The House of Representatives approved on third and final reading Thursday night the Anti-Torture (House Bill 5709) Anti-Involuntary Disappearance (HB 5886) and the Protection of Victims of Internal Displacement (HB 5864).

Quezon Rep. Lorenzo “Erin” Tañada III who chairs the House Committee on Human Rights and who is one of the co-authors of said bills hopes that his Senate counterpart would act on the same measures quickly. He likewise gave credit to the tireless efforts of the bills’ principal authors, Cong. Edcel Lagman for the Anti-Torture and Anti-Involuntary Disappearance, Cong. Risa Baraquel for the Protection of Victims of Internal Displacement, Cong. Satur Ocampo of Bayan Muna and Cong. Mat Defensor who chairs the House Committee on Justice to which the first two bills were principally referred to.

“I hope this paves the way to greater state responsibility in ensuring and protecting the rights of our people. Congress can just legislate but in the end, it is still the executive who will implement these laws,” he said.

The Anti-Involuntary Disappearance Bill, or House Bill 5886, describes involuntary disappearance as one of the most cruel forms of human rights violations. It adopts the United Nations definition of enforced or involuntary disappearance, which is when a person is arrested, detained or abducted against his will by officials or employees of government agencies who subsequently refuse to acknowledge taking custody of the victims. The state is required to ensure the safety of all people involved in the search for the missing and the investigation and prosecution of cases. The bill emphasizes the duty of securing the welfare of victims, their families and witnesses.

The Philippines has been seeing a spate of enforced disappearances, mostly of left-wing activists, and the cases have earned the country criticism both here and abroad.

HB 5709 or the Anti-Torture Act makes torture a crime and exacts punishment not just to those who directly inflict it but also those who order their subordinates to subject prisoners or suspects of torture.

Finally, HB 5864 provides for mechanisms so that victims of military operations against the New People’s Army and the MILF and MNLF are accorded their basic rights – ensuring that their lives, rights, properties and welfare are protected among others.

“Let’s train our guns now to passing the Compensation Act for the Human Rights Victims. It is long overdue. Some of the victims are no longer around to get what is due them and their families,” Tañada ended.


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