Families of desaparecidos write letters to Pope Francis

nov152014 plaza miranda
November 2, 2014

MANILA – “Your Holiness, please intercede for us in seeking justice for our disappeared loved ones,” wrote families of desaparecidos to Pope Francis as they gathered at Plaza Miranda on All Souls Day.

As a renewal of vows to seek justice, they lighted candles and offered flowers to remember those who were forcibly abducted and disappeared by state security forces since martial law up to the present.

“It has been the practice of families and relatives of victims of enforced and involuntary disappearances to gather every November 2. Beyond remembering, we come together as a reminder that our loved ones have yet to be surfaced and the state’s policy of enforced disappearances be stopped,” said Desaparecidos secretary general Aya Santos.

It has become more significant as families of desaparecidos gathered to join the nation in awaiting the visit of Pope Francis to the Philippines in January 2015.

Santos explained they have followed and listened to series of statements Pope Francis on justice and human rights. For the families, his visit is an opportune time to voice out the injustice and rights violations in the Philippines.

“Hope springs when on several occasions he made clear his firm stands to defend human rights and in seeking social justice. We turn to the Pope for support because under the current regime of Noynoy Aquino, human rights violations against the people intensify without let up. We stand as testimonies to the gross situation of human rights here,” Santos said.

Santos said there have been 21 victims of abduction under Pres. Aquino and has since added up to the number of desaparecidos since the Marcos dictatorship.

Despite the passage of the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Law, the crime of enforced disappearance continues as a state policy under Oplan Bayanihan, Aquino’s counter-insurgency program. Also, as a DAP recipient program, it uses public funds to abduct, torture and disappear persons. It also uses funds to coddle the likes of butcher Jovito Palparan who is a ‘free man’ at Fort Bonifacio.

“We pray that the good Pope will listen to our plea and stand one with us in calling to stop enforced disappearances in the Philippines. Dear Pope, please heed our call for justice. We cry out to surface all the disappeared, in the Philippines and other parts of the world, such as in Latin America and Argentina, the Pope’s homeland,” said Santos.

Born Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Pope Francis is from Argentina, a nation that also suffered the worst kind of human rights violations under a dictatorial rule in the 1970s. ###

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Brig. Gen. Año kept Elizabeth Principe incommunicado for three days in ISG-PA in 2007

Press Release
April 8, 2013

“Hearing about the recent developments on the case of disappearance of Jonas Burgos reminded me that the person involved in his disappearance is the same person that kept my mother incommunicado for three days in the Intelligence Service Group-Philippine Army,” Lorena P. Santos, secretary general of Families of Desaparecidos  for Justice said referring to Brig. Gen. Eduardo Año, who was then the chief of the ISG-PA. Año is currently the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) chief.images

Santos’ mother, Elizabeth Principe, is a peace consultant for the National Democratic Front of the Philippines who became a political prisoner when she was abducted by elements of the ISG-PA on Nov. 28, 2007. She was just coming out from a clinic in Cubao, Quezon City when she was forced into a van by armed men in plain clothes. This happened eight months after the disappearance of her husband, Leo Velasco, Santos’ father.

“Principe was blindfolded while earphones playing loud music were plugged in her ears, was deprived of sleep, and was continuously interrogated for three straight days,” Santos recalled. It was only on December 1, 2007 that she was surfaced through a press conference at Fort Bonifacio, Taguig. The said press conference was jointly held by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police claiming they have seized a “high ranking officer of the New People’s Army.”

“So I stand with the Burgos family in their call to relieve Brig. Gen. Año as chief of the ISAFP and make him face his accountabilities,” Santos said. “Just like in the case of Jonas, six years after my mother’s abduction, justice is yet to be achieved,” Santos added. Principe faced seven different trumped-up charges and had to languish in jail for almost two years. “But human rights violators need not face any criminal court, spent not one day in jail and worse, are even being promoted to higher ranks,” Santos said.

Reacting on the AFP’s recent statement on the Jonas case, “The AFP does not want ‘closure’, it wants this case and other cases of human rights violations to be a ‘case closed’ matter – never to be dug up again so that stench of blood will not smell,” Santos concluded. ###

Lorena P. Santos, Secretary General
Contact Number: 09229393824

‘Too little, too late’

‘Too little, too late’

Hike in bounty for Palparan, other fugitives draws flak


CITY OF SAN FERNANDO—Empty tokenism.

Human rights lawyer Edre Olalia has regarded President Aquino’s doubling of reward for the capture of retired Army major general Jovito Palparan Jr. in this light.

Retired Major General Jovito Palparan now finds himself on the other side of the fence as the once hunter is now the hunted after a warrant for his arrest was issued by a local court for his supposed role in the alleged abduction of two student activists in 2006. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

“At first blush, it seems to be a positive step and should be welcomed by everyone desperate to see that justice is done. But ultimately, it is not key or decisive,” said Olalia, counsel of the parents of missing University of the Philippines students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan, who were abducted in Bulacan in 2006.

“The amount and the move are still too little and too late and are empty tokenism especially with the continuing killings, disappearances and other rights violations and impunity,” Olalia said.

“As long as he is coddled by people who sympathize with his warped sense of duty and right and as long as P-Noy desists and defaults from clear, strong and decisive use of his broad and extensive powers and resources to seriously and doggedly run against rights violators, Palparan will continue to thumb his nose while playing golf.”

The families of the abducted students also said the increase in the bounty was useless.

“They do not need to raise the reward. What they need is to arrest him immediately,” Erlinda Cadapan, mother of Sherlyn, said.

Concepcion Empeño, mother of Karen, echoed the sentiment.

“If Malacañang said they are not happy that the fugitives have not been arrested, we are all the more dismayed. However, we think that the raise in the bounty is useless if they will not look for them. What they should do is to exert all efforts to genuinely look for them,” Empeño said.

Lawyer Ricardo Diaz, director of the National Bureau of Investigation in Central Luzon, said the seven-month search for Palparan, dubbed by activists as “butcher,” had yielded negative results.

A lot of money

Diaz said the P2 million “is a lot of money and would encourage informants to come out.” “Hopefully we will receive new information to work on. Please tell people to contact us. We will drop everything to work on leads they will provide. We will protect their identities,” he said.

Two of Palparan’s coaccused, Lt. Col. Felipe Anotado and S/Sgt. Edgardo Osorio, are detained at Fort Bonifacio. Another soldier, M/Sgt. Rizal Hilario, remains at large.

Housing developer Delfin Lee is also the subject of Malacañang’s bounty, but his lawyer, Willie Rivera, said it was an “inappropriate” response from President Aquino.