[Statement] Joint Statement on the 26th Commemoration of the Enforced Disappearance of Fr. Rudy Romano, CsSR

At around 3:45 PM, a man riding a blue motorcycle was blocked by armed men, shoved into a white Ford Cortina bearing government license plates and taken away.  The person would later on fit the description of Fr. Rudy Romano, CsSR.

It was July 11, 1985. He was 44 years old.

Fr. Rudy Romano. File photo source AFAD online

Twenty six years later, we still ask the question asked by many on that fateful day, “Where is Fr. Rudy?”.

Perhaps his enforced disappearance was orchestrated by those could not live with his leadership role in the progressive movement or perhaps by those whose interests were threatened by his community organizing and fraternizing with the basic masses – the workers, the farmers, the poor.  Perhaps he inspired resistance against the injustices perpetrated by the forces that be. Perhaps his abduction was meant to silence the growing anti-dictatorship sentiments in the province.

These nagging questions persist to this day. What is certain is that despite Fr. Rudy’s sudden disappearance, his personal struggle for social change has taken a collective form and continues to this day.

For every worker who is deprived of his just share in the distribution of wealth, Fr. Rudy is there. For every farmer denied of his dignity by being denied of his right to till his own land, Fr. Rudy is there. For every injustice, Fr. Rudy is there.

His abductors failed to see this bitter-sweet reality – they only snatched away a man. They could not kill the flames of social change and the movement behind it. For truly, Fr. Rudy represented not himself but the many generations, past and continuing, who yearn for a better society.

Fr. Rudy gives face to the faceless one thousand seven hundred ninety one  desaperacidos documented since the Marcos dictatorship. His disappearance reminds us that the path to achieving social transformation is not only a lonely one but one that treads along the line of fire.

We identify with the cause of Fr. Rudy.

Today, on 26th year of his disappearance we renew our commitment to the aspirations of Fr. Rudy. Today, we confront impunity by remembering Fr. Rudy and by reliving Fr. Rudy.

We give justice to him by carrying on.

We challenge the present Aquino Administration to solve the one thousand one hundred seventeen cases of disappearances, of people still missing.

We challenge this Government to enact an anti-enforced disappearance law to criminalize enforced disappearance, to show that it has not forgotten the stories of the disappeared.

We honor the desaperacidos by remembering them.

As we remember Fr. Rudy, we remember all those who suffered the same fate, here and elsewhere.

End enforced disappearance!
Enact an anti-disappearance law NOW!
Justice for Fr. Rudy!
Justice for all the disappeared!

Task Force Detainees of the PhilippinesVisayas (TFDP-Visayas)
Human Rights Defenders Pilipinas-Cebu (HRDP-Cebu)
Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance-Cebu (FIND-Cebu)
Kongreso ng Pagkakaisa ng Maralita ng Lungsod-Cebu (KPML-Cebu)
Freedom from Debt Colaition-Cebu (FDC-Cebu)
Partido Lakas ng Masa-Cebu (PLM-Cebu)

July 11, 2011


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  • Today’s events are proving true to this statement- “(t)hose who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” That’s George Santayana and it’s worth pondering in these dark days when everywhere before you are repression and human rights violations amidst “matuwid na daan”.

    On July 11, 1985, Father Rudy Romano was abducted. Twenty six years later, we still ask the question asked by many on that fateful day, “Where is Fr. Rudy?”.

    “The unsuccessful prosecution of military personnel charged in connection with the disappearance of Redemptorist Priest Rosalio “Rudy” Romano exemplifies the problems that typically attend efforts to prosecute government agents for human rights violations. Father Romano, who was the vice-president of the Visayas chapter of the leftist political organization BAYAN, was abducted in Cebu on July 11, 1985 and has never been located. Believing that the abductors included military personnel, the priest’s religious order requested the Regional Unified Command (RUC) for Region 7 to investigate the disappearance, and the RUC Commander appointed the Philippine Constabulary (PC) Metrodiscom commander for Cebu to undertake an investigation.

    Several days later, the RUC commander announced that there had been no major leads in the investigation. But in April 1986—after the change in government—the PC investigator disclosed that as soon as he discovered evidence of military involvement he had been ordered by the RUC commander to stop his investigation.

    Lawyers representing the Redemptorist community had in the meantime filed a habeas corpus petition before the Supreme Court. At a hearing on August 2, 1985, Andres Suson testified that he seen Corporal Wilfredo Dagatan abduct Father Romano. The PC’s Criminal Investigation Service was then put in charge of the investigation, and in October 1985 Corporal Dagatan and Sergeant Jose Pitogo were charged with kidnapping Father Romano. The two were brought to trial before a military tribunal in May 1986.

    The office of Atty. Alfonso A. Surigao, Jr. who was acting as private prosecutor on behalf of the Redemptorist order, was bombed in August 1986. His co-counsel, Atty. Mendrado Paredes, received death threats.

    On October 9, 1987, the military tribunal conducting the court martial, which was held in Manila, came to Cebu to carry out an ocular inspection at the site of the victim’s abduction. When the military prosecutors arrived in Cebu, they announced that they planned to convene a hearing on the case the following day. Atty. Surigao objected; he had made previous commitments, and could not secure the presence of key witnesses on such short notice. Thirty minutes after the ocular inspection was conducted, Manuel Suson, the brother of the key witness, Andres Suson, was shot dead. The victim is said to have closely resembled his brother, and it is believed that he was mistaken for the latter by his murderers. (Earlier in the court proceedings, dynamite was thrown under the shipboard cot of another brother, who sustained injuries.)

    Believing that a fair and impartial trial was not possible, the Redemptorist order decided to withdraw from the case, and on October 10, 1986, its attorneys did so. On June 19, 1987, another witness was shot at his home. The military defendants were acquitted in August 1987.”

    P163-164, Vigilantes in the Philippines: A Threat to Democratic Rule, Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (1988)


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