Ang Bayan
September 07, 2020

Justice remains elusive for desaparecidos

The International Day of the Disappeared is commemorated globally every August 30 to demand justice and remember struggles of thousands of victims of enforced disappearances who were secretly imprisoned or killed by reactionary states.

Victims in the Philippines include Ele­na Tija­mo, a development worker in Central Vi­sa­yas who was abducted by agents of the Duterte regime in Ban­ta­yan, Ce­bu on July 13.

Relatives and supporters of desaparacidos also remembered Manobo peasants Ma­ki Bail and David Mo­gul, members of the Ke­sa­sa­ba­nay Du­la­ngan Ma­no­bo who were abducted in Ba­ra­ngay Mar­gu­es, Espe­ranza, Sul­tan Ku­da­rat, as well as Imel­da Ha­ya­hay, a peasant leader abducted by soldiers from her home at Ma­bi­ni, Com­pos­te­la Val­ley. The victims have not been surfaced since the abductions.

It has also been two years since Lo­ra Ma­ni­pis and Je­ru­el Do­mi­ngo were last seen. They were abducted by state agents while traveling in Ka­bacan, North Co­ta­ba­to in February 2018. Manipis was a consultant of the National Democratic Front-Far Sout­hern Min­da­nao and her husband Do­mi­ngo was a Red fighter who served in Sa­ra­nga­ni and South Co­ta­ba­to.

The aforementioned individuals are among the 13 individuals who were abducted and not surfaced by the current regime. Half of the total number of de­sa­pa­reci­dos under Rod­ri­go Du­ter­te are farmers and Lu­mads. These include two Lumad farmers who were abducted by state agents and goons of a mining company in November 2016.

In every enforced disappearance, regimes always deny their involvement in the crime to deny victims justice, due process and rights accorded them. These violations are perpetrated in the context of broader attacks on civilians and their communities which is considered a crime against humanity. In the Philippines, the reactionary state has already recorded a long list of victims of enforced disappearances from the Marcos dictatorship until the current Duterte regime. Human rights groups De­sa­pa­reci­dos and Ka­ra­pa­tan disclosed that there are already 1,890 de­sa­pa­reci­dos in the Philippines.

The first victim of enforced disappearance was Char­lie del Ro­sa­rio, a teacher at the Phi­lip­pi­ne Col­le­ge of Com­merce (currently the Polytechnic Univer­sity of the Phi­lip­pi­nes) and one of the founders of Ka­ba­ta­ang Ma­ka­ba­yan. He was last seen in March 19, 1971. He was abducted by agents of the Marcos regime while mounting campaign posters.

Nearly 43% of the total number of victims were recorded during regime of Co­razon Aqui­no who ironically rose to power at the heels of the anti-dictatorship struggle. Vigilante groups such as the “Alsa Masa” were formed and backed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines during her regime. These groups were responsible for numerous cases of enforced disappearance of activists and human rights defenders.

The highest number of NDFP consultants who fell victim to enforced disappearances were recorded during the US-Arroyo regime. When the regime ended the peace negotiations, 11 consultants and their companions and relatives were abducted and no longer surfaced. Victims include father and son Ro­ge­lio and Gab­ri­el Ca­lu­bad, couple Pru­dencio Ca­lu­bid and Ce­li­na Pal­ma, their nephew Glo­ria Soco, and CPP official Leo Ve­lasco. Under the command of Arroyo’s butcher Gen. Jovito Palparan, abductions of activists in Central Luzon escalated. The victims include Univer­sity of the Phi­lip­pi­nes students She­rilyn Ca­da­pan and Ka­ren Empe­ño, as well as Jonas Burgos, son of a renowned journalist.

Until today, the victims are sought by their families and justice remains elusive.