CHR, DOJ, DSWD and NGOs Sign the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Act

13 February 2013

The Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the Republic Act (R.A.) No. 10353 OF the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act was jointly promulgated  yesterday 12 February 2013 at the Department of Justice's (DOJ) Executive Lounge in Padre Faura, Manila. The Committee on Implementing Rules and Regulations is composed of- the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), DOJ, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND) and Families of Desaparecidos for Justice (Desaparecidos).

Last December, President Benigno S. Aquino III signed into law the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary  Disappearance Act, which was published last 29 December 2012 in two newspapers of general circulation. It became effective fifteen (15) days from its publication on 13  January 2013. Cognizant that the law gave the Committee thirty  (30) days from its effectivity to promulgate the IRR, or until 12 February 2013, Justice Secretary Leila M. De Lima called for a meeting of the Implementing Rules and Regulations Committee on January 16, 2013 and tasked Usec. Leah C. Tanodra-Armamento of the DOJ to be the Committee's Chairperson.

"I am well-pleased that the Committee took on the daunting task of crafting the Implementing Rules and Regulations in record time," said the Justice Secretary. She added, "I note that other laws gave its IRR Committees sixty (60) days to six (6) months to promulgate its Rules. In this case, the Committee on the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Act unblinkingly proceeded with its mandate and produced an IRR which I understand, despite the limited time afforded by the law, is a product of extensive consultation with other stakeholders not otherwise named in the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Act."

NGO Committee members FIND and Desaparecidos were represented by Co-Chairperson Nilda L. Sevilla and Secretary General Lorena P. Santos, respectively. In her presentation during the short ceremony, Ms. Sevilla of FIND recounted how her own family went through so much pain when her elder brother, a young labor and human rights lawyer, was taken by some agents of the military on May 11, 1977. She said, "After 35 years of searching for my brother and searching for justice my mother died last August 13 finding neither my brother nor justice."  Ms. Santos of Desaparecidos started her own presentation by giving tribute to her own father, whose sixth year anniversary of being disappeared will be marked on February 19, 2013.

The IRR will be guiding the implementing agencies on how to promote, protect and fulfill the rights of the victims of enforced disappearance which includes the right of a person deprived of liberty to immediately access effective communication;  the right to restitution of honor and reputation of a victim of enforced disappearance; the right of the victims, namely, the disappeared and his or her immediate relatives within the fourth civil degree of consanguinity or affinity, to seek and be awarded compensation by the Board of Claims; and the right of the said victims to access appropriate medical care and rehabilitation. The CHR shall, within six (6) months from the effectivity of the IRR, convene the DSWD, Department of Health (DOH) and other NGOs to formulate a comprehensive rehabilitation program that will cater to the specific needs and requirements of the victims under the Act.

The Rules also underscore the duties of pertinent institutions and public officers to report victims of enforced disappearance; to certify in writing on the results of inquiry into a reported disappeared's whereabouts; to maintain an official up-to-date register of all persons detained or confined; and to regularly submit a list of updated inventory of government detention facilities.

Other protective mechanisms provided by the law and fleshed-out in the IRR includes the conduct by CHR, or any of its duly authorized representative, of regular, independent, unannounced and unrestricted visits to all places of detention or confinement which "shall refer to any physical space, area  or structure, whether moving or stationary, permanent or temporary where deprivation of liberty is carried out."  In order not to  depreciate the crime of enforced or involuntary disappearance, persons who are charged guilty of such act shall not benefit from any special amnesty law. Finally, State protection may be afforded to all persons involved in the search, investigation and prosecution of enforced or involuntary disappearance.

"The next wave of engagement by this Committee should focus on the full and complete dissemination of the law and IRR. This is important to send a message across that this Government is dead serious about obliterating the culture of impunity and affording justice to those victims who were all painfully deprived of the simple blessing of living ordinary lives," closed Secretary De Lima. Also present in the signing were Chairperson Loretta Ann P. Rosales of CHR and Usec. Morita R. Villar of DSWD.

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