Kin of desaparecidos strengthen call to surface loved ones, vow to continue demand for justice

In commemoration of the International Day of the Disappeared today, August 30, families and friends of victims of enforced disappearance under Desaparecidos (Families of the Disappeared for Justice) and advocates from the Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law (CARMMA) and Karapatan gathered at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani to renew their call to surface the 1,900 desaparecidos, from the Marcos dictatorship to the Duterte administration.

The group also decried the first case of abduction and enforced disappearance under the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. administration involving women’s rights advocate Elgene Mungcal and Anakpawis organizer Maria Elena Pampoza. The two activists were believed to be taken by suspected State agents in Moncada, Tarlac on July 3, 2022, three days after Marcos Jr. was inaugurated as president. 

“From Ferdinand Marcos Sr.’s bloody martial rule to his son’s current regime, hundreds of people – farmers, workers, activists, human rights defenders, among others – were forcibly taken and disappeared by state forces in their attempts to stifle dissent. All of them remain missing to this day. We strongly reiterate the call to surface Elgene, Maria Elena and all our loved ones,” said Isabel Batralo, the group’s vice chairperson. 

She also scored the government’s seeming disinterest in addressing cases of disappearances through the years, despite the enactment of Republic Act 10353 or the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act in 2012, and the non-signing and non-ratification of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.  

“All of us families of desaparecidos still don’t know what happened to our loved ones. Some of us, especially those whose relatives were abducted during the Marcos dictatorship, already died without seeing a glimmer of justice nor having even a slightest hint to their loved ones’ whereabouts. What good is this law if it can’t punish those who perpetrate enforced disappearances? When will we see the day when the government ratifies and/or implements laws and conventions, according to its obligations?” she stressed. 

Batralo also urged the public to strengthen their support to the families and friends of victims of involuntary or enforced disappearances and other human rights violations, especially that the Marcoses are back in power. 

She cited the case of martial law torture and rape survivor Adora Faye de Vera, whose husband Manuel Manaog, a community organizer, was abducted in 1990 and remains missing. “With her recent arrest on fabricated charges, Adora is once again subjected to another form of injustice under another Marcos, while enduring the pain caused by the continuing disappearance of her husband. We express our support for Adora Faye and her family during these difficult times. We will work with them to demand her release,” Batralo stated. 

“Under a Marcos Jr. presidency, we recognize that it will be more challenging for us to demand justice, especially with the massive campaign to distort history and facts on the human rights violations committed during his father’s rule. However, now is the time to let our voices speak the truths about our loved ones and strengthen demand for justice. We will not forget, and we will uphold justice and people’s rights,” she concluded.