Press Release
May 28, 2009


Citing the abduction and subsequent release of a Fil-American activist and his companion, opposition Sen. Chiz Escudero yesterday pushed for the approval of Senate Bill 1307 that would penalize enforced and involuntary disappearance and jail perpetrators for life.

"No less than our Constitution says that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law. We should not allow this to proliferate or be used even against perceived enemies of the State," Escudero, chair of the Senate committee on justice and human rights, said.

Filipino-American activist Melissa Roxas and her two companions were taken by unidentified armed men in Tarlac last week. She and one companion were later released, but the third is still missing.

Details of the abduction have yet to be known but the militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) has accused the government of perpetrating the abduction.

"Every now and then our society bears witness to cases of involuntary and forced disappearances. Cases that have placed our country under the tight watch of human rights groups both local and international, and even foreign governments," he said.

He also cited the case of Jonas Burgos, which has been reported and confirmed as a case of involuntary disappearance.

The human rights group Karapatan says that from January 2001 to December 2008, it recorded a total of 201 incidence of involuntary disappearances, eight of which occurred last year alone.

During the Marcos era, Karapatan also recorded some 759 cases of involuntary disappearances, many of the victims were never found.

Escudero's bill defines the crime of enforced or involuntary disappearance as 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 the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which places such person outside the protection of the law.

It provides a maximum penalty the penalty of reclusion perpetua, equivalent to 20 years and one day to 40 years of imprisonment, without prejudice to civil and administrative liabilities.

The bill also says that an "Order of Battle," official or otherwise, issued by the military, police or any law enforcement agency of the government, shall not justify an enforced or involuntary disappearance and shall subject the perpetrators to the same corresponding penalties.

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