Search for missing labor activist expands in 1st month of disappearance

Photo by Surface William Lariosa

By DOMINIC GUTOMAN
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – The family of the missing veteran labor organizer in Bukidnon intensified its search efforts together with trade unions and rights groups.

William Lariosa, 63, a veteran labor organizer in the sugar and pineapple plantations of Bukidnon, has been missing since April 10. He was last seen in Barangay Butong, Quezon, Bukidnon. Eyewitnesses said that elements of the 48th Infantry Battalion forcibly arrested Lariosa.

Read: Eyewitnesses say military involved in abducting labor organizer

His family, together with the union leaders and paralegals of Kilusang Mayo Uno – Southern Mindanao Region (KMU-SMR), Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR), Anakbayan Southern Mindanao, and Kabataan Partylist, expanded their search to Quezon and Maramag, Bukidnon.

The family and other members under the banner of Surface William Lariosa Network said that they filed blotter reports in Butong Barangay Hall and Quezon Municipal Police Station. They also talked to the 48th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army and residents in the nearby communities.

The search team also went to the 1003rd Infantry Battalion in Barangay Malagos, Baguio District, Davao City on May 14, after receiving information that Lariosa was being held there.

However, the search team noticed that there were inconsistencies in the “Desaparecidos Form” signed by the military officer. The officer who introduced himself as Cpt. Labasa initially signed the form using the name Dexter Ramos. When asked for a duplicate copy, the officer returned the document with a different signature, under the name of Jhony Tumbayan, who was the camp’s security guard.

“This clear blatant usage of fake identity shows the 1003rd’s disregard for legal protocols and their lack of respect for the rule of law. Despite the persistent efforts of the family and the paralegal team, it is evident that state authorities are unwilling to engage or assist in locating Lariosa’s whereabouts,” Surface William Lariosa said.

It has been more than a month since his disappearance but Lariosa remains missing. The effect of his abduction rippled down to other organizers in the Southern Mindanao region. The United Nations (UN) has identified that enforced disappearance is a frequently used strategy to spread terror, not only to the close relatives of the disappeared but also to their communities.

Photo by Surface William Lariosa

CTUHR documented that Lariosa’s disappearance was followed by uninvited visits by men identifying themselves as military, to the homes of KMU regional labor leaders Paul John Dizon, Carl Anthony Olalo, and Melodina Gumanoy of the Nagkahiusang Kababaye ang Mamumuo sa Davao de Oro or NKMDDO.

“The labor activists were told to surrender to the government or they will face certain consequences. What is there to surrender, when labor activists are only calling for higher wages to lift workers out of poverty?” said CTUHR in a statement.

They also documented that three days after International Labor Day, red-tagging paraphernalia were seen in Davao City, targeting KMU. However, the pattern of harassment did not stop among their ranks.

Other staff members of the labor non-government organization Nonoy Librado Development Foundation Inc. (NLDFI) were also visited by individuals identifying themselves as military.

“Former NLDFI executive director Emma Ricaforte was interrogated by agents of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), and shown a list of labor activists who will supposedly be sought out for a meeting,” CTUHR added.

Last May 10, friends, families, and supporters of William Lariosa gathered for a Holy Mass and solidarity program to mark the first month of his enforced disappearance. The network vows to continue searching for Lariosa and urges the government for his immediate surfacing.

Photo by Surface William Lariosa

“We are calling for the immediate surfacing of William and his safe return to us, free from physical and psychological torture,” the network said.

Meanwhile, KMU released an appeal for concerted action and solidarity from the international community, human rights groups, labor unions, and concerned individuals.

“Only through unified and sustained action can we secure justice for William Lariosa, protect labor rights activists facing escalating attacks, and uphold democratic rights and human dignity for all in the Philippines,” KMU ended in their appeal. (RTS, RVO) (https://www.bulatlat.org)

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