In the face of the Lozada abduction, new cases of disappearances

Congress called upon to immediately enact laws against enforced disappearance and torture

At the hearing of the Committee on human rights, the human rights alliance Karapatan today called upon members of Congress to immediately enact a law against enforced disappearance and torture in the face of the abduction of NBN-ZTE probe witness Rodolfo Noel “Jun” Lozada, Jr. by military personnel and new cases of enforced disappearances in Negros Oriental and Pampanga.

The case of Lozada, according to Karapatan, bears the mark of enforced disappearance as defined in HB 2263, consistent with the definition of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

Karapatan Public Information Officer Ruth Cervantes said, “Mr. Lozada was a victim of enforced disappearance for he was deprived of his liberty by agents of the state, who refused to acknowledge such deprivation and his whereabouts were concealed for some time.”

Karapatan said they hope that what happened to Mr. Lozada and to the still missing victims of enforced disappearance will not happen to anyone anymore. That is why it is imperative that Congress implement a law that would prohibit this practice by the state.

Cervantes said, “it is urgent that we combat impunity and Congress could do its part by immediately enacting laws that would go after perpetrators of enforced disappearance and torture.”

The human rights watchdog has documented 178 victims of enforced disappearance since 2001 under the Arroyo government. Karapatan also called attention to the rising number of killings and disappearances in the first two months of the year. Thirteen (13) victims of extrajudicial killings and 2 victims of enforced disappearance were documented from January to the present.

The human rights alliance also urged Congress to actively intervene to surface victims of enforced disappearance. Cervantes said the representatives can help their constituents who are at risk of being disappeared by intervening in their case.

Karapatan submitted a report on the abduction of two farmers by alleged soldiers in Sta. Catalina, Negros Oriental and an Aeta leader in Floridablanca, Pampanga.

Witnesses said Flaviano Arante, 56, a leader of the peasant group Nagkahiusang Mag-uuma sa Sta.Catalina and Renaldo Yanoc, 18, were forcibly taken on January 25 by members of the Bravo Company of the 61st Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army. The 61st IBPA’s Lt. Col. Romeo Basco claims that the two were released but the two have not been able to return home. Their relatives have sought the help of the court but Karapatan said Congress could certainly be of help.

In Pampanga, Leonardo Serrano, current vice chairperson of Pampanga Aeta Association was also abducted on February 8 by armed men believed to be members of the 70th IBPA. The Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP) reports that Serrano is being kept in detention at the 70th IB camp in Macapagal Village, San Ramon, Floridablanca, Pampanga and charged with rebellion.###