Press Release on the Commemoration of the International Week of the Disappeared
International Week of the Disappeared (IWD)
29 May – 04 June 2011
Desaparecidos Surround Quezon Memorial Circle
The families of victims of enforced disappearance hung silhouettes of their missing loved ones around the Quezon Memorial Circle to mark the International Week of the Disappeared which is traditionally observed in the last week of May.
The week-long campaign against enforced disappearances is jointly spearheaded by the Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND) and the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD). It kicked off with a 100-tricycle motorcade around the Quezon Memorial Circle followed by a prayer rally inside the Circle.
In their joint statement, FIND and AFAD reminded President Benigno S. Aquino III of his promise of “providing truth and justice for all” and of his inaugural declaration that “where we allow crimes to go unpunished, we give consent to their occurring over and over again”.
“It is about time for the President to walk the talk. This, he owes to the Filipino people whom he considers to be his boss,” AFAD Secretary General Mary Aileen Diez Bacalso said.
Relatives of the disappeared have been lobbying for the past 16 years for the passage of a law penalizing enforce disappearance. They have also urged the Philippines to sign and accede to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
There are ten anti-disappearance bills pending before the current 15th Congress – four in the Senate and six in the House of Representatives.
The Convention which entered into force in December last year, has now 88 signatories and 26 State parties.
“Before his first 100 days in office were over, we met with the President in Malacanang to ask him to endorse the anti-disappearance bill as a priority administration measure and the signing and ratification of the Convention,” Ms. Nilda Lagman Sevilla, FIND Co-Chairperson said. Sevilla is the sister of disappeared labor and human rights lawyer Hermon C. Lagman and Rep. Edcel C. Lagman who is the principal author of House Bill 98, the proposed Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2011.
At the prayer rally, the families of the disappeared and their human rights defender supporters prayed that the Aquino administration heed their call for the immediate criminalization of enforced disappearance and the Philippines’ accession to the Convention in order to “uphold truth and justice, State accountability, the rule of law, and the right to reparation of victims and their families.”
Rep. Lagman who is also the Honorary Chairperson of FIND exhorted that we should pray but work harder to attain our goals and objectives.
He assured the rallyists not only of his support but his leadership in the eventual passage of the anti-disappearance bill into law. He said that his crusade against enforced disappearance preceded his reproductive health advocacy but both are vital human rights concerns.
Mayor Herbert Bautista in his message pledged his support to the families of the disappeared even as he presented various measures being undertaken by the Quezon City government to protect and promote human rights.
Bautista told the families that “While we at the local level cannot alleviate your sadness, we can … try further to enhance each other’s resources and capabilities to fight against involuntary disappearances.”
The Quezon City mayor said that the fight is basically “a crime prevention and human rights respect challenge” which the city government endeavors to address.
Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD)
Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND)