The Center for Trade Union and Human Rights positively welcomed the ‘desaparecidos’ bill which was approved by Congress last week and urged the Aquino government to sign into law the and enforce it effectively once enacted.

“This new legislation is a welcome development. We are urging President Aquino to sign it into law before this Congress ends. Human rights groups and families of victims of enforced disappearances have long sought justice and criminalizing this involuntary disappearance is a step towards that. However, like any other law, it must be enforced effectively in order to serve its purpose,” Daisy Arago, CTUHR executive director said.

Arago also expressed caution that the bill must not be used by the government to coat its appalling human rights image especially in the international community. “They call it a milestone as it is the first law of its kind here in Asia. But again, the government must make sure when this bill is enacted into law, it is taken seriously and implemented. Because like the anti-torture law which was enacted in 2009, human rights violations involving torture continued despite the law prohibiting and criminalizing torture.”

The Anti-enforced Disappearance Bill is now waiting for Presidential approval before it is fully enacted into law. It criminalizes “the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty committed by agents of the state or by persons or groups of persons acting with authorization or support from the state, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared.”

Violators can be penalized for a maximum of life imprisonment, equivalent to 20 years and one day to 40 years in prison. Victims of enforced disappearance and their families will also be compensated.

Arago also expressed praise for the bill’s recognition of command responsibility which makes superior officers culpable for the actions of their subordinates.

Arago also said that the people must be even more vigilant over the its implementation once it is enacted. “Again, the people especially the victims of human rights violations and their families must persist even more, now that a new law against enforced disappearance is signed. It is a fruit of our long ‘desaparecidos’ bill which was approved by Congress last week struggle but the challenge to attaining justice is remains.”

To date, there are 206 documented victims of enforced disappearance according to Karapatan. One of them, Rogelio Concepcion is a trade union leader in Bulacan. He was abducted in 2006 and remains missing to this day.###