October 16, 2012 7:09 PM
MANILA, Philippines — A landmark bill criminalizing enforced disappearances moved a step closer to becoming a law after it was ratified in the House of Representatives Tuesday night.
“The occurrence of enforced or involuntary disappearance and the impunity of offenders who are agents of the State are now finally consigned to the past,” Albay Representative Edcel Lagman said after lawmakers adopted the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012.
The measure is the first national legislation in Asia to criminalize enforced disappearance as a separate or distinct offense.
“The same obtained Congressional approval on 20 September 2012, a day before the 40th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law an era when enforced disappearance was an atrocious tool of the martial law regime to silence protesters and human rights madvocates,” Lagman, one of the principal authors of the bill, said.
Hundreds have become victims of enforced disappearance during the Martial Law period.
The human rights group, Karapatan, said that disappearances have continued to this day, with 11 victims under the Aquino administration.
The ratified bicameral conference committee report will be transmitted to Malacanang for the signing by President Benigno Aquino III.
The salient features of the measure include 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 are prescribed with reclusion perpetua as the severest penalty.
10. Human Rights organizations shall participate in the crafting of the necessary Implementing Rules and Regulations.