MANILA – “Your Holiness, please intercede for us in seeking justice for our disappeared loved ones,” wrote families of desaparecidos to Pope Francis as they gathered at Plaza Miranda on All Souls Day.
As a renewal of vows to seek justice, they lighted candles and offered flowers to remember those who were forcibly abducted and disappeared by state security forces since martial law up to the present.
“It has been the practice of families and relatives of victims of enforced and involuntary disappearances to gather every November 2. Beyond remembering, we come together as a reminder that our loved ones have yet to be surfaced and the state’s policy of enforced disappearances be stopped,” said Desaparecidos secretary general Aya Santos.
It has become more significant as families of desaparecidos gathered to join the nation in awaiting the visit of Pope Francis to the Philippines in January 2015.
Santos explained they have followed and listened to series of statements Pope Francis on justice and human rights. For the families, his visit is an opportune time to voice out the injustice and rights violations in the Philippines.
“Hope springs when on several occasions he made clear his firm stands to defend human rights and in seeking social justice. We turn to the Pope for support because under the current regime of Noynoy Aquino, human rights violations against the people intensify without let up. We stand as testimonies to the gross situation of human rights here,” Santos said.
Santos said there have been 21 victims of abduction under Pres. Aquino and has since added up to the number of desaparecidos since the Marcos dictatorship.
Despite the passage of the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Law, the crime of enforced disappearance continues as a state policy under Oplan Bayanihan, Aquino’s counter-insurgency program. Also, as a DAP recipient program, it uses public funds to abduct, torture and disappear persons. It also uses funds to coddle the likes of butcher Jovito Palparan who is a ‘free man’ at Fort Bonifacio.
“We pray that the good Pope will listen to our plea and stand one with us in calling to stop enforced disappearances in the Philippines. Dear Pope, please heed our call for justice. We cry out to surface all the disappeared, in the Philippines and other parts of the world, such as in Latin America and Argentina, the Pope’s homeland,” said Santos.
Born Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Pope Francis is from Argentina, a nation that also suffered the worst kind of human rights violations under a dictatorial rule in the 1970s.