DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Families of Desaparecidos have made an appeal to the United Nation (UN), particularly to the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (UN-WGEID) to keep open the 625 cases and look into more cases which have not been reported to the body.
The appeal was made after the Philippine government, under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte moved to delist the 625 cases of enforced disappearances previously reported to the UN.
“We appeal to the UN to raise to the Duterte government how it has perpetuated enforced disappearances by looking into the cases of enforced disappearances under the current administration, and how it has broken existing laws by covering up for such,” said Cristina Guevarra, secretary general of Desaparecidos in a statement.
Guevarra emphasized that enforced disappearances continue to happen today despite the enactment of laws that are supposed to protect persons from abduction and disappearance.
She described cases of enforced disappearances under the present administration as “more alarming and compelling.”
“The Duterte government should not be believed in its claims that the mere presence of so-called legal mechanisms, or even recognition, is equivalent to providing space for respite for the victims. This move of delisting desaparecidos is a malicious scheme to hide its own crimes of disappearances and impunity,” Guevarra said.
It has been 40 years from the time of the Marcos dictatorship up to the present but victims remain uncertain of the whereabouts of their loved ones, alive or dead, she added.
On the other hand, Sherlyn Cadapan, chairperson of Desaparecidos pointed out that no state agent has been convicted and punished for carrying out enforced disappearances despite the passage of the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Law.
“Even the conviction of retired Army general Jovito Palparan was not because of the Duterte government’s adherence to existing ‘legal framework and institutional mechanisms.’ It was the families of desaparecidos who endured every difficult step to pursue the perpetrators,” Cadapan said.
She added that Palparan is yet to be punished by virtue of the RA 10353, or the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Law.
Palparan was sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of kidnapping with serious illegal detention on the abduction and disappearance of two University of the Philippines students in 2006.
She also criticized the grounds that the Duterte government manifested in its move to delist the 625 cases of forced disappearances in the country, particularly on the compensation given to the kin of the victims.
“Does the monetary compensation for martial law victims that victims received brought back our missing loved ones? Compensation and recognition is partial justice, for rights violation victims stood firm that the passage of the law indemnifying martial law victims is history in writing that there were rights violations perpetrated by the state during the dark days of the dictatorship. What then is the motive of the Philippine government now, that after the recognition, they want our loved ones who were disappeared to be erased from official international records, and even from the nation’s memory?” Cadapan explained.
Desaparecidos said that in rejecting the delisting, the UN WGEID should see that in the cases of enforced disappearances in the Philippines, the Duterte government is maintaining the pattern of silencing dissenters while using abduction as a way to sow a reign of fear in the country.
“The UN should ask the Duterte government, if it is dead serious in stopping enforced disappearances, they why are they giving the families a hard time in searching their camps, denying us of any information about the victims, while they continuously vilify our loved ones, tagging them as enemies of the state and calling them by many names? Why do we continue to ask to this day, where are our loved ones?” Cadapan added.
The Philippine government, through its official delegation in a meeting with UN WGEID last week has formally moved for the delisting of the 625 cases of forced disappearances in the country that occurred from the year 1975 to 2012.
“What the Philippine government will not tell the UN is that our families continue to search for the hundreds, if not thousands of desaparecidos. The painful truth that enforced disappearances also continue to this day is a glaring basis for the UN WGEID to reject the Duterte government’s act of covering up the truth,” Cadapan noted.
She said Desaparecidos will raise to the UN the recent cases of enforced disappearances which have not been reported by the government to the body. (Princess Regina Clamohoy, HCDC intern/davaotoday.com)