Desaparecidos may be gone but not forgotten—victims’ families

Desaparecidos may be gone but not forgotten—victims’ families

By Tracy Cabrera

File photo shows family members of victims known as desaparecidos holding pictures of their lost loved ones.

MANILA — Human rights community has started to commemorate Friday the National Human Rights Consciousness Week which culminates on December 10 with the observance of International Human Rights Day and human rights groups are stressing how meaningful it is to pay tribute to the hundreds of desaparecidos in the country. 

Desaparecido is a Spanish term which refers to a person who has disappeared, presumed killed by members of the armed services or the police and to mention a few names counted as among them are priests Rudy Romano and Nilo Valerio, Honda Workers’ Union president Romeo Legazpi, activist Jonas Burgos, students Darryl Fortuna, Karen Empeno and Shirley Cadapan and Farmers Development Center (FarDeC) program coordinator Elena Tijamo.

The list is endless, according to rights groups, and for the desaparecidos, they pray for truth, for justice and for an end to the scourge even as they desperately hoped for human rights culture to reign in the country, especially during this time of pandemic.

“On this Day of Prayer for the Disappeared, let us (commemorate) the desaparecidos for their patriotism that caused them to lose their lives and liberty,” they enthused.

“With grateful hearts, let us thank them for their selflessness and heroism that serve as our inspiration as we tread the path of attaining a Philippines without desaparecidos and a world without desaparecidos,” they added.

The groups pray that the Philippines and the more than 90 countries affected by this global malady of enforced disappearances, whose situations are worsened by the coronavirus pandemic, may one day savor the much-awaited power of truth against lies, justice against injustices, reparation against devastation, and memory against forgetting.

“It has been almost eight years since President Benigno Aquino signed the anti-enforced disappearance law on December 21, 2012. Yet cases remain unresolved and continue unabated with many undocumented drug-related cases occurring during the present Duterte administration,” they said.

Lamentably, the Philippines remain as the only country in Southeast Asia that submitted the highest number of cases to the United Nations Working Group of Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances.  

“Lest we forget, a decade has passed since the entry into force of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (Convention),” families of victims pointed out.

With other representatives of organizations of families of the disappeared from various continents, one mother participated in the drafting and negotiation process of the convention from 2002 to 2005 at the UN in Geneva.

A major victory for families of the disappeared and all the disappeared the world over, this important international human rights treaty provides the right to truth and the non-derogable right not to be subjected to enforced disappearance. 

“The entry into force of the convention after Iraq deposited the 20th instrument of ratification ushered in a ray of hope to all victims of enforced disappearances. Yet, almost totally absent during the three-year negotiation process from 1992-95 and present only during the last sessions when a decision was to be made, the Philippines continues to deprive all victims of enforced disappearances—from the Marcos period until the succeeding administrations of Corazon Aquino, Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the present Rodrigo Duterte government—of the benefits this important treaty could offer,” the mother said.

The much-awaited signing and ratification of the convention by the Philippines could have complemented the first and only comprehensive anti-enforced or involuntary law in Asia, which is the Republic Act 10353 or the Philippine Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012.

“Why is it that as a party to all the other international core human rights treaties, the Philippines continues to refuse to sign and ratify this remaining treaty?” she queried.

Rights groups said that the convention could have complemented the country’s already existing domestic legislation against enforced disappearances, but among the obstacles to the signing and ratification by the Philippines include fear of loss of sovereignty, international scrutiny and a lack of will to comply with requirements of reporting to international organs. (AI/MTVN)

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