This refers to the banner story “Desaparecidos’ bill OK’d” (Inquirer, 10/18/12) which had a follow-up story titled, “Aquino urged to sign bill on ‘desaparecidos’ immediately” (Inquirer, 10/19/12).
Having lobbied for the passage of the bill, which would be the first anti-enforced disappearance law in the world if signed by President Aquino, we were truly elated to hear the news. Finally, Congress has decided to heed the incessant clamor of human rights groups and the families of the victims who have been lobbying for almost two decades for a law penalizing, as a distinct crime, enforced disappearance—a violation of human rights that was rampant during martial law and continues to be committed to this day with impunity.
While an anti-enforced disappearance law would be a reason for us to celebrate, it nevertheless would pose some challenges. We only hope that the law, or its much-hoped-for enactment, would eventually facilitate and expedite the Philippine government’s signing and ratifying of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2006 and which entered into force on Dec. 23, 2010.
In this connection, we would like to clarify that the Philippines is not “a signatory to international conventions against enforced disappearances,” contrary to what was reported in that Oct. 18 banner story; much less is it a state-party to the convention despite having voluntarily pledged to become so before the UN Human Rights Council when it ran for membership in 2007.
The convention and the bill are complementary measures which, if sincerely adhered to by the government, would help in divesting human rights violations of their protective mantle of impunity, thus ensuring accountability for such crimes.
The Philippines’ enactment of the world’s first anti-enforced disappearance bill into law would make the country a model of human rights protection, especially for its Asian neighbors.
Asia, it must be noted, submitted the highest number of cases to the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances. The Philippines’ signing and ratifying the anti-enforced disappearance treaty will go a long way towards eradicating enforced disappearance from the face of the earth.
Philippine Project Coordinator,
ian Federation Against