MANILA, Philippines — A lawmaker on Thursday urged President Benigno Aquino III to sign the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012 which would criminalize the “arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State.”
A co-author of the bill, Bayan Muna Partylist Representative Neri Colmenares said that it would be best if the President would sign the measure into law as soon as possible.
“Enforced disappearance is a continuing crime and the abductors of Jonas Burgos, Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno as well as other desaparecidos can be arrested and charged under this legislation,” he said.
“This is the reason why it has to be signed immediately,” Colmenares urged.
The House of Representatives on Tuesday ratified the bicameral report on what would become the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012, as agreed upon by conferees from both chambers of Congress.
The measure’s salient features are the following:
1. The crime of enforced disappearance is generally imprescriptible as an exception to the statute of limitations.
2. No amnesty can exempt any offender, either convicted or facing prosecution, from liability.
3. No war or any public emergency can justify the suspension of the enforcement of the anti-disappearance law.
4. Command responsibility makes a superior officer also culpable for violations of the law by subordinates.
5. Subordinates are authorized to defy unlawful orders of superiors for the commission of enforced disappearance.
6. A periodically updated registry of all detained persons is required in all detention centers.
7. Secret detention facilities are prohibited.
8. Compensation, restitution and rehabilitation of victims and kin are mandated.
9. Gradation of penalties is prescribed with reclusion perpetua as the severest penalty.
10. Human Rights organizations shall participate in the crafting of the necessary Implementing Rules and Regulations.
Human Rights Watch also urged the President to sign the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
The group said that only Japan and Australia have signed and ratified the Convention in Asia, placing the region behind other regions of the world.
He said that the development was important after years of lobbying for the measure from its introduction during the eighth Congress and refiled in the succeeding Congresses.
“It’s about time that those who committed this heinous crime to come forward and inform the family of their victims where these victims are,” Colmenares said.