PRESIDENT BENIGNO S. AQUINO III should show his government’s commitment to stamping out impunity by immediately signing into law the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012, said an international human rights monitoring group.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch said such a move would “demonstrate the Philippine government’s commitment to address human rights abuses such as the abduction and killing by the security forces of activists, environmentalists, and journalists.”
“Enforced disappearances, often involving torture and extrajudicial killings, have been a blot on the Philippines’ human rights record since the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship,” said Human Rights Watch Asia director Brad Adams. “This law would be an important step towards ending these abuses.”
Congress ratified the measure yesterday and transmitted the document to Malacanang for the President’s approval.
Seen as a landmark piece of legislation, the measure defines enforced disappearance as “the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty committed by agents of the State or by persons or groupsof persons acting with the authorization, support, or acquiescence of the State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which places such person outside the protection of the law.” Victims of these disappearances are more commonly referred to as desaparecidos, or the disappeared, a term borrowed from the experience of Latin America with dictatorship and human rights violations.
The measure penalizes violators with a life sentence, and bars them from future amnesty declarations. In addition, the superior officer of the violators are also to be held liable for the crime.
Local human rights groups have documented many cases of enforced disappearances dating back to the time of President Marcos until the present day. One of the more high-profile cases involve Jonas Burgos, the son of the late journalist Jose Burgos, who was allegedly picked up by military agents inside a Quezon City mall. The vehicle used by the alleged military operatives was later recovered inside a military camp in Bulacan. The military has denied any involvement in his disappearance, and Burgos remains missing to this day.