Commission of enforced or involuntary disappearance a distinct crime

March 23, 2012 9:28 am 

MANILA, Mar. 22 – The House of Representatives has passed on third reading a measure penalizing and declaring enforced or involuntary disappearance as a special crime separate from kidnapping, serious illegal detention and murder.

Reps. Edcel Lagman (1st District, Albay) and Lorenzo Tañada III (4th District, Quezon), principal authors of House Bill 98, said the House priority bill is in compliance with the Philippine's international commitment under the 2006 International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances, particularly Article 4 of the said convention which mandates each State Party to take the necessary measures to ensure that enforced disappearance constitutes an offense under its criminal law. Lagman said enforced or involuntary disappearance is a continuing menace to civil liberties and mocks the sanctity and inviolability of human life.

"It violates not only the right to liberty and security of a person, the rights against torture, force, violence, threat, intimidation, secret detention places, solitary, incommunicado or other forms of similar detention, which are guaranteed not only by the Constitution, but practically by all human rights especially the right to life," Lagman said.

"The victims are deprived of due process and forced to endure unimaginable indignities and atrocities in the hands of their captors. It is high time that we call a spade a spade," Lagman said.

Lagman said enforced disappearance is a global offense that has driven families of victims across continents to the United Nations to push for the adoption of a legally-binding instrument that prohibits and seeks to put an end to this heinous offense or crime against humanity. Deputy Speaker Tañada said most victims of enforced or involuntary disappearance who are still missing are presumed to have been extra-legally killed. Some parents of desaparecidos have already died, yet not a single perpetrator of this heinous offense has been convicted and penalized.

"There are cases pending before the courts filed by families of victims but in the absence of a law penalizing enforced disappearance as a distinct crime, the cases are lodged as kidnapping, serious illegal detention and/or murder," Tañada said.

"The need to pass legislation to bring justice to enforced or involuntary victims is in order. Our efforts must also pave the way for an enactment of a law that will deter the commission of these politically-motivated abductions," Tañada stressed.

The bill defines enforced or involuntary 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 person 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.

The bill also mandates that a writ of habeas corpus, writ of amparo and habeas data proceedings filed on behalf of the victim of enforced or involuntary disappearance shall be disposed of expeditiously, and any order of release by virtue or other appropriate order of a court relative thereto shall be executed or complied with immediately.

Further, the bill considers enforced or involuntary disappearance as a continuing offense, as long as the perpetrators continue to conceal the fate and the whereabouts of the persons who have disappeared and the fact remains unverified.

Under the measure, the penalties for violation of this act range from arresto mayor to reclusion perpetua depending on the gravity of the offense. It excludes perpetrators of enforced or involuntary disappearance from the coverage of special amnesty law or similar measures that will have the effect of exonerating the offenders.

The bill provides that the prosecution of person responsible for the commission of enforced or involuntary disappearance shall not prescribe, unless the victims surface alive, in which case the period shall be 25 years starting from the date of his re-appearance.

The bill further entitles victims of enforced or involuntary disappearance who re-appears to monetary compensation, rehabilitation and restitution of honor and reputation, including the nearest of kin of the victims.

Likewise, the bill provides that an "Order of Battle" issued by the military, police or any law enforcement agency shall not justify the commission of enforced or involuntary disappearance.

Under the bill, the Department of Justice (DOJ), Commission on Human Rights, Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND) and the Families of Desaparecidos for Justice (Desaparecidos) in consultation with other human rights organizations, are directed to jointly promulgate the rules and regulations of the Act and ensure the full dissemination of the same to the public.

Co-authors of the measure are Reps. Teddy Casiño and Neri Colmenares (Party-list, Bayan Muna), Rafael Mariano (Party-list, Anakpawis), Luzviminda Ilagan (Party-list, Gabriela), Raymond Palatino (Party-list, Kabataan), Salvador Escudero III (1st District, Sorsogon), Kaka Bag-ao and Walden Bello (Party-list, Akbayan), Emmi de Jesus (Party-list, Gabriela), Antonio Tinio (Party-list, Act Teachers), Rufus Rodriguez (2nd District, Cagayan de Oro City), Niel Tupas, Jr. (5th District, Iloilo), Rene Relampagos (1st District, Bohol), Joseph Emilio Abaya (1st District, Cavite), Erico Aumentado (2nd District, Bohol), Maria Evita Arago (3rd District, Laguna), Jeci Lapus (3rd District, Tarlac), Emil Ong (2nd District, Northern Samar), Danilo Ramon Fernandez (1st District, Laguna), Ma. Amelita Calimbas-Villarosa (Lone District, Occidental Mindoro), Irvin Alcala (2nd District, Quezon), Justin Marc Chipeco (2nd District, Laguna), Pablo Garcia (2nd District, Cebu), Maria Milagros Magsaysay (1st District, Zambales), Winston Castelo (2nd District, Quezon City), Rodel Batocabe (Party-list, Ako Bicol), Elpidio Barzaga, Jr. (Lone District, City of Dasmariñas), Rodolfo Fariñas (1st District, Ilocos Norte) and Federico Romero Quimbo (2nd District, Marikina City). (PNA) RSV/PR/utb

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