Bishop Calang on abductions: ‘We cannot allow the tragedy of silence to continue to befall us’

Jun. 08, 2007

Three Peoples, One Against Repression Coalition

Press Statement
June 7, 2007

Surface Gilbert Rey Cardio now!

It is ironic that the abduction of Gilbert Rey Cardio, Bayan Muna coordinator of Socsksargen, happened after the observance of the International Week of the Disappeared (May 26 to June 1).

Jing, as friends would call him, was abducted around 10 in the morning of June 6 in Koronadal City, South Cotabato. Reports from the group Karapatan said that witnesses saw five men dragged Cardio into a white L-300 van with no license plate. Witnesses said the men were well-built and trimmed-hair; and one was wearing a black long-sleeved shirt with police printed in the back.

Jing is 27 years old, and still at the prime of his life committed to service for the people. He is in fact, the youngest council member of the Bayan Muna national council.

More than the irony of Cardios fate is the tragedy that befell not only on him and his family, but for the nation as well. For this tells of the horrible state of human rights and the repression of political rights in the country.

A total of 198 persons have disappeared since 2001, the year Gloria Arroyo assumed power. The disappeared are not only activists, but they include peasants, Moro people, and the poor who have been victims of the states counter-insurgency and anti-terror campaigns.

This includes the couple Nelly and Federico Intise who were last seen on October 23, 2006 in General Santos City, which is an hours ride away from Koronadal where Cardio was abducted.

This also includes Rahman Camile and Sabdurah Ala, Moro people who were abducted right from their homes by armed men in the height of the states anti-terror drives.

The main culprit here is the governments campaign that is Operation Bantay Laya, an operation that neutralizes party lists and activists in the cities and provinces in their claim that these are communist fronts. The operations consist of surveillance, interrogations, psychological operations, propaganda, enforced disappearances and summary executions.

It clearly includes silencing the people. And that is the most telling part, where the state forces decide to take matters upon themselves and play judge, jury and executioner. It is doing so with impunity, without fear of accountability, and in full view of the international community that has repeatedly condemned the countrys darkening human rights record.

We cannot allow the tragedy of silence to continue to befall us. Accountability must be made by the government for the spate of disappearances. Ultimate accountability rests on President Arroyo who, until now, has not shown any decisiveness in curbing the spate of killings and enforced disappearances. The continued refusal of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to appear before the Commission on Human Rights hearings on the disappearance of Jonas Burgos bodes ill for the principle of civilian supremacy over the military. That Gilbert Rey Cardio has now disappeared in the midst of the still-unsolved Burgos abduction is sheer impunity.

The right to life must be upheld. We condemn the abduction of Gilbert Rey Cardio. We demand government to surface him and return him to his waiting family, relatives, and colleagues, NOW!

Bishop Felixberto Calang
Cell #09189294244

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