The online news portal of TV5
MANILA, Philippines -- As they continue the search for their missing loved ones, families of victims of enforced disappearances asked President Benigno Aquino III what he has done about their plight.
There are eight cases of enforced disappearances in Aquino's first year in office. There were 206 cases during the term of his predecessor President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, according to the human rights groups Karapatan.
"What have you done for our missing loved ones?” said Mary Guy Portajada, secretary general of the Families of the Disappeared for Justice (Desaparecidos) on Tuesday as they commemorate the International Day of the Disappeared.
Desaparecidos, Karapatan, and human rights advocates held an activity in front of Ever Gotesco Mall on Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City, where activist Jonas Burgos was abducted by alleged military men on April 28, 2007.
The groups carried banners with the message, "Mag-ingat sa Mandurukot: Dito dinukot ng mga militar si Jonas Burgos." (Beware of abductors: Jonas Burgos was abducted here by the military.)
Burgos is an activist teaching organic farming among peasants in Bulacan. He is still missing. A certain Major Harry Baliaga of the Armed Forces of the Philippines has been implicated in his abduction.
"This sign is a reminder to the public, that disappearances continue to happen, and that one can never be to sure of their own safety even under the PNoy administration,” Portajada said.
The group expressed their alarm over the continuing incidence of enforced disappearances over the past year.
“The persistence of this practice and the continuing reports of disappearances under the present regime, have diminished our faith of achieving justice for our loved ones under PNoy’s leadership.” Portajada said.
She said incidence of enforced disappearance will continue as long as the government persists on carrying out its anti-insurgency program under Oplan Bayanihan.
“No amount of repackaging can change the fact that anti-insurgency programs such as Oplan Bayanihan are designed to pacify and neutralize those who pose a threat to so-called government development programs. The state through its Armed Forces of the Philippines will continue to use whatever means it can to silence its critics,” Portajada said.
Karapatan called on the Aquino administration to hasten the passage of the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Bill that will criminalize the brutal act.
It also urged the government to immediately ratify the United Nations
International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which outlines the responsibilities of state parties in protecting its citizens from such crime.
Among those who disappeared during the Aquino administration were Agustito Ladero and Renato Deliguer, farmers in Surigao del Sur; Alfredo Bucal, a tricycle driver, and his passenger Tomas Sayto, in Batangas; Michael Celeste, Gerald Abale, and Jully Devero who are members of a peasant organization in EB Magalona, Negros Occidental.