AFAD’s Open Letter to PNoy
July 20, 2010
HIS EXCELLENCY PRESIDENT BENIGNO SIMEON AQUINO lll
Republic of the Philippines
His Excellency President Aquino,
The Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD), a Manila-based regional federation of human rights advocates working directly on the issue of enforced disappearance in Asia, congratulates you for your successful bid to the presidency in the recently concluded May 2010 national elections. Your victory spells out the Filipino people’s strong desire to change not only the rotten system of government but also to uplift the nation from the quagmire of poverty. This includes among others the need to improve our country’s bleak human rights record.
Since the Marcos dictatorship until the administration of President Arroyo, the Philippines is appallingly marred with cases of enforced disappearances. About 2,000 cases have been documented by organizations of families of the disappeared, of which, only one case successfully prosecuted the immediate perpetrator, but not the mastermind. While a climate of impunity looms, cases continue unabated. This was confirmed by the visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Execution, Mr. Philip Alston to the Philippines in February 2007.
The lack of a domestic law criminalizing the practice of enforced disappearance makes it more difficult for the victims and their families to obtain truth and justice. The anti-disappearance bill, approved by the House of Representatives a few months before the closing of the 14th Philippine Congress, ended up in a blind alley as the Philippine Senate unfortunately failed to act on this important piece of legislation. The Philippine government’s commitment to sign and ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance as part of its voluntary pledges and commitments in the UN Human Rights Council when it ran for membership in 2007 went and vanished in thin air.
In a our meeting with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on 14 January 2010 together with the Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND) she vowed to certify the bill as urgent and to sign the UN Convention Against Enforced Disappearance. But our incessant efforts to follow up her commitment only drew a blank as nothing was done to fulfill it. We believe that these two important legal measures when put in place, can be an effective tool to help strengthen governments’ capacities to eradicate disappearances, punish the perpetrators and provide justice and redress to victims and their families.
While signing and ratifying this Convention and codifying it into a law will not automatically stop the practice of enforced disappearance in the country or in any other country, but it will signify the Philippine government’s commitment to human rights as a top priority.
Mr. President, seriously addressing this issue is not only a matter of a state obligation but also a golden opportunity to help bring this important treaty into force, not only for the Philippines but for the entire world. To date, 83 states have already signed and 18 States have ratified the Convention and that only more two ratifications are lacking for the treaty’s entry into force.
In view of the above, we urge your government to sign and ratify the UN Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance at the soonest possible time and urgently certify the passage of the anti-enforced disappearance bill into a law. It is also a sign of goodwill if you will accept to the 2007 request of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances to visit the country and to assess the implemention of its the recommendations as a result of its first visit in 1990 during the administration of your mother, the late President Corazon Cojangco Aquino. If you will give us a chance, we are willing to present to you in person our position and recommendations on this issue.
In your inaugural speech, you said that for reconciliation to really happen, justice should first be rendered. We believe that ending the practice of enforced disappearance and other forms of human rights violations will not only ensure political stability but also the restoration of our human dignity.
MARY AILEEN BACALSO Secretary-General