The families of Filipino desaparecidos received a very precious Christmas gift from President Aquino when he signed into law Republic Act 10350 (or the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Act of 2012).
The new law is aimed at addressing the phenomenon of enforced disappearance, which has persisted in the country even after the end of martial law. It is worth emulating by other Asian countries, being the first such domestic law in the region.
But while RA 10350 is one concrete answer to the problem of enforced disappearance, it is not the absolute answer. It is neither a one-size-fits-all nor quick-fix solution. Other legal measures and institutional reforms must be put in place in order to complete the mantle of human rights protection for everyone.
It is therefore, imperative for the Philippine government to accede to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance as a fulfillment of its voluntary pledges and commitment before the United Nations Human Rights Council. The government also has to recognize the competence of the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances, as provided for by Articles 31 and 32 of the Convention.
The Convention and RA 10350 are complementary legal measures that can enhance the capacity of any state party to effectively perform its human rights obligations, particularly the guarantee and protection of the right not to be subjected to enforced disappearance.
We laud Mr. Aquino’s signing of this law as an expression of his administration’s commitment to human rights. But the government must ensure its full implementation to make it an effective tool for accountability, thus contributing to end the climate of impunity.
The implementing rules and regulations (IRRs) of RA 10350 must be formulated and jointly promulgated by government representatives and the families of the disappeared within 30 days upon the law’s effectivity. The IRRs can make or break the law. Thus, their formulation must meet the minimum international human rights standards and fully capture the law’s spirit and letter.
While the signing of the law is an executive act, it is a people’s act—an act especially of the families of the victims and of human rights advocates who struggled to make it happen. We take this opportunity to thank the law’s principal authors and sponsors in Congress, particularly Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, for championing the cause of the disappeared and their families. We also thank our friends in the media for helping us raise public awareness and elevate this issue from a parochial to a societal concern.
The Anti-Enforced Disappearance Law is a major leap in our struggle for truth, justice, redress, reparation, memory and guarantees of nonrepetition. Every step brings our collective march closer to our goal of attaining a world free from enforced disappearance.
—MARY AILEEN BACALSO,
Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances,
Diliman, Quezon City,