Families of desaparecidos mark international day of the missing

Maui A. Hermitanio | Philippine Online Chronicles

As the world commemorates the International Day of the Disappeared, families of desaparecidos and human rights groups marched to Plaza Miranda to call on President Benigno Aquino III to “stop enforced disappearances and to demand justice for all those who disappeared since Martial Law”.

According to human rights group Karapatan, “disappearances have continued to this day, with 11 victims under the Aquino administration.”

The government’s counter-insurgency program, Oplan Bayanihan is regarded as the culprit of unabated human rights violations and rising cases of enforced disappearances in the country.

“We hold the Aquino government responsible for all the disappearances that happened under his regime. We also hold the government answerable to the continuing impunity and injustice such as the continuing disappearance of many victims and the non-arrest of the Ret. Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr.,” said Lorena Santos, Deputy Secretary General of Karapatan.

In Negros Occidental, four farmers already became victims of enforced disappearances namely Jully Devero, Michael Celeste, Gerard Abale and Novito Gabriel. Another farmer from Quezon, Felix Balaston is still missing up to this day. Balaston was allegedly abducted by suspected state security forces on March 27, 2011 and believed to be detained at the 85th Infantry Batallion detachment in San Miguel Dao, Lopez, Quezon.

The groups also challenged the Chief Executive to sign into law the long-pending legislation criminalizing the act of enforced or involuntary disappearances and penalizing state security forces and government officials involved in the perpetuation of such violations.

House Bill 98, the consolidated bill titled “An Act Defining and Penalizing Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance and for Other Purposes was passed on third and final reading by the Lower House last March 21, 2012. The measure is scheduled for bicameral deliberation by the Lower House and the Senate.

The solidarity campaign for victims of enforced disappearances has also spread to social networking sites. Karapatan posted an appeal on its Facebook page asking netizens to take down profile picture “in solidarity with the friends and family of the missing from the Martial Law days up to the present, who continue to seek justice.”

From 2001 to June 2010 under the administration of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, there were at least 206 documented cases of enforced disappearances. Among the victims are Jonas Burgos who had been missing since April 2007, University of the Philippines (UP) students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno, Luisa Posa-Dominado and Nilo Arado.

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