Kin of desaparecidos to 2022 election candidates: “Help us stop enforced disappearance”

Photo by Miguel de Guzman/Philippine Star

On All Souls Day, kin and friends of victims of involuntary disappearance under the group Desaparecidos echoed the call to surface their loved ones and challenged 2022 candidates to stop enforced disappearances.

“It doesn’t matter if days or years have passed since our relatives went missing – the anxiety and agony is still in our hearts. We still don’t know what happened to them. We don’t even have graves to visit,” said Erlinda Cadapan, the group’s national chairperson and mother of missing UP student Sherlyn Cadapan.

Yearly, the group offers flowers and candles at Baclaran Church for their missing loved ones. However, the said gathering was postponed due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“Since the Marcos dictatorship until the current Duterte regime, dozens of people from all walks of life had been forcibly disappeared by state forces, mostly activists. Some of them had been found dead. But for most of us, we’re clueless to what happened to our loved ones. Some relatives of desaparecidos even passed away without knowing the whereabouts of their missing kin and friends, ” she added.

She also cited the case of Elena Tijamo, a Cebu-based development worker who was abducted by suspected state agents in her home in Bantayan Island last June 2020. On September 1, a year after her abduction, she was found dead in a funeral home in Quezon City and was registered under a different name. Under the Duterte administration, there had been 19 individuals who had been victims of enforced disappearance.

The Desaparecidos official also challenged those who are vying for national and local posts in the 2022 elections to include human rights in their agenda, especially the elimination of cases of enforced disappearance in the country.

“We are hoping that the future leaders of this country will prioritize upholding people’s rights and welfare, specifically in eradicating cases of involuntary disappearances and other human rights violations in the country. We are also calling them to help us in finding out the truth and surface our missing loved ones. Also, we are reminding everyone to be vigilant and vote for those who are pro-people and have utmost respect for human rights,” she ended.