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Disappearance act set to be law

Legislation would make country Asia's first to outlaw state abductions

  • ucanews.com reporter, Manila
  • Philippines
  • October 18, 2012
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The Philippines Congress has passed a bill that, if enacted, would make the country the first in Asia to criminalize enforced disappearances.

The Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance bill was passed on Tuesday, and has been sent to President Benigno Aquino for his signature.

Rights groups yesterday welcomed the move and urged Aquino to sign without delay.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said once Aquino signs the act into law, it would demonstrate the government’sncommitment to addressing human rights abuses such as the abduction and killing by 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 Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

“To this day, activists are still being abducted by the authorities and ‘disappeared.’ This law would be an important step towards ending these abuses,” he added.

Violators will risk a life sentence in jail. The act also prohibits amnesty for violators and declares that the government cannot suspend it even in times of war or public emergency.

The proposed law also states that the commanding or superior officers of a unit or person implicated in an enforced disappearance case share the liability with the person who physically carries out the crime.

Enforced disappearances were rampant during the Marcos dictatorship, when security forces routinely rounded up activists and suspected communist supporters and rebels.

Many also occurred during the term of former president Gloria Arroyo.

At least 11 activists have “disappeared” since Aquino took office in 2010, according to local rights groups, though there are no allegations that the administration is directly responsible.

“Congress has done a great job in taking the initiative to pass a law on enforced disappearances,” Adams said.

“President Aquino can show his administration’s commitment to ending this black chapter in Philippine history. He can also assume a role as a regional leader on human rights,” he added.

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