Rights lawyers welcome enforced disappearance bill with guarded optimism-A A +A
Saturday, October 20, 2012
HUMAN rights lawyers have challenged President Benigno Aquino III to sign and implement the proposed bill putting persons responsible for the commission of enforced disappearances accountable.
In a statement, the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) said they are hoping that the measure will not be used the police and military to escape prosecution from the crime allegedly committed by some of their members.
"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," the group said.
Militants often blame the government for scores of enforced disappearances, particularly during the time of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
For instance, former Major General Jovito Palparan has been accused in the abduction of University of the Philippines student-activists Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan in June 2006.
But almost a year since the hearings on the case against Palparan and other military officers have started, not a shadow of Palparan was ever seen in court.
Once enacted into law, perpetrators of involuntary disappearance will be penalized with life imprisonment which is equivalent to 20 years and one day to 40 years.
Senator Francis Escudero, chair of the human rights committee, said the bill also provides that prosecution of persons responsible for the commission of enforced disappearance shall not be prescribed unless the victim surfaces alive, in which case the prescription period shall be 25 years starting from the date of reappearance.
The bill recently passed by Congress mandates the expeditious disposition of habeas corpus and amparo proceedings and immediate compliance with any release order by virtue of such proceedings.
"There must be no compromise on strong legislation with effective corrective penal measures, even if it would mean tilting the balance much more in favor of individual rights and human dignity," Escudero said. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)