“We still call for justice up to now. Compensation will just pass by our hands. I hope that the next generation will continue our fight.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Surface the disappeared.
This is the never-ending call of families whose loved ones went missing from the administration of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. to the administration of his son and namesake Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.
In a gathering last August 30 marking the international day of the disappeared at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani, Quezon City, relatives of the disappeared shared how they long to see their loved ones while vowing to continue the fight for justice.
JL Burgos, brother of missing activist Jonas, said that August 30 is a difficult day to remember every year.
“That’s what it’s like for all of us, families of the disappeared, endless fear. Endless questions. Endless mourning until our loved ones are found,” he said in Filipino.
“I’m sure that the hatred will remain even decades after. This is one of the difficulties for us, relatives of the missing. The torture does not only penetrate the flesh of the abducted, but every pain is etched in each of us, siblings mothers, fathers, children, and husbands,” he stressed.
Burgos’ brother was abducted by the military during Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s administration.
Read in Bulatlat archives the stories of Jonas’ abduction and his family’s quest for justice.
Ron De Vera, son of the disappeared Manuel who has been missing since 1990, said that they should never be there to mark this day. He added that her mother, Adora Faye, who went missing during the martial law of Marcos Sr. was eventually surfaced.
Just last week, her mother had to once again live through the painful memory of the martial law years as she was arrested by the police under the administration of the son of the late dictator.
Read: Arrested activist is a torture survivor under Marcos Sr. dictatorship
Read: Groups call for De Vera’s humanitarian release
“I just want to have quality time with my mother. No child should experience this kind of suffering. I am already 41 (years old) and this is still happening,” said De Vera.
De Vera read a poem dedicated to his father titled Sumilip Ka (Take a Look).
He reiterated that their fight is for all political prisoners in the country.
Also present during the gathering was Tess Del Rosario, sister of the first case of disappearance under Marcos Sr. She said that the disappearance of her brother Charlie is still painful even after 51 years.
Charlie was a professor at the Philippine College of Commerce (now Polytechnic University of the Philippines) when he went missing. Martial law was not yet declared by Marcos at that time, she said.
Up to now, she said that they mark Charlie’s birthday every year. They also placed a tombstone for him in a cemetery so they could light a candle for him. “It is very painful. We are still looking for him up to now.”
For his part, Ramil Flores, son of trade unionist Severino, said that the future generation should continue to fight for justice for their missing loved ones.
He said his father, who was a worker at the time, was imprisoned in 1978 in Camp Crame. He escaped but the police threatened to arrest her mother if his father would not surface. Severino then went missing in 1983. In 1984, Flores said, he joined the League of Filipino Students.
“We still call for justice up to now. Compensation will just pass by our hands. I hope that the next generation will continue our fight,” he said, adding that they are still looking for their father.
August 30 was also the first hearing of the writ of amparo and permanent protection order for the families of Elizabeth “Loi” Magbanua and Alipio “Ador” Juat at the Court of Appeals. Magbanua and Juat recently disappeared, at the end of the term of then President Rodrigo R. Duterte. The court is also set to decide whether to grant the inspection of military camps and offices to aid in the search.
Read: Abducted labor organizers campaigned for aid for displaced workers and urban poor
Read: High courts grants plea of missing labor organizers’ kin
Isabel Batralo, vice chairperson of Desaparecidos, a group of families and friends of victims of enforced disappearance, denounced the government’s seeming disinterest in addressing cases of disappearances. She stressed that despite the enactment of Republic Act 10353 (Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012), the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance is not yet signed or ratified in the Philippines.
“All of us families of desaparecidos still don’t know what happened to our loved ones. Some of us, especially those whose relatives were abducted during the Marcos dictatorship, already died without seeing a glimmer of justice nor having even a slightest hint to their loved ones’ whereabouts. What good is this law if it can’t punish those who perpetrate enforced disappearances? When will we see the day when the government ratifies and/or implements laws and conventions, according to its obligations?” Batralo said in a statement.
Cristina Palabay, secretary-general of Karapatan, said there are 1,902 individuals missing from Marcos Sr’s administration up to July, under Marcos Jr. “Those who are in power seem to tell us that they can just easily do this and easily get away with this. This is why it is important that we remember all the disappeared and also call for our right to live freely and with dignity, not only every August 30 but every day.”
She added that this basic human right is still not achieved up to this day. “But it is clear today that the voices of those who love them are not silenced. And this will continue to echo 50 years after martial law was declared or even a hundred years. As long as our loved ones and the Filipino people are still fighting for justice. As long as we are striving for a truly just and humane society.”
Palabay also paid tribute to the families of the disappeared for their strength, saying that it serves as a symbol and inspiration for future generations. (RTS,DAA)