mandates and authorizes the governmental Commission on Human Rights “to conduct regular, independent, unannounced and unrestricted visits to or inspection of all places of detention and confinement.” Human rights organizations are encouraged to assist the Justice Department in proposing rules and regulations for enforcement.

“Effective enforcement of this new law by the Philippine government will deter enforced disappearances and address the deep-seated problem of impunity for human rights abusers,” Adams said.

Under President Ferdinand Marcos, enforced disappearances were rampant, as the military and police routinely rounded up activists and suspected communist rebels and supporters. The practice did not end with Marcos’s ouster in 1986. Many enforced disappearances occurred during the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Several activists have “disappeared” since Aquino took office in 2010, according to local rights groups, though there are no allegations that these were ordered by Aquino or other members of his government.

Human Rights Watch detailed some cases of disappearances in its 2010 report, “No Justice Just Adds to the Pain,” and in a video released earlier in 2012 in which family members of the disappeared call on President Aquino to live up to his promises of justice.

The Philippine government should also sign the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and transmit it to the Senate for prompt ratification, Human Rights Watch said. In Asia, only Japan has ratified the convention, although Laos, India, Indonesia, and Thailand have signed it.

In addition to signing the anti-disappearance law, Aquino is expected to soon sign the landmark reproductive-health bill recently passed by Congress. The bill aims to improve the lives of many Filipino women and to reduce the country’s high maternal mortality rate.

“President Aquino should be commended for these two important human rights laws, but too often new laws in the Philippines are followed by inaction,” Adams said. “Aquino now needs to demonstrate leadership to overcome the obstacles to these laws and ensure they are fully enforced.”

To read the report “No Justice Just Adds to the Pain,” please visit:
http://www.hrw.org/reports/2011/07/18/no-justice-just-adds-pain-0

To view the video “Philippines: Abuses Go Unpunished,” please visit:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pNY8QovO7f0

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on the Philippines, please visit:
http://www.hrw.org/asia/-philippines

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[From the web] A Huge Step Towards Ending Impunity -AFAD

A Huge Step Towards Ending Impunity

The Philippine Congress has made a huge step in instituting legal measures for better human rights protection as conferees from both chambers of the Philippine Congress ratified on 16 October 2012 the bicameral report on reconciled bill which will very soon become the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012.

The Asian Federation Against Enforced Disappearances (AFAD), a regional federation of human rights organizations working directly on the issue of enforced disappearances in the Asian region, hails the firm resolve of the members of the Philippine Congress for finally heeding to the call of the families and relatives of the victims who, for almost two decades, have been lobbying the Philippine Congress to criminalize and penalize the act of enforced disappearance and eventually put an end to this odious practice.

The reconciled Anti-Enforced Disappearance bill defines the crime of enforced disappearance as “the arrest, detention, abduction or any form of deprivation of liberty committed by agents of the State or by persons or groups acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place such a person outside the protection of the law.”

The bill prescribes penalties ranging from arresto mayor to reclusion perpetua, depending on the gravity of the acts committed. Under the approved bill, the rights of the victims and their families are guaranteed especially the right to know the truth of what happened to their loved ones and the rights to compensation, rehabilitation and restitution of dignity and to guarantees of non-repetition. Further, the bill provides the continuing character of the crime, thus, applicable to past cases. For as long as there is no certainty of the fate and whereabouts of the disappeared persons, the victims continue to be deprived of their rights to life and liberty and their families continue to suffer.

We urge President Benigno Aquino III to sign this very important piece of legislation with dispatch as soon as the Philippine Congress transmits it to Malacanang Palace for his signature. Signing it will show the Philippine government’s commitment to uphold the rights of every person to be protected from enforced disappearance which, to date, still remains prevalent. Further, the future anti-enforced disappearance law in the Philippines will be the first in Asia – a very good example for neighboring Asian governments to follow.

The Philippines is not yet a signatory much less a State-Party to the Convention despite committing to do it in a voluntary pledge before the UN Human Rights Council when it ran for membership in 2007. In the second cycle of the Universal Period Review of the Philippines in May 2010, the Philippine government stated that the imminent enactment of an anti-enforced disappearance law will expedite the government’s position favorable to the signing and ratification of the Convention.

The Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances therefore, deems it equally important for President Aquino to sign and ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (Convention). The Convention and the Bill are complementary measures which, if acted upon by the government, would serve as major steps towards ensuring state accountability and ending impunity. Doing so would serve as momentous opportunity for the President to make a strong statement on its human rights policy by holding accountable those responsible for the disappearances since Martial law up to the present.

We congratulate all those who have contributed to make this major step possible even as we continuously encourage human rights groups and the general public to participate in consultations and in the formulation of rules and regulations for the effective implementation of the law.

Our almost two decades of struggle to end enforced disappearances has finally borne fruit in this imminent Anti-Enforced Disappearance Act of 2012. Once enacted into law, let this be fully implemented in its letter and spirit and let it be complemented by the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance which the Philippines has soon to accede without further delay.

Towards a world without desaparecidos, we say NO to enforced disappearances and impunity!

Signed by:

MARY AILEEN D. BACALSO                                        MUGIYANTO
Secretary-General                                                              Chairperson
Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances
Rooms 310-311, Philippine Social Science Center Bldg.
Commonwealth Ave., Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines
Telefax: 00-63-2-4546759
Telephone: 00-63-2-4907862
Mobile: 00-63-9177924058
Website: http://www.afad-online.org

AFAD Statement on the Ratification by the Philippine Congress
of the Anti-enforced Disappearance Bill
19 October 2012

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[Press Release] Island folks remember slain environmentalist -ATM

Island folks remember slain environmentalist

Sibuyan Island, ROMBLON – Commemorating the fifth death anniversary of slain anti-mining activist and public servant Armin Rios Marin, friends, relatives and other advocates gathered in his residence in Sibuyan for a silent reflection and candle-lighting ceremony.

