DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Human rights group Karapatan-Southern Mindanao Region (Karapatan-SMR) demanded the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to immediately surface its former secretary general, Honey May Suazo.
“Given Suazo’s background and the widespread targeting of activists, we hold the AFP accountable on Honey May’s disappearance,” Jay Apiag, Karapatan-SMR secretary general, said in a statement Saturday (Nov.9).
Suazo, who served as Karapatan’s secretary general from 2011-2016, remains missing as of this writing. She was last seen on November 2.
“Honey May has been with Karapatan for five years. In that period, she was subjected to multiple threats and malicious accusations peddled by the military,” Apiag said.
Suazo left the human rights organization almost two years ago. But it seems, according to Apiag, she remains a target of the military.
“If her past experiences of continuous harassment are indicative of anything, it is that Honey May is still facing reprisal for her work as a human rights defender,” Apiag said.
Missing since All Soul’s Day
Based on Karapatan’s initial findings, Suazo and her partner, Anelo Pabuaya, visited her relative’s grave in Panabo City on the morning of November 2. Afterwards, they went to a friend’s house at Brgy. New Site Gredu.
At around 3 PM the same day, Suazo decided to go ahead of her partner and return home to Davao City. A few minutes later, she called Pabuaya and asked him to fetch her along Panabo City Hall. She was not able to ride a bus.
Suazo made a second call to Pabuaya and asked him to immediately fetch her after noticing she was being tailed by a pick-up truck.
Pabuaya had advised Suazo to go to the nearest police station. But he didn’t find her there. By that time, Suazo’s phone numbers cannot be contacted.
Crackdown vs activists, people’s organizations
Suazo’s disappearance happened amid the intensifying crackdown on activists and legitimate people’s organizations in the country, Karapatan-SMR said.
“With martial law in Mindanao, the repressive machinations led by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, and the implementation of counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapanatagan, attacks against activists like Honey May have become more commonplace, justified by false allegations and smear campaigns,” Apiag said.
Two days after Suazo was last seen, labor leader and former political prisoner Reynaldo Malaborbor was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in front of his house in Cabuyao, Laguna.
A day after (Nov. 5), the office of Bayan Manila was raided at 1 AM where three activists were arrested.
On Oct. 31, at least 57 persons, including minors, were arrested in a simultaneous raid by government forces in the offices of Bayan, Bayan Muna, Kilusang Mayo Uno, Karapatan, Gabriela, the National Federation of Sugar Workers, and the Negros Island Health Integrated Program; and in the residences of leaders in Manila and Bacolod.
The military in the region, meanwhile, has denied any involvement to Suazo’s disappearance.
Captain Jerry Lamosao, spokesperson of the 10th Infantry Division said it is only another allegation to discredit the government.
“Let Karapatan file a case, let them follow the due process and rule of law,” he challenged.
Last April, Suazo was accused by Major General Antonio Parlade Jr., AFP Deputy Chief of Staff for Civil Military Operations, as having links to the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (NPA).
Suazo, a paralegal worker, served as a bondsman in behalf of the family of NPA leader Zaldy “Ka Jinggoy” Cañete. Ka Jinggoy was wounded and arrested in 2010.
In April this year, Suazo’s name and photograph was reported to be appended in posters hanged in cities like Butuan and Surigao, accusing her as a terrorist.
“Regardless of what the military is trying to insinuate, assisting families of combatants, including hors de combat, is not illegal or condemnable. They can double check with the IHL provisions or go to the database and briefers provided by the International Committee of the Red Cross if they need a refresher,” Apiag said. (davaotoday.com)