August 30, 2019
QUEZON CITY – Members of Desaparecidos, an organization of families of the disappeared in the Philippines, wrote letters addressed to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, August 30, 2019. The initiative was in line with the recent passage of the Iceland-led resolution which was adopted by the UN Human Rights Council and tasked the said UN chief to write a comprehensive report on the human rights situation in the country.
“Ang paggunita, pag-alala at ang patuloy nating paglaban ay ang diwang magmamarka ngayong Pandaigdigang Araw ng mga Nawawala. Marami ang gustong makalimot na tayo, marami ang gustong baguhin ang katotohanan, ngunit andito tayo ngayon para magpatotoo sa mga buhay ng ating mga minamahal na sapilitang iwinala ng estado. Sumusulat kami kay UN High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet para umapila na tingnan din niya ang kaso ng mga biktima ng sapilitang pagkawala, at kung papaanong magpasahanggang ngayon ay mailap pa rin ang hustisya.
“(We mark the International Day of the Disappeared as we continue to remember and fight for our loved ones. Many would want us to just forget, many would want to distort the truths, but we remain steadfast in serving witness to the horrible truth that our loved ones were taken away from us by the State. We write to UN High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet to appeal to her that she looks into the plight of the disappeared and as to how justice continues to evade us and our loved ones),” said Erlinda Cadapan, chairperson of Desaparecidos and mother of desaparecido Sherlyn Cadapan.
Sherlyn, along with Karen Empeño, was abducted in 2006 by military men under the command of now retired general Jovito Palparan Jr. Horrendous accounts of Sherlyn and Karen’s detention surfaced after a witness detailed the students’ ordeal. Karen and Sherlyn remain missing, but Palparan and two other military officials were convicted in 2018.
“We are respectfully and directly addressing UN High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet: Activists are still forcibly disappeared. This horror has not stopped, and even if we have isolated victories in court, this does not equate to our loved ones coming home to us. Please investigate the cases of enforced disappearances and also listen to the families of the victims; hear us,” Cadapan stated.
Among the recent cases of enforced disappearances involve a longtime activist and peasant organizer in Central Luzon. Joey Torres Sr. was last seen in Quezon City before he disappeared without a trace on September 22, 2018. The family recounted that prior to his disappearance, uniformed policemen visited the victim in his house in July 2018. Torres’ family went around various military camps in the region to look for Joey Torres, but to no avail. He remains missing as of this writing.
“Our entire family waits for him. We will continue to shout his name, to call for the military to surface him. Joey is an activist, a compassionate individual and a loving father. Only truly heartless men would tear apart families by killings and enforced disappearances. Miss na miss ka na namin, Papa (We miss you, Papa),” Ching Torres appealed. As of June 2019, there are already 10 victims of enforced disappearances under the Duterte government.
Cadapan also hit efforts to whitewash Palparan’s crimes and rehabilitate his image. She likened this to the government’s effort back in February 2019 to delist the 625 victims of enforced disappearance in the Philippines between the years 1975 to 2012 at the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance (UN WGEID).
“UN High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet also survived a dictatorship – that of Chile’s Augusto Pinochet. She was a political prisoner and she has seen the extent of repression that governments are capable of. We humbly ask her to stand alongside us in our fight for remembering, for justice,” added Cadapan.
“Our grieving continues. Yet we are continuously being assaulted by attempts to free those who have been convicted for these truly atrocious crimes. I still think of Sherlyn, and I still remember the details of how she was tortured. I want to know where my daughter is; we want our loved ones surfaced. We appeal to UN High Commissioner Bachelet to talk to us, for the stories of the disappeared will underscore the gravity of the human rights situation in the country,” Cadapan ended.