Families of Desaparecidos keeping eye on the bill’s approval

THE bill on Anti-Enforced Disappearance today suffered another setback, as both the Senate and House of Representatives cancelled today’s bicameral session on the bill.

“We urge both Houses to immediately pass the bill that has been sidetracked several times in the past. The Anti-Enforced Disappearance Bill was first filed during the under Cory Aquino in 1987. But 14 Congresses after, the bill remains a bill,” said Mary Guy Portajada, secretary general of the Families of Desaparecidos for justice.

Portajada added that, “since day one of President Aquino, we have demanded from him to act on the cases of enforced disappearance, particularly in enabling a law to criminalize the act of involuntary or enforced disappearance. Unfortunately, it took him more than two years since the bill was refiled and 11 more victims of enforced disappearance for the bill to reach this stage.”

“We expect the law to have the power to ensure the prosecution of the state perpetrators of enforced disappearance as in the case of The Butcher, Gen, Jovito Palparan who remains a fugitive. He should have been charged with the crime of enforced disappearance instead of simply charged with kidnapping and illegal detention,” said Portajada.

“Our stand on this bill remains, enforced disappearance is defined as perpetrated by state actors,” Portajada added. “We are keeping an eye on this particular aspect of the bill because this could be used as an excuse by the state to escape responsibility and accountability.”

The families of the disappeared believe that “diluting the mere definition of enforced disappearance by including non-state actors will completely distort the essence of the whole bill,” Portajada added. She explained that “the state is obliged to protect its people against human rights violations such as enforced disappearances. But if the state itself uses its power and machinery to against its people, its responsibility and accountability is more grave than a civilian committing such crime.”

“We want the bill passed into law NOW, and we expect the law to be enforced against state perpetrators who are mainly responsible for this crime,” said Portajada.

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