Families of desaparecidos call to surface missing peace consultant Edwin Alcid, support calls to resume peace talks

Photo by Carlo Manalansan/Bulatlat

Rights group Desaparecidos (Families of the Disappeared for Justice) called to surface National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Edwin Alcid, and supported the calls to resume the peace talks, just a few months before the country elects a new president in the May 2022 elections.

“We call to surface disappeared peace consultant Edwin Alcid, and extend support to his family as they face this difficult ordeal of searching for their loved ones. As families of the disappeared who have been in the same situation for many years, if not decades, we also appeal to whoever has knowledge about the disappearance of Alcid to help his family find him,” said Desaparecidos vice-chairperson Isabel Batralo.

According to reports gathered by rights group Karapatan, Alcid and two farmers were reportedly accosted by military personnel last March 8 in Catubig, Northern Samar. Alcid has not been located yet.

Last week, Karapatan received reports that another NDFP peace consultant Ezequiel Daguman,50, and his companion have been missing since the afternoon of March 7 while they were en route to a peasant community in one of the banana plantations in New Corella, Davao del Norte to look into the situation of workers and farmers in the area. Yesterday, March 30, 2022, news reports quoted police and military officials in Region 11 on their statements regarding Daguman being killed in an alleged encounter together with two individuals. Daguman’s family has been able to identify his body.

Batralo decried Daguman’s case as similar to that of other peace consultants who were reportedly captured alive like Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos and Pedro Codaste, and then ended up killed while in the custody of the military.

“We are in agony and rage that just a few months before the country elects a new president in May 2022, the mad dogs of the Duterte regime continue to attack and steal from us loving sons and daughters, parents to their children, Filipinos who do service to their country. We can only hold accountable the armed forces commander-in-chief Duterte and his forces in the abductions and other rights violations, when the people are already wanting for his term to end,” Batralo exclaimed.

Batralo said it remains a pain for families of desaparecidos that laws and measures have been passed in the Philippines to seek justice and help in the search for victims, yet more fall victims to enforced disappearances. These include the law criminalizing enforced disappearance, the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Law, the Anti-Torture Law, and the writ of amparo, a legal remedy to seek protection for persons whose life and security are under threat.

In the six years of Duterte, Karapatan has documented 19 victims of enforced disappearances.

“19 is never a small number, because it adds up to the hundreds, if not thousands, who remain missing to this day, including those disappeared since Marcos’s martial law, and those who were abducted and remain missing under the succeeding regimes up to Duterte. As long as they remain missing, Duterte cannot escape accountability for allowing their disappearances to continue, and without justice,” Batralo explained.

Batralo, sister to missing NDF consultant Cesar Batralo (abducted and missing since December 21, 2006 in the province of Rizal), also scored the continuous violation of the Duterte regime to mutually signed agreements, like the Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) and the Joint Agreement on Safety Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).

“With these agreements, and with or without peace talks, the rights of our loved ones and that of the people should be upheld at all times. With this, it is important that the next president will hold Duterte accountable immediately as soon as he steps down in office,” said Batralo.

JASIG remains in effect at present, despite the suspension of formal talks between the Philippine government and the NDFP. Under JASIG, peace consultants and peace panel members should be immune from arrests, detention, and harassment.

Meanwhile, Desaparecidos welcomed Vice President Leni Robredo’s commitment to continue the peace talks between the government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front if she is elected president in the May 2022 elections.

“Amidst the red-tagging and continuous attacks against the people, we hope that VP Robredo will stand by her commitments to the resumption of the peace talks, to rights of the people, and in seeking justice for victims of human rights abuses. As our loved ones remain missing, from Marcos to Duterte, all the more that we need a president who will not perpetuate the abuses of the previous regimes, and continue to deny accountability and justice for us victims and the rest of the people,” Batralo ended.