Families of Lee Sudario and Norman Ortiz call to surface their kin

October 11, 2023 | Karapatan Central Luzon

The families of Lee Sudario, 34, and Norman Ortiz, 25, together with human rights organization Karapatan, called to surface their loved ones, the latest names in the fast-growing roster of abductions by suspected State agents.

On September 28, 2023, Norman Ortiz informed his sister that he will be going to Gabaldon, Nueva Ecija. He then sent a message to his sister at around 1:00 AM of September 29, informing her that he is with Lee Sudario, and that he would message her later when they leave Brgy. Bantug, Gabaldon, Nueva Ecija. This would be Norman’s last communication with his family.

According to witnesses’ accounts in the said barangay, between 1:00 to 2:00 AM of September 29, they were startled by the unusually loud barking of dogs.

They recounted seeing two individuals, who matched the descriptions of Norman and Lee, who were forcefully taken into a van by at least 10 armed men in military fatigue uniforms. One of the victims even attempted to flee to a nearby cemetery but was caught and dragged back to a waiting van.

On November 2022, Lee Sudario’s name was mentioned as one of alleged NPA members charged by the CIDG with violation of the Anti-Terror Law and Philippine Act on Crimes Against IHL, Genocide and Other Crimes Against Humanity. Lee and his family in Aurora province are also constantly harassed and visited by state agents.

Meanwhile, Norman and his family have experienced the same threats and intimidation from the military. Since 2020, soldiers have frequently visited their family residence in Nueva Ecija, asking for Norman’s whereabouts.

Norman and Lee were abducted weeks after the abduction of environmental activists Jhed Tamano and Jonila Castro in Orion, Bataan.

“Sana gaya ng kina Jhed at Jonila, ilabas din (nila) si kuya. Nag-aalala kami baka pinahihirapan siya, nag-aalala kami kung ligtas siya, kung buhay pa ba siya…” laments Nica Ortiz, younger sister of Norman.

Both families of Norman and Lee expressed deep concern for the safety and well-being of the two. Karapatan Central Luzon firmly reminds the government of its obligation to uphold and guarantee the utmost respect for international humanitarian law under any circumstances.

“Maliwanag sa Geneva Conventions ng 1949 at mga kaakibat nitong Protocols, sa sariling batas ng bansa na Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, at kahit sa Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law o CARHRIHL, ang obligasyon ng estado (The obligation of the state is clear under the Geneva Conventions of 1949, the Philippine Act on Crimes Against IHL, and even under the CARHRIHL),” Boy Cadano, Karapatan Central Luzon spokeperson, firmly stressed.

Yesterday, the victims’ relatives asked the help of the Commission on Human Rights in Quezon City to search for their missing kin.