Desaparecidos in the Philippines: A continuing nightmare

May. 20, 2007

MANILA — The Families of Desaparecidos for Justice or Desaparecidos condemns the regime of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for its continued implementation of enforced disappearances, deemed the cruelest form of human rights violations.

Enforced disappearance deprives the victim the right to life, liberty, against torture, and even the right to a decent burial. We, the families of victims have been subjected to risks and continued psychological torture as we continue to search and remain uncertain of the fate of our missing loved ones.

Ironically, the Philippines was reelected yesterday as member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, after finishing a one year term. We at Desaparecidos, however maintain that the country’s membership to the recently-created UNHRC has not reflected in any show of respect, much less protection of human rights of Filipinos, as shown by the rising cases of disappearances and extrajudicial killings.

Those who remain missing have reached 199 from 2001 to May this year. From January to May this year, 16 persons were abducted and had remained missing, among them, six are women and one is a minor. In 2006 was recorded the highest number of disappeared, with 75 victims.

As part of the regime’s Oplan Bantay Laya, elite intelligence and operation groups of the Armed Forces of the Philippines have conducted the surveillance, abduction, torture, concealment and possibly execution of their victims, who were mostly members of cause-oriented groups and even the underground Left.

According to the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons against Enforced Disappearances, enforced disappearance is committed by government officials or by organized groups acting in behalf, or with the support, consent or acquiescence of the government, depriving the victim of liberty and placing him/her outside the protection of the law.

Indeed, this had been evident in the testimonies of witnesses and data gathered in cases of disappearance, pointing to the involvement of state security forces, use of government resources and facilities.

The latest victim, Joseph Jonas Burgos, 37, was abducted by armed men suspected to be soldiers on April 28, at the Ever Gotesco mall in Quezon City. The abductors’ Toyota Revo had the license plate TAB 194 which was traced to an XLT jeep impounded at the 56th ID headquarters in Norzagaray, Bulacan.

On April 3, Cavite urban poor leader Lourdes “Nay Ude” Rubrico was abducted by armed men who identified themselves as agents of the “NBI” (National Bureau of Investigation) and used a brown van with license plate XRR 428 which was traced to Army Major Darwin Sy.

Nay Ude, 63, who was released on April 10, attested that she was detained at an office of the 301st Air Intelligence and Security Squadron inside the Fernando Basa Air Base. She had since filed criminal and civil charges against several AFP officers.

Oscar Leuterio, a former security guard in Doa Remedios Trinidad, Bulacan, was also abducted last year and kept incommunicado for five months, inside the Fort Magsaysay where he saw other victims of disappearance. He had filed criminal and civil charges against his abductors and captors, including now ret. Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr.

On April 12 in Cebu , soldiers were the ones who abducted and tortured Bayan Muna coordinator Preciosa Dao, 48 and Kabataan partylist’s Beethoven Avila, 28. The military later released them to the Regional Intelligence Investigation Division in Toledo City.

On March 27, in Sta. Ana, Pampanga, peasant Villamor Adona was abducted by armed men who carried Armalite rifles with laser devices, which are used by military and police men.

Soldiers in civilian clothes were the ones involved in the May 7 illegal arrest of Virgilio Borja in Ormoc, Leyte which could have also led to another disappearance, were it not for the presence of Bayan Muna partylist Rep. Teddy Casio who accompanied Borja.

To stop the continued rise in disappearances, we challenge the Arroyo regime to sign the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons against Enforced Disappearance which requires the states to investigate enforced disappearances and punish those who are found guilty of such crime.

For the third Saturday gathering of Hustisya, we would like to remember those who were disappeared this time last year, whose families have spent a whole year searching and seeking justice:

Manuel Sioson Jr., abducted May 5 in brgy. Lambakin, San Miguel, Bulacan by armed men suspected to be soldiers of the 56th IB PA led by Lt.Col. Noel Clement

Benedicto Magdaong, 52, Anakpawis member, abducted May 5 in Pampanga by 2 armed men in ski masks

Leoniso Ragudos, 33, farmer, abducted May 6 in Sapang Dalaga, Misamis Occidental

Philip Limjoco, 52, NDF consultant, disappeared May 8 in Dau, Pampanga

Roland Rallo Porter, 50, member of Bayan Muna and First Quarter Storm Movement, abducted May 16 in brgy. Olympia, Makati City

Virgilio Tranquilino, 34, abducted May 17 in Nueva Ecija

Fidel Palting, worker of the United Church of Christ in the Phils., abducted May 21 by suspected soldiers of the 71st IB PA

Dionelo Borres, 45 and Roberto Marapo, 44, peasants, abucted May 28 by suspected operatives of the 61st IB PA

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