“Let us continue the tradition of remembering the missing, because otherwise, we would then face the bigger tragedy of forgetting – the disappeared, their struggle, and the highest sacrifice they gave for freedom and democracy.”
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – Families and friends of victims of enforced disappearance held their traditional gathering on Nov. 2, All Souls’ Day, this time at the Liwasang Bonifacio, along with the Lumád and other activists of the #Manilakbayan2015 who have set up their Kampuhang Bayan (people’s camp) here.
At the foot of the statue of Andres Bonifacio, pictures of the disappeared were installed on two panels, around which families of desaparecidos (the disappeared) put flowers and lit candles.
Bonifacio Ilagan, an awarded film writer and rights activist, said Filipinos traditionally visit their dead in cemeteries on these dates, but the case is different for the kin of the missing.
“We have nowhere to go: no tombstone, no coffin, not a single strand of hair,” he said. Ilagan’s sister, Rizalina was one of the Southern Tagalog (ST) 10, the 10 youth activists who were abducted in separate incidents in 1977. Three were found dead but the rest remain missing.
The United Nations Declaration on the Protection of All Persons against Enforced Disappearance said this form of human rights violation is perpetrated in behalf of, with the direct or indirect support of, or with the consent and acquiescence of government.
As of Sept. 30, there are 26 desaparecidos documented in the past five years under President Aquino. Ten of those missing came from Mindanao, three were Moro, while two were Lumád.
There were 205 missing during the nine years under the Arroyo regime, more than 800 in six years of the Corazon Aquino regime, and more than 700 during Martial Law under the Marcos regime.
Ilagan said the gathering serves to show that “the struggle for justice in the semi-feudal and semi-colonial society continues.”
More desaparecidos to come
Martial Law activist Ponz Abrazado, 66, remembered Philip Limjoco, a peace consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) who had been missing since May 2006.
Abrazado said he, Limjoco and two others were arrested and detained on charges of subversion and murder in 1976. He remembered Limjoco as “cheerful, talkative and always smiling.” For three months, they were kept in isolation and tortured at the dreaded CSU (Constabulary Security Unit) headquarters in Camp Crame. The two of them were later transferred to the Ipil Rehabiliation Camp in Bicutan, Taguig along with other political detainees.
Limjoco managed to break out from detention after a year.
Among the pictures of the missing was that of John Calaba, a Dulangan-Manobo and public information officer of the Kisasabanay sa Dulangan-Manobo (United Tribes of Dulangan-Manobo, or Kiduma), who had been missing and is believed dead since April 30 this year.
“We felt like we also lost our lives, because he is the one we always follow,” Calaba’s younger brother, Sancio told Bulatlat.com. Sancio is one of the 700 “lakbayanis” from Mindanao.
“I’m sure that John Calaba will not be the last, because the government, and the succeeding ones will continue the practice of enforced disappearance, because they represent the interest of the monopoly capitalist and landlords, which go against the interest of the Lumád and the Filipino people,” Ilagan said.
“Let us continue the tradition of remembering the missing, because otherwise, we would then have a bigger tragedy: of forgetting – the disappeared, their struggle, and the highest sacrifice that they gave for freedom and democracy,” Ilagan said.
“With remembering comes the continuation of their revolutionary struggle,” he said.
The traditional venue for Desaparecidos is at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, in Redemptorist, Baclaran in Pasay City.
Tribute march for martyrs
The Manilakbayan marched from the University of Sto. Tomas along España avenue, toward Liwasang Bonifacio, in what they called “Martsang Parangal” (tribute march) for the martyrs of Mindanao who were victims of extrajudicial killings.
The latest victim was Roberto Lumandas, a village councilor of Dominga, Calinan District, Panacan, Davao city, who was gunned down on Oct. 26. Lumandas had staunchly opposed military encampment in his village. In 2013 when he was still Dominga village chief, soldiers encamped in the community and refused to leave. Lumandas cut off their water and power supply, which then forced the soldiers to go.
The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas-Southern Mindanao region (KMP-SMR) said in a statement that Lumandas’ killing was part of the counterinsurgency plan Oplan Bayanihan, which targets even unarmed civilians critical of government.
“He was against military abuse because he witnessed it – the use of schools, houses, theft of livestock, and even harassment and rape of women where soldiers encamped,” said Pedro Arnado, KMP-SMR secretary general.