[Statement] FIND Lenten Statement: Kalbaryo ng Kawalan ng Katarungan

by Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND)

“…let justice flow like a stream, and righteousness like a river that never goes dry.” (Amos, 5:24)

Every Holy Wednesday, members of the Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND) gather at the Bantayog ng mga Desaparecido at the Redemptorist Church grounds in Baclaran, Paranaque City, for their annual Lenten activity dubbed Kalbaryo ng Kawalan ng Katarungan.

Not unlike the injustice of the arrest, trial and crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the multiple violations of human rights of the disappeared and their families is an endless calvary of injustice.

Indeed, despite the steadfast struggle for justice in and out of court of the families of victims of enforced disappearance, justice remains elusive.

Since 1999 FIND has supported eight cases involving 24 victims of enforced disappearance. Lamentably, only the accused in the kidnapping and illegal detention of six sub-contractual workers of the Paper Industries Corporation of the Philippines (PICOP) has been convicted and imprisoned.

The six log haulers were illegally arrested on 14 October 2000 in Sta. Maria, Trento, Agusan del Sur.  Based on the testimony of an eyewitness, they were heavily tortured, subsequently killed, and their bodies burned by soldiers belonging to the 62nd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army. The other soldiers implicated by the eyewitness are now the subject of a multiple murder case filed on 12 April 2010 by the families of the victims before the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor in Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur. Sadly, up to this day, the families still await the resolution of the preliminary investigation.

Most of the desaparecidos could have suffered the same fate as that of the six workers. Escaped victims Raymond and Reynaldo Manalo in the amparo case that they filed before the Court of Appeals in October 2007attested to the inhuman atrocities suffered by secretly detained persons in military camps.

These human rights violations are an affront to human dignity and must end. The entry into force of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance on 23 December 2011 is a strong signal from the international community of its commitment to end enforced disappearances worldwide, a move that the Philippines under the Aquino III administration must likewise affirm by signing and ratifying the said Convention and enacting a domestic law penalizing enforced disappearance as such international human rights instrument mandates.

The government must show its political will to render justice to victims and their families by encouraging witnesses including perpetrators from law enforcement and security forces to tell the truth about these disappearances. Without truth and justice, the calvary of the victims and their families will remain unabated.

Kalbaryo ng Kawalan ng Katarungan

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