Another victim adds up to the list of desaparecidos under Marcos Jr.

“Thirty eight years after the fall of the Marcos Sr. dictatorship, the dictator’s son, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and his state security forces, continue the act of abduction and enforced disappearance,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay, as they demand to surface another victim of enforced disappearance in Sto. Tomas, Batangas.

Closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras caught on video the abduction of Jose Maria Estiller by at least five men in plain clothes at around five in the afternoon of February 20 in Brgy. San Pedro, Sto. Tomas, Batangas. He was seen walking towards their rented apartment carrying a small plastic bag, when one of the men grabbed him in the torso from the back. Another man handcuffed him, while another was seen carrying a gun.

“The brazenness of state forces to abduct persons in broad daylight, despite the presence of CCTV cameras, witnesses, and a law against one of the worst human rights violations, only goes to show that enforced disappearance is a state-sanctioned act under this regime,” Palabay said.

Jose Maria is the older brother of a former political prisoner, Jean Estiller, leader of women’s peasant group Amihan in the province of Sorsogon.

According to Jean, the security guard of the subdivision called the Sto. Tomas police station to report the abduction. The police arrived at around 6:00 in the evening, and invited Jean to the police precinct to report the incident. At the precinct, they revealed to Jean data on the computer that she was included in an arrest warrant.

Jean, however, told the police that cases against her were already dismissed. In fact, she had been detained in 2022 at the Sorsogon District Jail due to trumped-up charges of attempted homicide and murder according to Karapatan Sorsogon. She was released on November 22, 2023.

Karapatan’s regional chapter in Sorsogon said that the abduction was the result of the combined forces of the Philippine Army’s 22nd Infantry Battalion, 59th Infantry Battalion, and the Sto. Tomas PNP Batangas.

“This is the dirty work of state forces who want to pin down Jean, that they will not think twice even if it would mean wronging other members of her family, just to sow harassment and fear. The police should have helped Jean find her brother, and yet what they did was to implicate her in what was already a defunct charge. Are they implying that the abduction is justified? The involvement of the police and the military is very apparent here,” said Palabay.

Karapatan Sorsogon further said that in the CCTV footage, an identified former member of NPA-Sorsogon, Jimmy Dela Torre, was among the five men who abducted Jose Maria. Dela Torre is said to be already working with the 22nd IBPA to sow violence and threats.

Karapatan demands that state forces surface Jose Maria, especially that his sister revealed that his health is at risk, and is scheduled to undergo treatment for serious illnesses such as high blood pressure, diabetes, high uric acid and kidney stones.

Palabay recalled the case of Elena Tijamo, a development worker in Cebu who was abducted in June 2020 in Bantayan island. A year later, Tijamo was later found in a hospital in Manila, reportedly brought there by her abductors for treatment of an illness, but eventually died. It was already too late for her family.

“State security forces should surface Jose Maria, let his family have access to him and attend to his needs. They should release him because keeping him in their custody and being held incommunicado, without any charges against him, constitutes grave violations of his rights,” said Palabay. #