PH in Process of Delisting Cases of Involuntary Disappearances
15 February 2019 – The Philippines has commenced work with the United Nations to delist more than 600 cases of enforced and involuntary disappearances mostly attributed to government forces between 1975 and 2012, as it gave assurances that it has put in place a strong legal framework and institutional mechanisms to address this issue.
Senior Philippine officials led by Undersecretary Severo Catura of the Presidential Human Rights Committee formally moved for the delisting of 625 cases during a meeting with the UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances in Sarajevo.
The Philippine Mission to the United Nations in Geneva said the meeting in Bosnia and Herzegovina was held on Thursday during the 117th Session of the five-member Working Group and was the first of a series.
The Working Group, chaired by Bernard Duhaime, welcomed the Philippine delegation and the efforts of the Philippine government to engage and prepare detailed documentation.
The Philippine Mission reported that during the meeting, the Philippine delegation sought to clarify and delist 625 cases of enforced and involuntary disappearances that took place from 1975 to 2012.
The process of clarifying these cases with the UN is supported by, and runs parallel to, domestic mechanisms being implemented by the Department of Justice (DOJ), such as that established by the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Law of 2012 (R.A. 10353) and Administrative Order 35.
Undersecretary Catura emphasized before the Working Group that these domestic mechanisms involved close cooperation between the government, and the victims and their families, NGOs and civil society organizations.
The DOJ informed the Working Group that 105 of the 625 cases had already been taken up and related claims for reparation granted under the Human Rights Victims Recognition and Reparation Act of 2013 (R.A. 10368).
During the meeting, Atty. Maria Theresa Sindico-Guillaume of the DOJ provided the Working Group with information on the cases where perpetrators had been tried and convicted or acquitted; where victims had been compensated through R.A 10368; where the whereabouts or fate of disappeared persons have been reported; and where cases were erroneous duplicates, possibly fictitious, or had been closed.
The meeting in Sarajevo firmly establishes a channel of cooperation and dialogue between Philippine government agencies and the Working Group as the delisting process for the 625 cases, which involves a thorough methodology, is expected to continue.
The Working Group has welcomed in a previous report the Philippines' R.A. 10353, which provides preventive mechanisms, remedial measures, and protection of victims through restitution, compensation, and rehabilitation of victims, and reflects salient provisions of the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
During the dialogue, Undersecretary Catura underscored Manila’s sincere commitment to cooperate with the UN human rights mechanisms and affirmed the policy of the Duterte Administration to implement a human approach to development and governance. He also emphasized that the Philippines had always welcomed dialogue on the issue of enforced or involuntary disappearances.
The Philippine delegation likewise assured the Working Group that the government would continue to assist families of the disappeared.
The delegation, at the same time, expressed concern over false information submitted to the Working Group, including some cases which were not supported by facts and were reported without obtaining the required consent from families of victims.
Brig. Gen. Antonio Parlade, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, presented information indicating that many of the cases took place at the height of the internal purging by the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army.
The Philippine delegation and the UN Working Group agreed that the Sarajevo dialogue was an excellent starting point in taking forward work on addressing cases of enforced disappearances and in promoting Manila’s efforts to further strengthen its national mechanisms to serve justice to victims and their families.
The Working Group, which was established by a Commission on Human Rights resolution in 1980, paid a working visit to the Philippines in August 1990.
The Working Group's primary task, in a humanitarian capacity, is to assist families in determining the fate or whereabouts of their family members who are reportedly disappeared. Its members consist of five independent experts appointed from different regions.
The Working Group engages governments on a regular basis to clarify cases reported to it and shares technical advice on how national mechanisms can be strengthened. END