The family of arrested activist Esteban Manuel Jr. has asked the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to help look for the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant reportedly arrested last February 16.
The elderly peace worker is now believed missing as his family could not locate his real location 16 days after his reported arrest in Samar 17 days ago.
“[H]is family is seeking the help of the [CHR] and human rights organizations to locate him with the ‘utmost urgency’ while appealing to his captors to ‘keep him safe and alive,’” political prisoner support organization Kapatid said in an alert.
Manuel’s son Albert wrote to the CHR seeking help to find his father and to know if he is receiving proper care.
“My father is 73 years old and of fragile health. He has hypertension and needs medicines. But we have not received replies to our queries to locate him,” Albert wrote.
“We appeal to his captors to keep him safe and alive,” Albert added.
Kapatid said there have been conflicting press releases from the military and police on the reported arrest of the elder Manuel in Villareal town, Samar.
Kapatid said the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police has called Manuel under different names when they reported the arrest.
The military and the police also could not agree on the number of firearms allegedly seized from Manuel.
Kapatid said the government’s information immediately raised concerns about the possibility of the firearms being “planted” it said is a well-established method by the police and military to keep activists in indefinite detention.
Albert said they heard conflicting information that his father was either detained in a military camp in Calbiga or at the police station in Villareal town.
Kapatid also said they are also reaching out to the International Committee of the Red Cross to help ensure humanitarian protection and assistance for the elder Manuel in line with its mission to protect the lives and dignity of victims of armed conflict and promote respect for international law.
Kapatid said Esteban was a native of Laoag, Ilocos Norte whose father, Esteban Manuel Sr., was a veteran of the infamous Bataan Death March in World War II.
A birght student, Esteban graduated valedictorian from the Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo High School in Quezon City.
He went on to study engineering at the University of the Philippines where he joined the Kabataang Makabayan (KM).
Esteban went underground when the dictator Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972 and KM became an underground organization.
Esteban’s father was arrested when the military came looking for him and his brother Napoleon it believed also became activist.
Manuel Sr. was detained for over 50 days without any charges. He was posthumously awarded a human rights compensation claim. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)