Enforced disappearance (Editorial: Panay News)

Enforced disappearance

MARKING the International Day of the Disappeared recently, relatives and colleagues of missing activists gathered in various parts of the country. Protesters put up signages that read: “Mag-ingat sa mandurukot.” Beware of thieves. Of abductors. The signs were reminders to the public that disappearances continue to happen, and that one can never be sure of his or her own safety even under the Aquino administration.

JL Burgos, brother of Jonas Burgos, together with other relatives of victims of enforced disappearance put a dummy traffic sign in front of Ever Gotesco Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City

There are now eight victims of enforced disappearance under the Aquino administration. Under the Gloria Arroyo administration, human rights advocates said there were 206 victims of enforced disappearance. They were farmers, workers, indigenous people, youth and students, women, church workers, human rights defenders, freedom fighters. They were among those who dared lead and were part of legitimate voices of opposition to the anti-people, corrupt, and repressive policies of the previous government. For this reason, they were vilified and maligned as enemies of the state, and then abducted….never to be seen again. Their families have pointed to the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police as the culprits, but not one has been prosecuted.

The persistence of this practice and the continuing reports of disappearances under the present administration may have diminished these families’ faith of achieving justice for their loved ones under Aquino’s leadership. What has the Aquino government done for the desaparecidos?

During the first months of the Aquino administration, their families called on the government to open all military camps and safe houses and to order the military to surface victims of enforced disappearances.

There is now a call for the Aquino administration to enact the bill seeking to criminalize enforced disappearances. While we have no illusion that the practice of enforced disappearance would end with the enactment of the bill, at the very least, the state must acknowledge that enforced disappearance is a crime. And the perpetrators should be punished. The bill was filed in the Lower House but is not moving. The military has been insisting that the bill should include non-state actors as perpetrators of enforced disappearance.

Article 2 of the United Nations International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance defines “enforced disappearance” as “the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty 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 place such a person outside the protection of the law.”

The burden to protect the citizens is with the state. The Aquino administration is also being urged to ratify the United Nations International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which outlines the responsibilities of state parties in protecting its citizens from such crime. Even war-torn Iraq already ratified the Convention. The Philippines, a supposedly democratic country, has not signed it yet. What a shame.

*Original post from Panay News

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