The abductions came 16 years apart but the daughter of two desaparecidos from Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac could not set apart her emotions about the two incidents.
By SINAG JOAQUIN
MANILA — “We haven’t moved on from our father’s disappearance but here we are again, dealing with my mother’s abduction,” Azase Pamposa Galang said as she couldn’t hold back her tears.
Azase, second of three children, was only six years young when her father, Marfel Galang, a peasant organizer was abducted in 2006, two years after the bloody Hacienda Luisita Massacre on November 16, 2004 which killed at least seven farm hands and kept several missing. Farm and sugarcane workers went on strike the same year to call for better wages and the proper implementation of land reform in the 6,453-hectare sugarcane plantation owned and operated by the family of former presidents Corazon and Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Cojuangco-Aquino.
Marfel and Azase’s mother, Ma. Elena, both hail from Hacienda Luisita. Azase said her maternal grandmother often told tales about her mother who started helping organize farm workers in the hacienda as early as when she was in third year high school.
As Azase would recall, her parents and their families were prominent figures in the hacienda before, during and after the strike. ‘People knew my parents,’ she said. This, she added, may have been the reason for their disappearances.
Azase could not recall much of what had happened to her father in contrast to what she knows now of her mother’s disappearance.
It was July 2 when Asaze’s older brother received an SMS from their mother, Ma. Elena, who is commonly known by the peasant and urban poor communities as ‘Cha’ which, Azase said is short for Charo (Santos), the letter reader who gave advice to her letter senders in the famous Filipino drama series aired over ABS CBN, Maalaala Mo Kaya. “People always went to her and she was always willing to listen and help. She was their Charo,” Azase said.
Cha supposedly said through text message that she, together with another peasant organizer Elgene Mungcal, were leaving for Moncada the next day to visit two farmers. That was the last time Asaze and her siblings heard from their mother.
Azase said she and her siblings live with their relatives as their mother was a full-time peasant organizer. They knew of the demands of her work and were used to not being with her often. But it was unusual, Azase said, that Cha would not reply to their calls or messages so when they were trying to get in touch on July 4 and Cha did not respond, Azase and her siblings were certain something was amiss.
To search for their mother, Azase and her siblings together with human rights defenders went to the police station in La Paz, Tarlac to report the incident. They have also reported the matter to the Commission on Human Rights and distributed posters of Cha and Elgene in some communities in Tarlac.
Azase shared that her mother sent feelers on July 13 when her name appeared on a Viber chat indicating that she had ‘seen’ the most recent message. Cha, however, did not reply to the message, Azase said.
Before she was abducted, Cha became a victim of red-tagging, Azase said. She said her mother told her about receiving death threats and felt she was often being tailed. In fact, Azase said there were unidentified persons who visited their maternal grandmother’s house to inquire about Cha’s whereabouts.
A month since her mother’s abduction, Azase posted on her personal Facebook account that she has had her share of harassment. In her post, she said that on August 4, a certain SPO2 Calpito who introduced himself as a police officer from Moncada Police Station, called her around 10:43 a.m. and asked her for updates about her mother. The post added that on the same day at 3:20 p.m., three men who were believed to be policemen from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group went to her maternal grandmother’s house to look for her and her mother. The men also allegedly asked for their birthdays, address, and contact numbers and inquired of Azase’s whereabouts.
While their families and lawyers are still contemplating on filing a writ of Amparo for Cha and Elgene, Azase said her wish is for the CHR to help them find Cha and Elgene who are now collectively known as the Moncada 2 taking after the place where they were last seen. She also wishes that government security and intelligence forces stop red-tagging members of their family.
“I know my Mama and Elgene will not disappear without a reason. The forces behind their abduction should be held accountable. We will continue to search until we find justice for Mama and Elgene,” Azase said.
In a separate Facebook post, Azase described what she feels knowing that her mother had been abducted – sad, disheartened, frightened, enraged. But she needs to speak out, she added. Unlike in 2006 when she was very young to have done anything when her father disappeared, Azase said she is now ready to find justice for her parents. She said she will continue to join fact-finding missions, search and rescue missions, mobilizations and all other actions that can help them find her mother. (RVO)