Karapatan raises grave concern on rising number of enforced disappearances under Marcos Jr.

Today, we bear witness to environmental defender Eco Dangla’s description of his ordeal, from his ordeal to the torture that he endured. On Sunday, April 28, 2024, we recall the 17th year since activist Jonas Burgos was abducted and the first year after the enforced disappearance of indigenous people’s advocates Dexter Capuyan and Gene Roz Jamil de Jesus.

Enforced disappearances constitute the fastest rising human rights violation under the Marcos Jr. regime. This, despite the existence since 2012 of Republic Act 10353 or the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act.

From the abduction and disappearance of women activists Elgene Mungcal and Ma. Elena Pampoza on July 3, 2022 in Tarlac, just three days into the new presidency, a growing number of cases have been reported within a short span of time.

The abduction of National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultant Ariel Badiang in Bukidnon on February 7, 2023 was followed by the disappearance of five individuals in April of that year. Habal-habal drivers Renel delos Santos and Denald Mialen and their passenger Lyn Grace Martullinas were abducted in Negros Occidental on April 19, 2023. NDFP consultant Rogelio Posadas, who was traveling with Martullinas, was surfaced a day later by the military as an alleged casualty in a supposed armed encounter.

Nine days later, Cordilleran activists Dexter Capuyan and Gene Roz Jamil “Bazoo” de Jesus were abducted on April 28, 2023 in Rizal. They have been missing for almost a year.

Another three activists went missing in September 2023. Peasant organizer Deah Lopez on September 15 in Negros Occidental. The habal-habal driver she hired to transport her was later found dead with evident signs of torture. On September 29, farmers Norman Ortiz and Lee Sudario were seized by men in military uniform from a village in Nueva Ecija.

In November 2023, another two individuals were forcibly disappeared—fisherfolk organizer Mariano Jolongbayan on November 17 in Batangas and peasant organizer Mar Silos on November 29 in Quezon.

This year, on January 25, former campus journalist and trade unionist Nelson Bautista was abducted in Zamboanga Sibugay and has not been heard of since.

Marcos Jr.’s record of enforced disappearances less than two years into his term is already 70% of the total number of victims documented throughout Rodrigo Duterte’s six-year term.

The grim reality of abductions and enforced disappearances in today’s politically repressive landscape are attested to by the harrowing accounts of abduction victims who managed to survive their ordeals.

Activists Eco Dangla and Jak Tiong, who were abducted on March 24, 2024 in San Carlos City, Pangasinan, would have been the 15th and 16th victims of enforced disappearance under the Marcos Jr. regime, had they not been surfaced.

Environmental defenders Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano were likewise abducted on September 2, 2023 in Bataan but secured their freedom by outsmarting their kidnappers during a press conference designed to present them as “surrenderees.”

Earlier, activist couple Dyan Gumanao and Armand Dayoha were abducted as their ship docked in Cebu City on January 10, 2023 and surfaced five days later after being coerced into signing up to become state agents.

Cordilleran activist Steve Tauli suffered a similar ordeal when he was seized, mauled and interrogated by state agents on August 22, 2022 and surfaced a day later, but not before he was forced to sign a document agreeing to become an informer.

As attested to by these abduction survivors, state forces maintain a vast network of secret prisons and places of detention where they can commit torture and other human rights violations with impunity. Many of the desaparecidos may be languishing in these secret prisons that form part of the state’s repressive machinery.

Karapatan denounces the state’s brazen contempt for RA 10353 and demands a stop to the abductions and enforced disappearances of activists, human rights defenders and other dissenters. It calls for the surfacing of all victims of enforced disappearance, justice for all victims of abduction and accountability for all perpetrators of these dastardly acts.