Families ask Arroyo to account for missing kin

Jun. 04, 2007

Since President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo assumed power in January 2001, 196 Filipinos have become victims of enforced disappearances or politically motivated abductions.

Human Rights Watch
Vol. VII, No. 17, June 3-9, 2007

As the world observes the International Week of the Disappeared, families of those who were abducted continue their call for the Arroyo administration to surface their loved ones.

In a news conference in Quezon City organized by Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of Peoples Rights) last May 28, they held the Arroyo administration responsible for the cases of enforced disappearances.

Since President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo assumed power in January 2001, 196 Filipinos have become victims of enforced disappearances. The most recent is the abduction of Berlin Guerrero, 40, former Bayan-Southern Tagalog chairperson, on May 27 and currently a Pastor of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP),

Guerrero was brought the following day by his alleged military abductors to a police detention jail in Imus, Cavite, south of Manila, apparently as news spread about his abduction. He named military agents as his abductors and held President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo responsible for his abduction and torture.

But several others were not as lucky. More than a month ago, Jonas Burgos, an agriculturist and son of the late press freedom icon Jose Burgos, Jr., was seized April 28 at the Ever Gotesco mall in Quezon City allegedly by military agents. He has not surfaced as of this writing. Reacting to pressures, Malacaang has promised to help locate him.

At the news conference, JL Burgos, brother of Jonas Burgos, said that his family had hoped that Jonas would be the last victim of abduction so that no other family can feel the pain that his family is experiencing. JL Burgos fears, however, with the abduction of Guerrero and the upcoming implementation of the Anti-Terror Law, dubbed Human Security Act, in July, that the number of abductions will increase.

Among those still missing are Karen Empeo and Sherlyn Cadapan, two University of the Philippines (UP)- Diliman students and volunteers of the Alyansa ng Magbubukid ng Bulacan (AMB or Alliance of Farmers in Bulacan). The two were abducted together with farmer Manuel Merino night of June 26, 2006 in Hagonoy, Bulacan, north of Manila. Several witnesses have pointed to the military as the suspects. Acting on a petition for habeas corpus last year, a court has asked military authorities to bring the two students to court, to no avail.

Erlinda Cadapan, mother of Sherlyn, appealed to the military to surface her daughter and other victims of abduction. Erlinda said that she knows that her daughter is suffering from the hands of the military and that, as a mother, she pleads to the military to surface her daughter in court.

Last April, several witnesses testified that Sherlyn was seen inside a military camp in Nueva Ecija.

Since her daughters abduction, Erlinda rarely goes home anymore. She is being assisted by church organizations and human rights and other cause-oriented groups like Karapatan, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance) and the UCCP as she goes to court, military camps and press conferences in the search for her daughter.

Erlinda believes that the growing number of abductions in the country is planned and ordered by the government. (See table below)

Foreign governments, human rights watchdogs and church institutions throughout the world have called for an end to the abductions, extra-judicial killings and other forms of human rights violations. They have also called on the Arroyo administration to sign and ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances. Bulatlat

Click here to view the table of data on enforced disappearances

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