Statement of Desaparecidos on the Commemoration of the 2023 International Week of the Disappeared

As we commemorate the International Week of the Disappeared (IWD), we join hands and hearts to remember the victims of one of the most inhumane crimes ever committed against humanity: enforced disappearance. This solemn occasion serves as a stark reminder of the countless lives that have been shattered, families torn apart, and communities left in anguish due to this heinous practice.

Enforced disappearance is an affront to the very essence of human dignity. It represents a grave violation of human rights, a betrayal of our collective responsibility to protect and respect the inherent worth of every individual. Those who are forcibly disappeared are robbed of their voice, their liberty, and their future. They vanish into a void of uncertainty, leaving behind anguished loved ones desperately searching for answers.

We stand here today to honor the memory of the disappeared, to acknowledge the pain endured by their families, and to demand justice. Our voices unite as one, echoing the cries for truth, accountability, and an end to impunity. We refuse to let the perpetrators hide in the shadows of silence. We refuse to let the memories of our loved ones fade away.

One year into the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. administration, nine persons have been disappeared in the Philippines. They are advocates of farmers and workers’ rights. They are fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, sons and daughters. They are persons whose rights are no less than anyone, especially since they are among those who advocate and struggle for a society anchored on justice and genuine freedom.

Let us proclaim their names, as we join their families in the call to surface them: Elgene Mungcal, Ma. Elena Pampoza, Ariel Badiang, Leonardo Sermona Jr., Renel delos Santos, Denald Laloy Mialen, Lyn Grace Martullinas, Dexter Capuyan and Gene Roz Jamil de Jesus. We cry out: Surface them all!

We also continue the call to surface and demand justice for all desaparecidos across regimes — about 926 under the Marcos Sr. dictatorship, 206 under Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, 29 under Benigno Aquino III, and 20 under Rodrigo Duterte.

In commemorating the IWD, we call upon governments, international organizations, and civil society to redouble their efforts in addressing enforced disappearance. We urge them to ratify and uphold international conventions, such as the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, and to enact legislation that criminalizes this abhorrent practice. We demand the establishment of independent, impartial, and effective mechanisms to investigate cases of enforced disappearance, and to hold the perpetrators accountable.

Furthermore, we implore society at large to embrace compassion, empathy, and solidarity towards the families of the disappeared. It is through our collective support that they find strength in their pursuit of justice and truth. Let us listen to their stories, amplify their voices, and work tirelessly to ensure that the disappeared are not forgotten.

The International Week of the Disappeared serves as a beacon of hope amidst the darkness. It reminds us of the resilience and determination of those affected by enforced disappearance. As we light candles in their memory, let us commit ourselves to the tireless pursuit of truth, justice, and a world free from the horrors of enforced disappearance.

Together, we will bring an end to enforced disappearance. Together, we will ensure that the disappeared are not just statistics, but human beings with stories that must be heard. Together, we will build a future where no family has to suffer the anguish of not knowing the fate of their loved ones.

Today, and every day, we remember the victims of enforced disappearance. We honor their memory, and we pledge our unwavering commitment to the pursuit of justice. May their light guide us as we continue the fight for truth, accountability, and a world where enforced disappearance is nothing but a dark chapter in our history.

Never forget. Never again.

Surface Dexter Capuyan and Gene Roz Jamil de Jesus!

Surfare Gabriela activist Elgene Mungca and Anakpawis organizer Ma. Elena Pampozal!

Surface NDFP consultant Ariel Badiang!

Surface Negros peasant organizer Leonardo Sermona!

Surface all victims of enforced disappearance!