Passage of “desap” bill a landmark victory but assertion of rights remains key says group

MULTISECTORAL group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) welcomed the passage of the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012 and asked President Aquino to sign the measure without delay. Bayan described the new legislation a landmark victory for the human rights movement and the result of decades of unwavering struggle by the families and supporters of enforced disappearances.

At the same time, the group reminded that the pending law on anti-enforced disappearance is just a mere scrap of paper and its true value will be realized only through the continued assertion of the people of their human rights and unrelenting pressure on government to uphold such rights.

On Wednesday, Congress ratified the bicameral conference report on the bill that tags enforced disappearance – a practice carried out by state forces – as a distinct crime. “This is a positive development in our campaign against the continuing atrocities being committed by the military against political activists. But before we forget, the Constitution and other laws also guaranteed us our human rights but violations persist with impunity. In other words, the law is meaningless if the people will not assert its proper and full implementation by the government,” said Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes.

Human rights group Karapatan has documented 11 cases of enforced disappearances under the Aquino administration, covering the period July 2010 to June 2012. Under the Arroyo administration, the group has monitored around 206 cases of abduction perpetrated by state forces, including the well-known cases of Jonas Burgos who was abducted in broad daylight inside a Quezon City mall in 2007 and of UP students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan from their house in Bulacan in 2006.

“All these were carried out in the name of government’s counterinsurgency campaign – the Oplan Bantay Laya of Arroyo and now, the Oplan Bayanihan of Aquino. These campaigns tag activists and human rights defenders as working for the CPP-NPA and thus legitimate military targets. Impunity will persist if government continues this violent and repressive military operation against innocent civilians,” Reyes pointed out.

Bayan said that the fight for human rights is far from over even with the impending enactment of the desap bill. “Unless we see Palparan as well as Gloria Arroyo and their cohorts behind bars for grave human rights abuses, unless we see an end to counterinsurgency campaigns that systematically targets unarmed activists, unless the culture of impunity is stopped, the struggle continues for justice and human rights,” said Reyes.


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