“If he is dead, return his remains to his family. We just want him back.”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – Early morning of April 30, Sancio and his brother John were cooking breakfast. When Sancio left for his farm, he heard gunshots. For some reason, he knew it was, one way or another, related to his brother. He ran as fast as he could and his feet led him to the gate of a private company that wanted to encroach on their land.
Since then, Sancio never saw his brother John.
John, 28, was disappeared on April 30 and is feared dead. He was the public information officer of the Manobo group Kisasabanay Dulungan Manobo (Kiduma). He was last seen inside the compound of David M. Consunji Inc. (DMCI) in Sabanal village, Kalamansig, Sultan Kudarat.
Sancio joined this year’s Manilakbayan in the hope of finding justice for John. This is the farthest he has been from his home in Sultan Kudarat. While he does not expect to find John in Manila, at least he expects to find answers to his brother’s whereabouts and bring before the Aquino government the sufferings that their family is going through because of John’s enforced disappearance.
“I just want to know if he is still alive,” he said.
A determined and jolly person
Sancio does not think he would find brothers as close as he and John was. When they were still attending school, John would not leave without Sancio.
John valued education. But their impoverished life was a constant impediment. He dropped out in the middle of the school year because his parents could no longer send him. Still, come June, he would enroll, hoping that this time, he would be able to finish it. Sancio said his brother finished Grade 6 when he was already 25 years old.
Their closeness never waned even when Sancio got married in 2009. Sancio lives with his wife just a couple of meters away from their parent’s house, where John lived until he was disappeared. Every day, John would pay the couple a visit.
To the rest of their community, John was very popular and a known “joker.”
“He seemed to know everyone,” Sancio said.
A staunch advocate
Sancio said he admires his brother’s dedication to protecting their ancestral domain. His group Kiduma led protests against mining and logging activities of the DMCI.
“Ang tama ay tama. Ang mali ay mali (Right is right, wrong is wrong),” is John’s principle, said Sancio.
Sancio, for his part, acknowledged that his search for John could possibly endanger his life as well. In fact, he is already anticipating that he would be facing various criminal charges as soon as he returns to their community. But Sancho is determined to continue his search for his brother.
While he would always refer to the day of John’s enforced disappearance as the day his brother “died,” his and the rest of their family’s grief is shared by thousands of relatives of victims of enforced disappearances – that they do not have a grave to mourn on and so their hearts continue to long for the smallest possibility that John might still be alive.