An international group on human rights in the Philippines accused the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. administration of having a worse record on forcible disappearances than the previous Rodrigo Duterte government.
The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) said the Marcos Jr. government continues the “brazen violation” of human rights carried by the previous regime as it called for the surfacing of two activists reportedly abducted in Gonzaga, Cagayan last May 16.
ICHRP said peasant and youth organizers Michael Cedrick Casaño and Patricia Nicole Cierva are alleged to have been abducted by the 501st Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army and demanded their surfacing this week as the world marks International Week of the Disappeared.
“[ICHRP] demands an end to the reign of terror on political dissent, and calls for the immediate surfacing of all activists who have been forcibly disappeared by state forces,” ICHRP Chairperson Peter Murphy said.
Who are the victims?
Patricia Cierva was a former University of the Philippines-Manila leader and Kabataan Party chairperson for the National Capital Region in 2018. She conducted her Development Studies practicum in Cagayan in 2019 and went back to the province to assist farming communities.
Cedrick Casaño meanwhile is a former philosophy student at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines and is an active campaigner for the “Green Platform” in Cagayan against magnetite sand mining operations. Said operations were damaging the environment that would result to food insecurity and biodiversity loss, the ICHRP said.
Casaño and Cierva are reportedly the 9th and 10 victims of enforced disappearance under the Marcos Jr. administration.
ICHRP said the reported incidents of enforced disappearance are alarming and seem to be the trend under the Marcos Jr. government, citing two other Northern Luzon activists Gene Roz “Bazoo” de Jesus and Dexter Capuyan who also went missing since April 28 and last seen in Taytay, Rizal.
Local human rights organization Karapatan also lists Gabriela activists Ma. Elena Pampoza and Elgene Mungcal, National Democratic Front of the Philippines consultant Ariel Badiang, Negros peasant organizer Leonardo Sermona, Renel Delos Santos, Denald Laloy Mialen and Lyn Grace Martullinas as “desaperacidos” or abductees by state forces.
Ignoring its own laws
Karapatan in a statement marking International Week of the Disappeared said state forces ignore human rights laws such as Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act that has been enacted in 2012.
“Despite such a law, enforced disappearances have, in fact, emerged as a troubling hallmark of the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. regime, with a growing number of cases reported within a short span of time,” the group said.
In a mere 10-month period, there have been nine victims of enforced disappearances under the current regime, already constituting 45% of the Duterte regime’s six-year record of 20 cases. Five of the nine victims went missing in the month of April 2023, Karapatan said in its May 26 statement.
Casaño and Cervia bring the number of cases to 11 reported enforced disappearances, or 55% if compared to the Duterte administration’s total of 20.
Karapatan has documented 206 missing under Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s nine-year rule, 29 under the Benigno Aquino III regime and 20 under Duterte.
The website desaperacidos.org lists 1,600 forcibly disappeared under the president’s father Ferdinand Sr.’s dictatorship in the 1960s to the 1980s, “none of (whom) has ever been found.”
“Still another statistic identifies the Philippines as one of the 26 countries worldwide with the highest number of cases of enforced disappearances from 1980 to 2009, with as many as 780 documented instances, surpassing countries like Iran (532), Lebanon (320) and Honduras (207),” Karapatan added.
“The spate of Enforced Disappearances during this first 11 months of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is a full proof that the lives of Filipino community activists are at stake,” Murphy said.
ICHRP added that the Philippine Government refuses to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED), one of the recommendations by several United Nations member states including Japan, France, Denmark, Italy and Brazil during the Universal Periodic Review in 2022 in Geneva Switzerland last November.
“The Philippine government must surface the disappeared, and ratify and comply with ICPPED”, Murphy said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)