The Senate before adjourning sine die on Wednesday passed on second reading Senate Bill No. 2817 which seeks to define and penalize enforced disappearance.
Senate Bill No. 2817 was approved in substitution of Senate Bills numbered 100, 1226, 1455 and 2176 respectively authored by Senators Francis “Chiz” Escudero, Manuel Villar, Miriam Defensor Santiago and Francis Pangilinan.
Escudero, who chairs the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, steered the plenary approval of the measure with perfecting amendments proposed by Santiago.
The proposed human rights legislation adopts the definition of enforced disappearance under the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance which entered into force in December last year.
The definition considers the offense as a state-perpetrated deprivation of liberty whose commission is denied or where the fate and whereabouts of the disappeared are concealed by the authorities.
The bill does not only impose penalties but also provides for preventive measures as well as compensation to victims and/or their families and rehabilitation of both victims and offenders.
Under the bill, “victim” refers to the disappeared person and any individual who has suffered harm as a direct result of an enforced disappearance.
Bills criminalizing enforced disappearance have been filed in both the Senate and the House of Representatives since the 9th Congress. The House had approved the substitute bill on third and final reading in the past two Congresses but in the current 15th Congress, the six bills pending before the Committee on Justice are yet to be consolidated.
“The families of desaparecidos and human rights advocates have been lobbying for an anti-enforced disappearance law for 16 years now,” Wilma Q. Tizon, Secretary-General of the NGO Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND) said.
According to Tizon, the Senate’s approval of the bill is a big step toward the realization of the families’ dream to bring perpetrators of involuntary disappearance to justice.
“It will also spare other families the trauma that the odious offense wreaks,” Tizon added.
FIND has documented 1,820 out of the 2,160 reported victims of enforced disappearance from the Marcos regime to the present Aquino administration under which five have been reported.