They may have been forcibly disappeared by agents of the State but the desaparecidos are never forgotten. Tomorrow, 30 August 2007, their families, relatives and friends will collectively and simultaneously remember them the world over as they observe the International Day of the Disappeared.
Rep. Edcel C. Lagman, principal author of House Bill 236 or the “Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2007” and brother of disappeared labor and human rights lawyer Hermon C. Lagman, calls on his fellow legislators to mark the day with an unshakeable resolve to ensure that the bill will be among the first legislation that the current Congress will enact.
Lagman, who has been known to succeed in getting House members sign up as co-authors of his pet bills since his historic campaign for the debt cap bill in the 8th and 9th Congresses, lauded the effort of the Bayan Muna partylist representatives to gather 131 authors for House Bill 2263 which they filed yesterday. Like the Lagman bill, HB 2263 also seeks to define and penalize enforced disappearance.
According to the Albay solon, enforced disappearance violates not only the right to liberty and security of person, but practically all human rights including the paramount right to life.
“The victims are deprived of due process of law and are forced to endure unimaginable indignities and unspeakable atrocities in the hands of the perpetrators,” he said.
Surfaced desaparecidos Raymond and Reynaldo Manalo, who escaped from their captors on 13 August 2007, claimed in their petition for protection before the Supreme Court that they were “…beaten severely; bathe in their urine; whipped with a chain with a barbed wire attached to its end; had water poured in their nosetrils; and were made to eat rotten food…”
On Thursday, 23 August 2007, Lawyers of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) filed on behalf of the Manalo brothers an unprecedented petition for prohibition, injunction and temporary restraining order before the Supreme Court.
The following day, 24 August 2007, the Supreme Court through Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno issued the temporary restraining order. The TRO enjoined the respondents (DND Secretary and AFP Chief of Staff) and their agents or representatives not to cause the arrest of the petitioners or deprive them of their right to life, liberty and other basic rights.
Lagman said, it is urgent that the testimony of the Manalo brothers, more particularly on the acts of torture they were subjected to, be immediately perpetuated through an independent Commissioner, whom the brothers in their petition asked the Supreme Court to designate.
Aware that the perpetrators of enforced disappearance torture their victims, Lagman who is also the principal author of House Bill No. 327 that seeks to penalize acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, vows to make the bill a companion measure of the Anti-Disappearance Bill.
“Enforced disappearance and torture are twin devils that must be slain together,” Lagman stressed. “In fact I filed House Bill No. 326 and House Bill No. 327 on the same day, 02 July 2007, the first day for filing bills in the first regular session of the 14th Congress,” Lagman added.
Lagman who lauded the Supreme Court for its swift and decisive action on the Manalo petition, noted that the Supreme Court has yet to act on the issue of protective custody. He proposed the enactment of a law authorizing or empowering the Supreme Court and appropriate inferior courts to effect protective custody of high security risks victims of human rights violations outside the witness protection program of the Department of Justice and without the participation of the military, police or other law enforcement agents.