Press Release
September 3, 2010


Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago is pushing for the passage of a law making enforced and involuntary disappearances a crime.

Santiago's Senate Bill No. 1455 seeks to impose penalties against perpetrators of enforced or involuntary disappearances, and also provides for the compensation and rehabilitation of the victims and their families.

"Cases of involuntary disappearances are usually filed under kidnapping, murder, or serious illegal detention. They are some of the cruelest forms of human rights violations and our laws should recognize this distinction from other offenses," Santiago said.

Enforced or involuntary disappearances involve the deprivation of liberty by agents of the state, and the refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or concealment of information on the victim.

The Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND) reported 1450 documented cases of enforced and involuntary disappearances in the country as of September 2006.

"Crimes committed by agents of the state against the very people they have sworn to protect are reprehensible acts that must be punished severely. If agents of the state use their powers to mastermind and execute wrongful and cruel acts that deprive the people of their freedom or life, they must be held liable both criminally and civilly," Santiago said.

Under Santiago's proposed law, those found guilty causing the enforced or involuntary disappearances will spend 20 years and one day to 40 years in jail, while those who attempt the act or conceal the crime or the criminal will face incarceration from 12 years and one day to 20 years. Victims and their families, on the other hand, are entitled to compensation and rehabilitation from the government.

The bill also instructs the Commission on Human Rights to conduct regular, independent, unannounced and unrestricted visits of inspection to all places of detention and confinement.

Santiago, an acknowledged international law expert, also said that the passage of her bill anticipates the compliance of the country to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances which obligates state parties to prevent and suppress enforced or involuntary disappearances.

The Philippines is yet to sign the said international instrument.

"In observance of the International Day of the Disappeared last August 30, I urge the President to sign the convention and certify it urgent for Senate ratification," Santiago said.

The International Day of the Disappeared commemorates for the victims of enforced and involuntary disappearances around the world.

"Our observance of the International Day of the Disappeared last Monday stems from the fact that there are still unsolved cases of enforced and involuntary disappearances in our country and these human rights violations continue to this day. I dream that there would come a time that we need not commemorate such a day anymore," Santiago said.

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