Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has paid tribute to former President Benigno S. Aquino III by recognizing his generous contributions in advancing human rights protection and promotion in the country.
De Lima, who was Justice Secretary during the Aquino Administration, said PNoy’s contribution to the country’s human rights situation should not be put to waste by allowing the culture of impunity and violence reign in the country.
“The six-year term of PNoy is highly and justly recognized for marking the country’s economic growth, ensuring defense of our territorial rights in the West Philippine Sea, and promoting zero tolerance for corruption. Aside from these, human rights promotion and protection were also strengthened under the PNoy administration,” she said.
“Sa panahong ito na bumalik na naman tayo sa madilim na kabanata ng ating kasaysayan kung saan talamak ang patayan at laganap ang dahas at pang-aabuso, alalahanin natin ang mga pagsisikap na pinangunahan noon ni PNoy upang isulong ang katarungan at karapatang pantao sa bansa,” she added.
Aquino was laid to rest last June 26 as loved ones and supporters gathered to pay their final respects. He was buried at the Manila Memorial Park in Paranaque City beside his parents, democracy icons former president Corazon “Cory” Aquino and former Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr.
In recognizing PNoy’s contributions in advancing human rights in the country, De Lima recalled some landmark human rights-related legislation signed into law during his term from 2010-2016.
She recalled that among these are Republic Act (RA) No. 10353 or the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012, RA No. 10364 or the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2012 and RA No. 10368 or the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013. It was also during PNoy’s administration that the signing of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of Republic Act No. 9745 otherwise known as the Anti-Torture Law was signed, led by then Justice Secretary De Lima and Commission on Human Rights Chairperson Etta Rosales.
Other human rights-related legislation signed into law during PNoy’s term include RA No. 10630 amending the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 and creating the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council under the Department of Social Welfare and Development, RA No. 10766 extending the life of the Human Rights Victims Board, and RA No. 10707 amending the Probation Law.
The lady Senator from Bicol likewise said that President Aquino exerted effort to probe political killings, or killings of people with known advocacies and political causes, by issuing Administrative Order (A.O.) No. 35 which she herself drafted and proposed, during his term.
“While there was no state-sponsored EJKs during the Aquino Administration, PNoy saw it of great importance to issue A.O. 35 to ensure investigation of the killings of activists and media personnel which were the prevalent cases of EJKs during the Arroyo Administration,” she said.
“To date, A.O. 35 is the basis of the Department of Justice-led panel’s review of the deaths related to the Duterte administration’s bloody drug war,” she added.
It can be recalled that it was also during PNoy’s term when former Army Maj. General Jovito Palparan was arrested, who was then convicted of kidnapping and serious illegal detention on September 2018 for the disappearance of University of the Philippines students Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan.
Most significantly, De Lima also noted that PNoy has ratified and endorsed the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to the Senate in March 2011. Aquino signed the Instrument of Ratification of the treaty in February 28 of the same year.
“This ratification was meant to strengthen Philippine commitment to human rights and accountability to atrocities and the most egregious crimes, such as crimes against humanity, which the Aquino administration highly valued,” said De Lima.
Moreover, the Senator said PNoy will also be remembered for his tough stance against the reinstatement of death penalty.
De Lima said PNoy believed that reviving death penalty “cannot fully deter crime,” citing his message which she delivered on the President’s behalf before an international audience at the 5th World Congress Against Death Penalty last June 12, 2013 in Madrid, Spain.
“In PNoy’s message, he said that he believes in a system where each of us, citizens of the country, is empowered to take hold of our destiny which enables us to uplift our family, community and nation,” De Lima shared.
In the said message, PNoy said that his government’s strategy to prevent crimes in the Philippines rests on “an empowered citizenry, a skilled and trusted law enforcement sector, an effective prosecutorial service, and an independent judiciary.”
“Thank you, PNoy, for all that you have done for our country. Huwag sanang mabalewala nang tuluyan ang mga ginawa mo para sa ating bansa,” De Lima concluded. (30)