Families of Desaparecidos Gather for International Day of the Disappeared

August 30, 2008 – 11:27 p.m.

Families of victims of enforced disappearances, along with their supporters, party-list groups and people’s organizations gathered today, August 30, to mark the International Day of the Disappeared and held a program at Plaza Miranda in Quiapo around 3 p.m. to call for justice for the victims of enforced disappearances in the country and the world. The group Desaparecidos (Pamilya ng Desaparecidos para sa Katarungan or Families of the Disappeared for Justice) held President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo responsible for the escalating number of desaparecidos. They said the Arroyo government has been abducting and killing those critical of the administration.

Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of Human Rights) has documented a total of 193 desaparecidos since Macapagal-Arroyo assumed the presidency in 2001. The group also noted that there had been 2000 desaparecidos since the Marcos dictatorship.
In 1976, Nenita Luneta and her 3-year old daughter Ningning were abducted allegedly by military personnel in Nueva Ecija. Francisco Luneta, Nenita’s brother-in-law, said he saw the sewing machine, which was given to her, in Camp Crame.

On December 1989, Perina Fajardo’s son Noel, a member of the youth group KADENA (Kabataan para sa Demokrasya at Nasyunalismo) in Tondo, Manila was abducted by state security forces. Days after he was reported missing, his corpse was found near Jones Bridge.

Most recent cases of enforced disappearances under the current administration include UP students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan, agriculturist Jonas Burgos, and National Democratic Front consultant Leo Velasco.

Desaparecidos described enforced disappearances as the “worst kind of repression” citing that it “violates the right to life, liberty and dignity, the right to trial and due process, the right against torture and illegal detention, the rights of a person in detention and even the right against the desecration of one’s body.” The group added that the rights of the families of the victims are also being violated since they are subjected to “endless searches” that hit a blank wall since the perpetrators of the crime are also those in power.
The families and supporters of the disappeared said they are already becoming pessimistic over how the petitions for the writ of habeas corpus and amparo could help them locate their relatives because of the recent dismissals of their petitions by the Court of Appeals. They are pushing for the ratification of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons Against Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances to help bring justice to the victims and their families.

Meanwhile, the partylist group Bayan Muna (People First) is pushing for House Bill 2236 or “An Act Defining and Penalizing the Crime of Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance”. The bill, according to Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casino, has been signed by a significant number of law makers but there are elements from the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines who are preventing the passage of the bill.

Around 6 p.m., the group marched towards Mendiola where they planned to hold another program. Police from the Manila Police District (MPD), however, prevented them from proceeding to Mendiola. After brief negotiations with the MPD, the members of Desaparecidos held a program along Recto Avenue and lit lanterns, which, according to Mary Guy Portajada spokesperson of Desaparecidos, serve as the guiding light for those seeking justice for their missing family members. Erlinda Cadapan, mother of Sherlyn Cadapan, said that they would persevere in fighting for justice for their missing love ones and would ensure that the Macapagal-Arroyo administration would be punished for the “crimes it committed.” (Bulatlat.com)

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