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Congressmen push for anti-enforced disappearance bill

MANILA, Philippines - To mark the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), lawmakers on Wednesday pushed for the immediate passage of a bill that seeks to make enforced disappearance a crime. In a press conference, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, principal author of House Bill No. 326 or the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2008, said it is lamentable that enforced disappearance and torture incidents in the country continue even though the Philippines was among the first to sign the UDHR in Dec. 10, 1948. "We still suffer the continuing commission of enforced disappearances as well as the immunity being enjoyed by the perpetrators of this global offense," said Lagman. Lagman is the honorary chairperson of the Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND), and the brother of political activist Hermon Lagman who disappeared during the Martial Law era and labor leader Filemon "Popoy" Lagman who was assassinated in 2001. For his part, Marikina City Rep. Del de Guzman added that the public can only truly celebrate the UDHR signing if enforced disappearances in the country no longer occur. Pasig City Rep. Roman Romulo, who noted that the UDHR was signed by his grandfather, then Philippine Ambassador to the United Nations Carlos P. Romulo, said the Philippines should observe human rights not just in writing. "Siguro panahon na hindi lamang sa papel kundi gawin nating realidad. It should be a Philippines reality (Perhaps it's time for us to make the observance of human rights a reality and not just on paper)," said Romulo. For her part, Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel said the House should prioritize the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2008 bill and other social welfare measures such as the extension of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) before it takes on discussions on Charter Change. The lawmakers said there should be increased awareness on the cases of human rights violations in the country as they distributed gold-and-orange "enforced disappearance awareness and prevention" ribbons. "We should be able to generate much awareness on this phenomenon," said Lagman. According to Lagman, the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2008 bill is approaching plenary as the committees on Human Rights, Justice, and Appropriations are just finishing their joint committee report approving the measure. - Johanna Camille Sisante, GMANews.TV