Karapatan Statement on the International Week of the Disappeared

As the world observes the International Week of the Disappeared this last week of May 2023, we remember the countless victims of this grave injustice who have been arrested, detained, abducted, or forcibly deprived of liberty through other means, often by state agents or state-sanctioned entities. The victims are not surfaced, thus leaving families in agonizing uncertainty.

In the Philippines, there is an unending stream of statistics showing that enforced disappearances have long formed part of the country’s politically repressive landscape. One estimate puts the number of victims of enforced disappearance under Ferdinand Marcos Sr.’s dictatorship at 926.

Karapatan has documented 206 missing under Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s nine-year rule, 29 under the Benigno Aquino III regime and 20 under Duterte. Still another statistic identifies the Philippines as one of the 26 countries worldwide with the highest number of cases of enforced disappearances from 1980 to 2009, with as many as 780 documented instances, surpassing countries like Iran (532), Lebanon (320) and Honduras (207).

This, in a country that has seen the enactment of the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act since 2012.

Despite such a law, enforced disappearances have, in fact, emerged as a troubling hallmark of the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. regime, with a growing number of cases reported within a short span of time. In a mere 10-month period, there have been nine victims of enforced disappearances under the current regime, already constituting 45% of the Duterte regime’s six-year record of 20 cases. Five of the nine victims went missing in the month of April 2023.

The rapid increase in such incidents bodes ill for the already deteriorating human rights situation in the country.

Enforced disappearances, by their very nature, constitute crimes against humanity. They are tools of political repression and mass terror, inflicting immeasurable pain and suffering on families, who are left in a perpetual state of anguish and uncertainty, desperately seeking answers and the return of their loved ones. They violate the most fundamental human rights and are an affront to the principles of justice and dignity.

The perpetrators of enforced disappearances are complacent with the thought that society at large eventually forgets the victims. But for as long as human rights defenders here and abroad stand in solidarity with the victims and their families, they will not be forgotten, and the struggle to put an end to enforced disappearances, ensure justice for the victims, and hold the perpetrators accountable will continue.

Surface the nine victims of enforced disappearance under the Marcos regime!

Elgene Mungcal and Ma. Elene Pampoza
Date of incident: July 3, 2022
Place of incident: Anao, Tarlac

Ariel Badiang
Date of incident: February 7, 2023
Place of incident: Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon

Leonardo Sermona Jr.
Date of incident: March 16, 2023
Place of incident: Barangay Bi-Ao, Binalbagan, Negros Occidental

Renel Delos Santos, Denald Laloy Mialen, and Lyn Grace Martullinas
Date of incident: April 19, 2023
Place of incident: Aranda-La Castellana road, Hinigaran, Negros Occidental

Dexter Capuyan and Gene Roz Jamil De Jesus
Date of incident: April 28, 2023
Place of incident: Diamond West cor. Zircon Sts., Golden City Subd., Brgy. Dolores, Taytay, Rizal

Surface all victims of enforced disappearance!