Marin, elected municipal councilor in 2007, only served three months in service after he was shot to death by a mining security officer of Sibuyan Nickel Properties Development Corporation (SNPDC) during a picket against researchers commissioned by a mining company.

“The world’s largest nickel mining company BHP Billiton had just signed an off-take agreement with SNPDC and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources approved a special permit to cut
more than 70,000 trees; and another company wanted to do a research and scoping for another company – these all prompted Armin to join and lead the picket,” said San Fernando municipal councilor Domingo Marin, father of the slain environmentalist.

After a year, BHP Billiton withdrew its agreement with SNPDC as it failed to secure a Mineral Productions Sharing Agreement (MPSA) on top of the killing controversy. The special cutting of trees was also suspended by the DENR.

“However, SNPDC did not stop even after the killing of my son and the opposition of the people to their project – it has successfully got an MPSA through the rights of Altai Philippines Mining Corporation but
eventually suspended by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau due to lack of social acceptability. We shall continue defending our island,” continued Marin.

Last week, a special mass was held in España Elementary School to also commemorate his death. More than 1,000 students attended the said mass.

Sibuyanons have chosen to silently commemorate the death of Armin Rios Marin while those who seek to be elected next year are lining up to file their certificates of candidacy.

“We reflect as we learn our lessons from the past – Armin taught us how public service truly are for the general welfare thus protecting our rights to a healthful and balanced ecology,” said Elizabeth Ibanez, member of Sibuyan Island Sentinels League for Environment Inc. (Sibuyan ISLE).

Ibanez believed that it is now high time to choose candidates which have heart for the environment because “at the end of the day, all of us will always rely on the bounties of nature for our health, food,
shelter – for survival, especially in the times of climate crisis”.

“Leaders who are able to stand by their principles are only a handful and Armin was one of them. We will continue to support political champions for the environment because they are the ones who will secure our future’s survival,” said Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator of Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM)

Garganera reminded registered voters to choose candidates with clear and genuine platform for the environment especially on climate change and mining. He added that together with other environmental
organizations, they will release a list of candidates with distinct and serious plan for environmental protection and preservation.

Alyansa Tigil Mina is an alliance of mining-affected communities and their support groups of NGOs/POs and other civil society organizations who are opposing the aggressive promotion of large-scale mining in the Philippines. The alliance is currently pushing for a moratorium on mining, revocation of Executive Order 270-A, repeal of the Mining Act of 1995 and passage of the AMMB. (30)

Contact details:
Domingo Marin – 09167154078
Elizabeth Ibanez – 09351055729
Jaybee Garganera, ATM National Coordinator ; nc@alyansatigilmina.net, 09277617602
Rodne Galicha – Site of Struggle Officer: sos@alyansatigilmina.net, 09052850700

ATM Press Release
October 4, 2012

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[In the news] Anti-mining advocate in Bukidnon killed inside his own home – Bulatlat

Anti-mining advocate in Bukidnon killed inside his own home – Bulatlat.

BY INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
Bulatlat.com

ILIGAN CITYHuman rights organizations and advocacy groups promoting the rights of indigenous peoples have condemned the March 5, 2012 killing of indigenous leader and human rights advocate Jimmy Liguyon in Purok 2, Barangay Dao, San Fernando, Bukidnon. Liguyon was shot dead inside his house allegedly by a leader of a paramilitary group. He was 36.

According to reports posted on the website of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), Liguyon was the vice chairman of Kaugalingong Sistema sa Igpasasindog to Lumadnong Ogpaan (KASILO), an organization of indigenous peoples from the southern municipalities of Bukidon. Kasilo advocates for the defense of land rights, and the the sustainable use of environmental resources. Liguyon was also the Dao barangay captain and a staunch opponent of mining companies as he campaigned against their operations in the region.

Around 6:00 p.m. last March 5, Liguyon was reportedly inside his house when he was approached and then shot at by a certain Aldy “Butsoy” Salusad. Witnesses said the killer’s father, Ben Salusad, is head of a paramilitary group connected to the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the San Fernando Matigsalug Tribal Datus or SANMATRIDA. The paramilitary group is said to hold a certificate of ancestral domain and has been actively campaigning for the entry of mining companies in the region since 2009.

Read full article @ bulatlat.com

[From the web] A Network, ASIAN FORENSICS FOR HUMAN RIGHTSwas formed – AllVoices

A Network, ASIAN FORENSICS FOR HUMAN RIGHTSwas formed
by ben696molino, AllVoices
Jan 29, 2012

 Yesterday, six member NGO human rights organizations of the AFAD with the support of EAAF formed the Asian Forensics for Human Rights in Bangkok. This will be composed of experts and forensically trained human rights development workers in the region.

In the two day meeting, 27-28 of January 2012, the participants presented the human rights situations in their countries and the difficulty in getting justice for the victims of human rights violations (hrvs). Their presentations include among others: the undocumented cases of hrvs in their countries counting to more than a million, especially torture, extra-judicial killing and enforced disappearance; a case of a woman raped by a group policemen in front of her husband; and a man made feetless to prevent him from traveling.

The Philippine delegates shared their experience on torture. The country ratified the Conventiona Against Torture… in 1987, but the enabling law was enacted only in 2009. The Implementing Rules and Regulations came a year after. There were at least five complaints filed in court but only two prospered. The three were dismissed for insufficient evidence although the perpetrators were identified. Of the two cases that prospered in court, only the perpetrators of one case were apprehended, the perpetrator in the other case remains at large. The military continue to deny that they have such person in their roster although this uniformed man was spotted several times by the victim himself in his detention center.

Read full article @ www.allvoices.com