R. A. 9851: A Breakthrough Law for International Humanitarian Law Enforcement in the Philippines

RA-9851Republic Act Number 9851, the new "Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide and Other Crimes Against Humanity" signed into law on 11 December 2009, is a breakthrough law for the enforcement of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) as well as human rights in the Philippines. For the first time here, a national statute defines and penalizes "the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole" -- namely, war crimes, genocide, and other crimes against humanity. This could be even more significant than R. A. No. 9745, the "Anti-Torture Act of 2009" signed into law about a month earlier on 10 November 2009. To the credit of the 14th Congress and of the Arroyo administration, they have delivered this significant one-two punch for human rights and IHL and possibly a few more good Pacquiao-like punch combinations, during the "last round" of this Congress and administration before bowing out in mid-2010. But credit is also due to the various human rights and IHL advocates in civil society and in government who have worked long and hard for these and related legislations as well as administrative measures.