Families of the Disappeared for Justice or Desaparecidos today welcomed the passage of House Bill 98 “An Act Defining And Penalizing Enforced Or Involuntary Disappearance And For Other Purposes” or the Anti-Enforced or Anti-Involuntary Disappearance Bill on its third and final reading at the House of Representatives.
“We welcome the House of Representatives’ action of passing the bill in its third reading. This is a step towards ending the impunity by which perpetrators of this most heinous crime commit human rights violation in this country. A law criminalizing enforced disappearance is long overdue. We hope this will be enacted into law at the soonest time possible,” said Desaparecidos secretary general Mary Guy Portajada, whose father, unionist Armando Portajada, was disappeared more than 25 years ago.
“We hope that our legislators in the Senate also realize the significance of passing this bill as enforced disappearance is still committed today even as we have a “new” administration,” Portajada declared.
The bill defines enforced disappearance as “the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty committed by government authorities or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of such persons in authority, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which places such person outside the protection of the law.”
Portajada said that they hope “the bill’s passage will help families of enforced disappearances prove that state forces are behind the abduction of their loved ones.” She pointed out particularly Art.12 of the said bill stating the Liability of the Commanding Officer or Superior as principal to the crime of enforced disappearance, either in assisting, abetting or allowing, whether directly or indirectly the commission of his or her subordinates.
“This will also serve as warning to state agents who continue to enjoy impunity under the current administration,” she said.
For her part, Edita Burgos, mother of missing Jonas Burgos, said that while they welcome the bill’s passage, the pain and agony of families searching for their loved ones never stop. “As long as they remain missing, we will feel the pain every day,” Burgos said.
Burgos also said families of desaparecidos (Spanish term for “the missing”) will continue to exhaust all means to seek justice.
The group said they shall continue to echo the call to arrest retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, who remains a fugitive three months after the warrant against him and four others was released at the Malolos Regional Trial Court.
“We now appeal to our legislators to help us in seeking justice for Palparan’s victims. He is one of the operators and masterminds of many enforced disappearances in the different regions in the country, his kidnapping case is actually not enough to punish him. But we need to get him soon,” Portajada said.
Palparan, along with Master Sgt. Rizal Hilario, Col. Felipe Anotado and Staff Sgt. Edgardo Osorio, were charged with kidnapping with serious illegal detention for the abduction and disappearance of UP students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan. ###
Reference: Mary Guy Portajada, Desaparecidos secretary general 09175230396 DESAPARECIDOS 2/F Erythrina Bldg., #1 Maaralin cor. Matatag Sts. Brgy. Central, Quezon City 1100 Philippines Telefax: (632) 434-2837 | E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org