SF CHRP (San Francisco Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines) is a San Francisco based human rights advocacy group. Latest news and views on human rights in the Philippines.
President Noynoy Aquino is expected to sign into law a bill that now criminalizes enforced disappearances and urges for action against perpetrators of enforced disappearances. The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) has welcomed the signing of the bill but is guarded as Aquino has refused to acknowledge the military’s role in enforced disappearances and has refused to act on any perpetrators of human rights abuses.
The Desaparecidos Bill represents a positive step forward for the victims of enforced disappearances. However, while this law is an important reform, it represents only the first step along the long and winding road to truly ending impunity. It is therefore with cautious optimism that the National Union of People’s Lawyers welcomes this law.
The NUPL handles many cases of enforced disappearances all over the country including the case of UP students Cadapan and Empeño, who were victims of enforced disappearance at the hands of retired fugitive Army Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan. It also handles the cases of Jonas Burgos, Raymond Manalo, Melissa Roxas, among others.
It is crucial that this law does not sit in the bottom drawer gathering dust. The last thing the families of victims of enforced disappearances need, in addition to the constant heartache and uncertainty of having lost their loved ones at the hands of the State, are false promises and empty platitudes from the Aquino administration while impunity persists under the smokescreen of a supposedly effective law.
Aquino must ensure that this law is effectively implemented according to its terms. He must ensure that State security forces cannot disregard or circumvent it. It must be unequivocally clear that this law will be enforced against those responsible regardless of stature or rank.
As lawyers for many victims of disappearances, we fervently wish this will in reality turn out to be an effective tool to give redress, if not prevent or deter State transgressions which bring incomparable and endless worry, anxiety and grief.
We pray that beyond the elegant and formal legal language, no false hope is added to injury by State security forces who will circumvent and even mock it on the ground like other rights laws; by a judiciary perceived by the families to be at times unresponsive and even detached from social realities; and by an administration which has become a party to such violations by default or inaction, if not tacit condonation, or worse, which engenders it by making it logically integral to a State policy or program that practically perpetuates impunity.