Target: President Benigno Aquino III
Goal: Outlaw enforced disappearances of activists and journalists in the Philippines
Philippine President Benigno Aquino III has the opportunity to sign into law a bill that criminalizes enforced disappearances in the Philippines, thus officially ending what has been an ongoing stain on his country’s human rights record. From the 1965-1986 dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos to today, human rights activists, environmentalists, and journalists have faced abductions, torture, and death at the hands of security forces. In a region that lags behind the rest of the world in disavowing enforced disappearances, the Philippines has the chance to stand as an example. Ask President Aquino to ensure the passage of this important bill.
The Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012 compiles suggestions made by Philippine human rights groups to create a broad definition of enforced or involuntary disappearances, including arrests, detentions, abductions, or any other form of infringement upon an individual’s freedoms committed by government officials. The act sentences violators to hefty terms in prison and penalizes both those who carry out enforced disappearances as well as those who give the command. An important aspect of the act pertains to the “order of battle,” a document composed by the military detailing potential threats and enemies and often used as a cover for enforced disappearances. Under the act, soldiers are allowed to disobey an “order of battle.”
Furthermore, the new law calls on the Philippine government to investigate all detention facilities, close unlawful secret facilities, and create a detailed registry for every detainee. And perhaps most importantly, if passed, the government will be unable to suspend the law, regardless of circumstance. Such a guarantee is a welcome change for a country that has seen 11 activists disappear under Aquino’s watch alone, and that says nothing of the disappearances during his predecessors’ administrations. A true democracy can not exist or develop under the specter of enforced disappearances.
Call upon President Aquino to sign this important bill into law and guarantee the protection of democratic values in the Philippines.
Dear President Benigno Aquino III,
The Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012 presents a unique opportunity to end an ongoing stain on the human rights record of the Philippines. From the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos to the present day, human rights activists, environmentalists, and journalists have faced arrests, torture, abduction, and death at the hands of government forces. This new law will protect these individuals’ rights to free speech and expression and is essential for a democratic country.
Furthermore, by adapting this law, the Philippines will stand as an example, both in Asia and on the international stage. Joining Japan, the Philippines can become only the second Asian nation to meet international standards for protecting individuals from enforced disappearances.
I encourage you to end this dark piece of Philippine history and hold true to your administration’s commitment to justice.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff via Flickr