Karapatan hits pattern of abduction, coercion of activists and civilians under Marcos Jr. and Duterte admins

As families of union organizers Dyan Gumanao and Armand Dahoya welcomed them back yesterday, January 16, 2023, six days after their abduction at the Pier 6 in Cebu City, Karapatan Central Visayas released a video sent by a concerned citizen showing at least four men pushing and hauling Gumanao and Dahoya onboard a grey vehicle on the morning of January 10.

The said video was initially uploaded by Tug-ani, the UP Cebu student publication on their Facebook page: https://fb.watch/i4HRGQwraM/?mibextid=v7YzmG

Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said that “the actions of the couple’s captors in the video indicate their stark brazenness in abducting people in broad daylight, where numerous witnesses are present.”

“Walang takot sa pananagutan (no fear for accountability) – this is most apparent in the video. Who would have such brazen arrogance and brutality, as well as the motives, directives and means to do such acts, if not those who are in positions of power in government? The Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines and ports authorities should be made answerable for their lack of immediate action and seeming complicity in the abduction of Gumanao and Dahoya,” she continued.

Karapatan Central Visayas and the couple’s families had pointed out in statements and in the press conference yesterday that there were no immediate known actions undertaken by the said authorities, despite their pleas and requests since January 13. “To this day, a week after the two were abducted, the authorities, including the local government, have not spoken regarding the matter. Are they deliberately brushing this aside to save their own skin?” Palabay stated.

Karapatan said that such patterns of enforced disappearances are increasingly observed, as the rights group documented 20 victims of enforced disappearances under Duterte and while two have been documented under Marcos Jr., despite the existence of Republic Act No. 10353 or the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Act. Under the Marcos administration, activists Elgene Mungcal and Ma. Elena Cortez Pampoza remain missing, since their last contact with families and co-workers on July 3, 2022, while in Tarlac.

Accounts of those abducted and surfaced in the recent years indicate the common patterns, among others:

  • the survivor-victims are activists, who had previously been red-tagged and had been subjects of surveillance, threats and other forms of harassment by State forces;
  • their captors, in civilian clothes, had introduced and indicated to them that they are either police, soldiers or NTF-ELCAC officers;
  • the survivor-victims were blindfolded, manhandled, brought onboard vehicles and to places surmised by the victims as either safehouses or camps;
  • the captors used psychological torture, threatening further harm on them and their families if they do not “cooperate” with government and turn on their “communist” comrades; and
  • the survivor-victims were told and coerced to abide by their captors’ storylines, if they want to get back to their families alive.

Cordillera People’s Alliance Regional Council member Steve Tauli had this sordid experience when he was abducted on August 20, 2022 in Appas, Tabuk City in Kalinga, until he was surfaced on August 22, after his family and colleagues pressured military and police authorities in the region. While in their custody, he was lectured on the mission and achievements of the NTF-ELCAC, told to work with his captors in identifying leaders of the CPP-NPA, forced to sign statements, and threatened with harm if he publicly reports on his abduction. One man spoke in Ilocano, while the rest spoke in Tagalog. Months after, men onboard a motorcycle passed by the place where Tauli was staying and dropped a note saying he should contact them.

Young peasant activist and cultural worker Jonathan Mercado from Lupang Ramos in Dasmarinas, Cavite was also abducted by suspected military personnel on the morning of March 10, 2022 and purportedly brought to a safehouse in a community in a nearby province, and then brought back to Lupang Ramos on the night of the same day, after being heavily interrogated and threatened. A tracking device was put on his ankle by his captors who told him that they needed to know where he would go.

A young urban poor activist from Pandi, Bulacan was abducted by four men in a mall in San Jose and was forced into a vehicle on the night of October 25, 2020. He was brought to a hut in an isolated farm area, with one of his captors introducing himself as a soldier of the 48th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army. He was accused of being an NPA member, told to identify Kadamay leaders and forced to be recruited as an asset of the military. Out of fear, he agreed to be their asset, was given money and told to regularly report on his assignment. After four days, he was brought back to his community.

“Thousands of civilians had been forced to appear as combatant surrenderees. These gross violations on the right to due process, against torture and enforced disappearance should never be an acceptable State policy and practice. We are indignant on the brazenness of State forces in undertaking these gruesome forms of torture, and this climate of impunity should end. We call on the public to decry these policies and practices and demand accountability from the current Marcos Jr. government,” Palabay ended.