Surface 17 disappeared under Aquino Presidency; Present perpetrator Gen. Palparan in court

It may be 2013, but the Philippines is stuck in an Orwellian 1984

End the impunity of Benigno S. Aquino III Presidency on enforced disappearances!

Despite President Aquino’s attempts to project himself as sensitive to the issues of desaparecidos, enforced disappearances continue with impunity under his government, and a notorious perpetrator has been able to evade an arrest warrant for more than 20 months.

Desaparecidos (Families of Desaparecidos for Justice), together with progressive legislators, worked hard to design the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012. It was signed into law in December of last year. Yet, three additional citizens joined the list of enforced disappearances after the new law against enforced disappearances came into force in January this year.

As in Orwell’s book 1984, words mean their opposite. The international community should tolerate it no longer.

More forced disappearances

On 22 January 2013, in Labuan, Zamboanga City, Zamboanga del Sur, Muslim scholar Sheikh Bashier Mursalum was abducted by suspected state security agents. Witnesses said Mursalum’s car was first hit by an Adventure utility vehicle from which armed men got off and shot him. He was then forced inside the vehicle.

Mursalum is a Modeer (principal) of the Madrasa in Labuan and is well respected by the Muslim community in Zamboanga City. The Darul Iftah in Zamboanga supports the family in searching for Mursalum, who remains missing to date.

5 February 2013 — Balangas Anlamit of Davao del Norte, Mindanao, was resting with his daughter and sister-in-law while walking to gather abaca, their livelihood. Two soldiers came and pointed their rifles at him, the women fled, and watched Balangas being tied up and taken away. On 14 February the family took a writ of habeas corpus, but the 8th Infantry Division denied it held Balangas.

21 August 2013 — Bryan Epa was seen at around 9:00 pm being beaten and forced into a police patrol car outside his house at Barangay (village) Salvacion, Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya. The next day the police denied he was in custody. Bryan Epa was identified by CAFGU (government militia) at an anti-mining barricade at Binuangan village on 19-20 August 2013. The barricades have successfully blocked exploration by Royalco, an Australian mining company.

Where is Palparan?

In December 2011, retired Major General Jovito Palparan went into hiding after he, along with three other military officials, were finally charged with kidnapping with serious illegal detention for the disappearance of students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan. The two were abducted and disappeared in June 2006. Witnesses also confirm that a farmer, Manuel Merino, was abducted in the same incident. Palparan continues to brazenly evade the warrant for his arrest.

A heavy burden

Marcos dictatorship: 1972-86 759 cases of enforced disappearances
Corazon Aquino presidency: 1986-92 821 cases of enforced disappearances
Ramos presidency: 1992-98 39 cases of enforced disappearances
Estrada presidency: 1998-2001 26 cases of enforced disappearances
Arroyo presidency: 2001-2010 206 cases of enforced disappearances
Benigno Aquino III presidency: 2010-13 17 cases of enforced disappearances

The Filipino people carry this long legacy of loss, grief and injustice. It is high time that the global community takes effective action to help lift this burden.

Call for global solidarity

The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines stands with the families of the disappeared in their grief and anger, and salutes them for their organised struggle for justice through Desaparecidos-Philippines. We call on the international community – from grassroots communities to the United Nations Security Council – to stand in solidarity with them, and to end the impunity of the Philippines government for their cynical breach of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances.

Canon Barry Naylor
Chairperson, Global Council, International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP)
Honorary President, Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines-United Kingdom (CHRP-UK)
Office: +44 (0) 116 261 5371
Mobile: +44 (0) 775 785 3621

Email address: [email protected]

Origin of International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances

Three years ago, on 21 December 2010, in the UN General Assembly expressed its deep concern at the increase in enforced or involuntary disappearances in various regions of the world. They passed Resolution 65/209 International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, and declared 30 August the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, to be observed beginning in 2011.

According to the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, proclaimed by the General Assembly in its resolution 47/133 of 18 December 1992 as a body of principles for all States, an enforced disappearance occurs when:

“persons are arrested, detained or abducted against their will or otherwise deprived of their liberty by officials of different branches or levels of Government, or by organized groups or private individuals acting on behalf of, or with the support, direct or indirect, consent or acquiescence of the Government, followed by a refusal to disclose the fate or whereabouts of the persons concerned or a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of their liberty, which places such persons outside the protection of the law.”

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