Davao City -- It has been almost a month since retired Maj. General Jovito Palparan went into hiding after the Malolos Court issued a warrant of arrest for his alleged involvement in the disappearance in 2006 of two UP student-activists, Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno. It undeniably shows that flight means guilt.
The authorities fail to capture him. This reveals not only the inability of the present government to protect the human rights of the people but also how pervasive the climate of impunity in the country is. It is unbelievable that the authorities remain clueless of Palparan’s whereabouts. Either they are doing a sloppy job or they are just too soft in dealing with him.
The authorities, though, have raised to P1 million the reward to whoever could give information that would lead to his immediate arrest. But we believe that this reward is not enough to stir public concern amidst possibilities that he is being coddled by his brothers-in-arms and some local politicians.
Harboring a criminal is also a criminal offense. We therefore challenge the leadership of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to prove that it is serious in implementing the paradigm shift for peace and security by ensuring that their ranks adhere to the principle of human rights and humanitarian laws.
We, the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD), a regional human rights federation of organizations of families of the disappeared and human rights advocates working directly on the issue of enforced disappearance in Asia, urge the Aquino government to give much attention to the cases of human rights violations. We take particular attention to the issue of enforced disappearance considered as one of the cruelest and most dehumanizing of human rights violations. The only way to end impunity in the country is for the government to bring those responsible to justice, guarantee the rights of victims and their families and prevent recurrence.
One concrete step that the Aquino government can do is to sign and ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance adopted in 2006 by the United Nations General Assembly and entered into force on 23 December 2010. To date, this international human rights instrument has 91 signatories and 30 States Parties. This obliges State Parties to enact domestic law that will make enforced disappearance an autonomous and distinct criminal offense. It provides, among other things, the right to truth and the right not to be subjected to enforced disappearances.
Disappointingly, the Philippines is not yet a signatory much less a State-Party to this Convention despite having cited it as one of its voluntary pledges before the UN Human Rights Council when it ran for membership in 2007. The bills criminalizing enforced disappearance have been filed and re-filed in both the Senate and the House of Representatives since the 9th Congress. The current 15th Philippine Congress has made some positive steps for its possible enactment. On 9 June 2011, the Senate approved on third and final reading Senate Bill 2817. The Joint Committees of Human Rights and Justice of the House of Representatives of the 14th Congress adopted on 17 August 2011 the approved House Bill 5888 as substituted bill for plenary consideration. The challenge is how to finally enact this bill into law after years of long delay.
In the face of continuing human rights violations in the country, we vow our unwavering support to the kin of two missing UP student-activists, Sherlyn Cadapan and Karyn Empeno and all desaparecidos who sacrifice their lives to make democracy truly serve the interest of the Filipino nation.
Gen. Palparan should feel lucky to be given an opportunity to have a day in court unlike those who are made to disappear and are killed without defending themselves. Should there be a law criminalizing enforced disappearance, Gen. Palparan would have been the first person to be charged for committing this odious offense.
The case of the fugitive retired Gen. Palparan is indeed a make or break in impunity for human rights violations in the country. It is therefore, our social responsibility to make justice prevail.
|MUGIYANTO||MARY AILEEN D. BACALSO|