“This is déjà vu: Marcos in power, ordinary citizens as desaparecidos. Lest we forget, the massive human rights violations 50 years ago did not end well with the Marcoses.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Families and colleagues of four missing community organizers sought the help of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to locate their loved ones.
The families believe that they are held captive by the Philippine military.
Members of labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) Elizabeth “Loi” Magbanua, Alipio “Ador” Juat were reportedly missing since May 3 while Elgene Mungcal of Gabriela Women’s Partylist and Ma. Elena “Cha” Cortez Pampoza of Anakpawis were also reported missing since July 3.
KMU and women’s group Gabriela condemned what they called as extrajudicial arrest and detention of the four community organizers and demanded that they be surface immediately.
They also challenged the Marcos Jr. administration to prove that he is not like his late father, dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr., whose administration was marred by thousands of rights violations. They challenges him to order state forces to surface all those who disappeared.
“This is déjà vu: Marcos in power, ordinary citizens as desaparecidos. Lest we forget, the massive human rights violations 50 years ago did not end well with the Marcoses,” said KMU Secretary General Jerome Adonis adding that rights violations will continue and even worsen in what he calls the “Marcos 2.0 regime.”
According to Adonis, the family of Juat was able to contact him around the third week of May, and were told that he and Magbanua were abducted by elements of the Philippine Navy.
“If they have a case against them, then file it in court,” said Adonis in a press conference on Wednesday, July 13. He said Juat has been an activist since martial law in the 1970s and also a claimant in the Human Rights Victims Claims Board.
Adonis also said that Juat was able to visit his family at least three times and told them about the instances of their abduction. “But he was told that he is not totally free and that he has to come back. It was very clear that he said, he’s inside Camp Aguinaldo,” Adonis said in Filipino.
Ruth Mangalalan, longtime partner of Magbanua, said that on May 3, the latter left their house for work and did not come home since then.
“In Ador’s account, he said that they were together in a meeting in Valenzuela City when they were abducted around 7:00 p.m. and took them in a separate vehicle. Ador said he was in Camp Aguinaldo. He asked the whereabouts of Loi but the response (of the captors) is only, ‘Don’t worry about it. She is okay,” said Mangalanan during the press conference.
Mungcal and Pampoza, both staunch land rights advocates, meanwhile were last seen at Winfare Supermarket in Moncada, Tarlac. Pampoza’s children reported that their mother’s Viber account was open until July 5 but the latter had never responded to their messages.
Asaze Galang, daughter of Pampoza, said that prior to her disappearance, she was also red-tagged, had received death threats through text messages, and subjected to surveillance.
Bilet Batralo of the group Desaparecidos meanwhile asked the CHR to help the families find their loved ones in camps and prisons.
Batralo is the sister of missing peace consultant Cesar who was taken by state agents in December 2006.
“We also went through with what they are going through right now. We also asked for due process, to surface our family members and bring them to court if they committed any wrongdoing,” Batralo said, adding that there are pieces of evidence and witnesses that would prove state forces’ involvement in rights violations just like in the cases of missing activist Jonas Burgos as well as the conviction of retired general Jovito Palaparan.
Read: Suspect in abduction of Jonas Burgos identified by witness
Read more about Jonas Burgos in Bulatlat Archive.
Batralo said there are at least 20 cases of enforced disappearance under President Duterte.
Joms Salvador, Gabriela’s secretary general, expressed alarm over what she described as “systematic violation of the rights to security, freedom, and life through extrajudicial arrests” through policies such as the Executive Order No. 70 which created the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict and the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
These, she said, “will doubtlessly continue the climate of repression and suppression.”
“In the past months, as we transition from the Duterte regime to the Marcos 2.0 regime, we have seen many of our fellow women’s rights activists, labor unionists, and community organizers become desaparecidos – victims of enforced disappearance. Why are they abducted? Merely because they work with the people to fight for our democratic rights on jobs, food security, social justice, among others,” Salvador said in a statement.
Adonis also said that there are other cases in other regions but are still hesitant to come public.
Meanwhile, the families of the victims called on state forces to immediately surface their family members.
“Loi was a former factory worker in the 90s and then later on she became an organizer of female workers under Gabriela and later on became an organizer of workers and those living in urban poor communities,” said Managalalan, adding that this has become her work in the past three decades.
“We challenge Marcos Jr. to order state forces to surface them and all victims of enforced disappearance. Scrap the EO 70 which is the root cause of all these rights violations. People like them should not be silenced,” Managalalan said. (RTS, RVO)