Rights groups to Marcos Jr.: Order your men to surface four missing activists

Photo from Gabriela Facebook page

Days before Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s State of the Nation Address, rights groups Desaparecidos and Karapatan called on the Marcos Jr. government to order state forces to surface the four missing activists, the latest in the cases of enforced disappearances in the country.

The four disappeared activists are Elizabeth Magbanua and Alipio Juat, reported missing since May 3, 2022; and Elgene Mungcal and Ma. Elena Cortez Pampoza, last seen on July 3, 2022.

“We demand that the four activists be surfaced. We deplore these latest incidents of the armed forces’ dirty war against activists and members of progressive organizations,” said Isabel Batralo, Desaparecidos vice chairperson.

Magbanua is a long-time member of Gabriela, while Juat is an organizer of labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno. Mungcal and Pampoza are organizers of Gabriela Women’s Party and Anakpawis, respectively.

“The disappearances of Magbanua, Juat, Mungcal and Pampoza are testament that rights violations, including abductions and enforced disappearances, continue. There is no significant change in the policy of Marcos Jr. especially on human rights, aside from the fact that this dictator’s son has not acknowledged the sins and crimes of his father during martial law, when scores of desaparecidos were abducted and have not been surfaced to this day,” said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general.

The families of the four disappeared activists have asked for help from the Commission on Human Rights.

“After many of our disappeared loved ones struggled against Marcos’ martial law, when military men simply took away lives and persons in broad daylight or in the dead of the night, we are in rage and in pain that the next generation will have to suffer the same ordeal. Enforced disappearances have to stop!” Batralo said.

Among the four, Juat, a long-time unionist and labor union organizer, is a survivor of Marcos’ martial law. Mungcal, on the other hand, was unjustly arrested and detained months ago on trumped-up charges of illegal possession of firearms and ammunition. She was released on bail.

“We are urging the Commission on Human Rights and other agencies, local or international, to look into the evidence and accounts that some of the missing were taken to a military camp. We are seriously concerned that they will suffer similar violations experienced by development worker Elena Tijamo, who, after being abducted in front of her family and remained missing for more than a year, was only seen in the hospital by her relatives, dead, reportedly due to illness,” Palabay said.

Relatives of Juat said that the missing activist, who was last seen in Valenzuela City, had told them he was taken to Camp Aguinaldo; he also said that he didn't know the whereabouts of his companion, Magbanua. There were no reported communications with Mungcal and Pampoza since they were last seen in Moncada, Tarlac; their phones have been turned off since.

Karapatan stressed that this is the reason why the NTF ELCAC must be abolished, as the government’s official terror-tagger which has endangered activists and ordinary persons by making them targets of the government’s policy of repression including killings, arrests and enforced disappearances. "The NTF-ELCAC has repeatedly redtagged the organizations of these activists, thereby inciting harm and violence against them," Palabay stressed.

“There are four less individual human rights defenders, and they are more than enough reasons to protest on Monday during Marcos Jr.’s State of the Nation Address (SONA). Their loved ones, who are searching for them, can only hold the current administration accountable for every single day that they remain missing, for every single day that there is no action towards justice,” said Palabay.