Bicam panel approves IHL bill punishing crimes against humanity
The Senate and the House of Representatives approved on Monday in a bicameral conference committee the measure codifying international humanitarian law (IHL) within the country's legal system.
Senator Richard J. Gordon (Ind.), principal author of Senate Bill 2669, lauded the approval of the bill stressing that the measure would ensure that those who commit war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity would be penalized.
"Throughout the centuries, millions of children, women and men all over the world have been victims of unimaginable atrocities that shock the collective conscience of humanity. Philippine history is not spared from such atrocities," he said.
"Such acts are grave crimes that threaten the peace, security and well-being of the world, and yet only a handful of those responsible for those crimes have ever been brought to justice by local courts," he added.
The bicameral conference committee ironed out the differences between SB 2669 and House Bill 6633. Senators Gordon and Francis Escudero, chairman of the Senate panel, and Representatives Lorenzo Tañada III, chairman of the House panel, and Roilo Golez were present during the meeting.
Gordon said the bill defines and penalizes crimes against IHL and other serious international crimes. It also provides that Philippine courts shall take additional measures to protect the safety, physical and psychological well-being, dignity and privacy of victims and witnesses.
Richard Desgagne, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) regional legal adviser for Southeast Asia and East Asia, said that the bill is very important for the application and enforcement of the IHL in the Philippines.
"It is also very important in terms of the implementation of the Geneva Conventions. Obviously, the idea of the bill is to serve as a deterrent to commit violations during armed conflict," Desgagne said.
For her part, Justice Leonor Ines Luciano, Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) Governor, expressed elation over the Congress' approval of the bill.
"We are so happy about this development. We have worked on it for so long, four Congresses. This is very, very important insofar as the Philippines is concerned because of the armed conflicts. We have had armed conflicts for the last seven decades from the North to the South. And so, at long last we have this bill, and I hope we are able to implement it properly," Luciano said.
Gordon, chairman of the PNRC, explained that the IHL is a set of rules which seek, for humanitarian reasons, a limit to the effects of armed conflict such that persons who are not or are no longer participating in hostilities are protected and that the means and methods of warfare are restricted.
"Our bill is a symbolic gesture of our strong commitment to international justice. But above symbolisms, our goal is to end impunity and to ensure that the most serious crimes against humanity as a whole do not go unpunished," he said.