“After his visit, our lives will remain the same… But at least our spirits would be uplifted.”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – Solidarity from no less than Pope Francis may or may not compel the government to surface her husband Geminiano Gualberto, a victim of enforced disappearance in 1990, but Guadalupe believes that if the pope will speak about the gross human rights violations in the Philippines, it will be a balm to their bruised, battered hearts.
“After his visit, our lives will remain the same. The hardship we go through to live day by day will still be there. But at least our spirits would be uplifted. It would soothe our dampened but struggling spirits,” Guadalupe told Bulatlat.com.
Guadalupe was among the relatives of enforced disappearances and political prisoners who gathered on Dec. 7, 2014 to write a letter to Pope Francis, urging him to speak on human rights violations before President Aquino in his visit to the country this month.
Though she has not heard a word about the fate of her husband Geminiano, she said that she has accepted the possibility that he is dead. But since they have yet to recover his remains, a small part of her, she shared, still hopes that her husband may still be alive.
“Our children have learned to accept their father’s fate over time. One of the hardest things was that I had no answer whenever they asked where their father is, or if whether or not he is still alive,” Guadalupe said.
Guadalupe has turned nights into days as she worked hard to provide a living for their four children. From washing clothes, selling native cakes and fish in the market.
In the homeland of Pope Francis in Argentina, there are about 30,000 victims of enforced disappearance during the military dictatorship, the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said in 2012.
Estela De Carlotto, president of the Association of Plaza de Mayo Grandmothers, said that Argentina “is at the forefront in terms of reparations to the victims and their families, in the construction of memory spaces, the search for justice and the end impunity.”
Linda Cadapan, mother of one of the two disappeared students of the University of the Philippines, hopes that such experience from his home country would compel Pope Francis to urge the Philippine government to act on cases of enforced disappearances.
She assailed that the Philippine government is nowhere near to end impunity.
Retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr., she added, accused of ordering the disappearance of her daughter Sherlyn and fellow UP student Karen Empeno, is enjoying “special treatment” as he is detained at the Philippine Army Custodial Center. “A homecoming,” said activists, for the poster boy of Oplan Bantay Laya, the counterinsurgency program under former President Gloria Arroyo.
Cadapan said she expects President Aquino to heed Pope Francis should he speak on human rights violations in the country.
“When he was mulling to run for presidency, didn’t he take a retreat? Didn’t he ask for the blessings of the nuns to guide him in his presidency?” she said.
Like Guadalupe, Gaudencio Gile, 76, father of activist Joseph, who was disappeared in 1988, said Pope Francis’ word would ease the pain of losing a son to enforced disappearance.
Joseph, a community organizer who was only 24 when he was abducted, dreamed of becoming a doctor. “That was also my dream for him. But he is still missing up to now,” Gaudencio added.