Saturday, January 29, 2011

Enact the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Law NOW!

(Related article: FIND's Press statement on the 10th Anniversary of the enforced disappearance of the PICOP 6 workers. Source:!/note.php?note_id=167266576619200

14 October 2010

Disappeared but Unsilenced

The PICOP 6 workers who were forcibly abducted from a videoke bar in Sta. Maria, Trento, Agusan del Sur by members of the 62nd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army last October 14, 2000. FIND

Artemio Ayala, Jr., Joseph Belar, Arnold Dangquiasan, Jovencio Lagare, Diosdado Oliver and Romualdo Orcullo were unlawfully arrested, illegally detained, inhumanely tortured, violently killed, unceremoniously buried, hastily unearthed, and unconscionably burned.

On the night of October 14, 2000, six sub-contractual workers of the PICOP Resources, Inc. were forcibly abducted from a videoke bar in Sta. Maria, Trento, Agusan del Sur by members of the 62nd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army.

On the tenth anniversary of their enforced disappearance, their families join FIND (Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance) in urging the Aquino government to formulate and fully implement a human rights agenda that will prevent if not end enforced disappearance and other human rights violations.

FIND challenges the president not to temporize in addressing the persistent impunity and virtual immunity of human rights violators.

After eight long years, only one of the soldiers has been convicted and only as an accomplice to the crime of kidnapping and serious illegal detention.

Giving credence to the prosecution witness, Army Sgt. Eseqiuas Duyogan, who testified in rebuttal, the Regional Trial Court Branch 6 in Prosperidad, Agusan Del Sur declared in July 2008 that “there is now cause for the Department of Justice to start an inquiry” into the “criminal culpability” of the 13 other military men whom he implicated in the kidnapping, serious illegal detention, torture and killing of the six workers.

The snail-paced investigation by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) prompted the families to file a complaint for the multiple murder before the office of the Provincial Prosecutors in Agusan del Sur. The complaint is under preliminary investigation.

The multiple murder case could be problematic because of the absence of the bodies of the victims. Such eventuality could be obviated by a special law that penalizes enforced disappearance as a continuing crime.

The proposed anti-enforced or involuntary disappearance law specifies concealment of the fate and whereabouts of the victim as one of the elements of the crime.

Eight of the nine anti-enforced or involuntary disappearance bills pending before the 15th Congress adopt the definition of enforced disappearance under the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

The Convention considers enforced disappearance as “the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person which place such a person outside the protection of the law.”

It is beyond dispute that the PICOP 6 case exhibits all the essential elements of enforced disappearance as the workers were abducted and herded into the army camp by a team of soldiers who denied taking them into custody or who concealed the victims’ fate and whereabouts thereby depriving them of protection of the law.

Despite the long wait for an appropriate law under which perpetrators of enforced disappearance can be effectively prosecuted, the families of the PICOP 6 desaparecidos as well as those of other victims of enforced disappearance have been steadfast in their search for truth and justice.

Until the truth is uncovered and justice dispensed, there is no closure to the PICOP 6 and other enforced disappearance cases.



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