On the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances
Desaparecidos (Families of the Desaparecidos for Justice)
“Until when will we keep looking for the disappeared?” Lorena “Aya” Santos, a daughter of a desaparecido and Secretary General of the Families of the Desaparecidos for Justice asked.
“For years, we keep commemorating the International Day of the Disappeared to remember all the desaparecidos in the world, and to call to stop enforced disappearances. Regimes had passed, but enforced disappearances still exist while our missing loved ones have yet to be found,” Santos said.
“It is obvious that the elimination of the practice of enforced disappearance will not end under the Noynoy Aquino regime,” Santos lamented.
“All the indicators are here. Enforced disappearances continue, the government does not own up to its accountability, no perpetrator has been prosecuted or jailed, and human rights violators are promoted to higher posts. Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan remains free from prosecution and jail,” Santos said.
Palparan is responsible for the abduction, torture and disappearance of UP students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan. In December 2011, a warrant of arrest was issued against him and his cohorts. With a 2-million peso bounty on his arrest, Palparan remains at large to this date.
Under the Aquino regime, 17 persons have fallen victim to enforced disappearance. The latest case of disappearance is that of Bryan Epa of Nueva Vizcaya, an anti-mining activist, who was abducted by Vizcaya police on the night of 21 August.
It is the first time that the Philippines is commemorating the International Day of the Disappeared with a law that criminalizes enforced disappearance. “But we, families of desaparecidos, have nothing to celebrate about,” Santos said.
“The law alone cannot put a stop on enforced disappearances as proven by the recent cases of disappearances; more so to surface the disappeared,” Santos pointed out.
“This law has so far served only as a mere token to appease our outrage; but nothing has really changed since its enactment,” Santos said.
“While Pres. Aquino desperately saves his administration on the issue of corruption and the pork barrel system through the Napoles ‘surrender’, he can not do the same to hide the evils of human rights violations in the Philippines,” Santos said.
The members of Families of Desaparecidos for Justice today held a program-teach in at the lobby of Palma Hall at the University of the Philippines, Diliman, where disappeared Karen Empeño, Sherlyn Cadapan, and Leo Velasco were among its alumni. Poems were read, songs, dances, and other cultural numbers were performed in remembrance of the disappeared. At the steps of Palma Hall, rights defenders and families of desaparecidos mounted huge letters made of old clothes to form the word “SURFACE”.
Meanwhile, in Guatemala, a demonstration and a gathering of relatives were held as a tribute to the disappeared. The solidarity activities between the Families of Desaparecidos for Justice in the Philippines and the Fundacion Amancio Samuel Villatoro in Guatemala were agreed upon by both organizations during the International Conference for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines in July 2013.
Both organizations jointly paid tribute to the desaparecidos and issued a joint statement where they scored the United States’ role in the use of enforced disappearance and other forms of human rights violations by various States to keep the US’s economic and political interests in both countries, and in other neo-colonial states in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
“Until when does a person stop searching for a disappeared loved one? The search for the actual missing body may eventually stop after years of not getting any clue. But the fire in the hearts of each yearning mother, daughter or son, wife or husband for justice will never die. The search for justice will not stop, until enforced disappearance is ended,” Santos concluded.
Lorena “Aya” Santos
Secretary General, Desaparecidos
PUBLIC INFORMATION DESK
Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights
2nd Flr. Erythrina Bldg., #1 Maaralin corner Matatag Sts., Central District
Diliman, Quezon City, PHILIPPINES 1101
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KARAPATAN is an alliance of human rights organizations and programs, human rights desks and committees of people’s organizations, and individual advocates committed to the defense and promotion of people’s rights and civil liberties. It monitors and documents cases of human rights violations, assists and defends victims and conducts education, training and campaign.