Rights lawyers of disappeared welcome bill with guarded optimism;
challenges President Aquino to go after violators regardless of rank or position
The Desaparecidos Bill represents a positive step forward for the victims of enforced disappearances. However, while this law is an important reform, it represents only the first step along the long and winding road to truly ending impunity. It is therefore with cautious optimism that the National Union of People’s Lawyers welcomes this law.
The NUPL handles many cases of enforced disappearances all over the country including the case of UP students Cadapan and Empeño, who were victims of enforced disappearance at the hands of retired fugitive Army Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan. It also handles the cases of Jonas Burgos, Raymond Manalo, Melissa Roxas, among others.
This law creates a greater impetus for the government to bring Palparan and others before the law and deliver some justice to the long-suffering families of the victims.
It is crucial that this law does not sit in the bottom drawer gathering dust. The last thing the families of victims of enforced disappearances need, in addition to the constant heartache and uncertainty of having lost their loved ones at the hands of the State, are false promises and empty platitudes from the Aquino administration while impunity persists under the smokescreen of a supposedly effective law.
Aquino must ensure that this law is effectively implemented according to its terms. He must ensure that State security forces cannot disregard or circumvent it. It must be unequivocally clear that this law will be enforced against those responsible regardless of stature or rank.
We , therefore, welcome in principle the proposed anti-disappearance law which has been long in coming and urge Aquino to sign it with dispatch.
As lawyers for many victims of disappearances, we fervently wish this will in reality turn out to be an effective tool to give redress, if not prevent or deter State transgressions which bring incomparable and endless worry, anxiety and grief.
We pray that beyond the elegant and formal legal language, no false hope is added to injury by State security forces who will circumvent and even mock it on the ground like other rights laws; by a judiciary perceived by the families to be at times unresponsive and even detached from social realities; and by an administration which has become a party to such violations by default or inaction, if not tacit condonation, or worse, which engenders it by making it logically integral to a State policy or program that practically perpetuates impunity.
Beyond beautiful and well-crafted laws on human rights is the decisive political will to render justice though the heavens fall.#
Atty. Edre U. Olalia, NUPL Secretary General
National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL)
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Visit the NUPL website at http://www.nupl.net/
“By calling yourselves the ‘people’s lawyer,’ you have made a remarkable choice. You decided not to remain in the sidelines. Where human rights are assaulted, you have chosen to sacrifice the comfort of the fence for the dangers of the battlefield. But only those who choose to fight on the battlefield live beyond irrelevance.”
– Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno, in his message at the NUPL Founding Congress, September 15, 2007
“After long years of experience as a people’s lawyer, I can honestly say it has been a treasured journey of self-fulfillment and rewarding achievement. I know it will be the same for all others who choose to tread this path.”
– Atty. Romeo T. Capulong, NUPL founding president, in his keynote address at the Fifth Conference of Lawyers in Asia Pacific ( COLAP V), September 18, 2010