On the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, the world pays tribute to the desaparecidos and their families.
As the Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND) links arms with the families of the disappeared across continents, we lament the unabated commission of enforced disappearances not only in the Philippines but in Asia and in the whole world.
The State-perpetrated offense of forcibly disappearing political dissenters and oppositionists dates back to ancient times. The persistence of the egregious practice to this day is a testament to the State’s propensity to stifle dissent and suppress freedom of expression with unimaginable brutality – an unbridled assault on human dignity.
Ignoring the global call for an end to enforced disappearance, States continue to commit enforced disappearance with brazen impunity. The Philippines is no exception. To the Marcos regime’s 968, C. Aquino’s 825, Ramos’ 94, Estrada’s 63, Arroyo’s 346, and B. Aquino’s 31, Duterte has added 97 more for a total of 2,424 reported victims. To date, FIND has documented 2,047 of these reported victims, 1,204 of whom remain disappeared, 248 were found dead or exhumed, and 595 surfaced alive.
This generally politically motivated practice now targets apolitical individuals such as suspected drug users and petty pushers. Of the 97 reported victims under the current administration, 40 are drug war-related. Nineteen (19) of them were first abducted and disappeared before they were summarily killed; 10 are still disappeared and one surfaced alive.
On 14 February 2020, six men were reported to have been summarily killed following what the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) called a “fabricated drug buy-bust operation”. After six months of unrelenting search for truth and justice, the families of the initially disappeared but later found extrajudicially killed victims saw a glimmer of hope. The NBI filed a complaint for murder and kidnapping and serious illegal detention against the San Jose del Monte City police officers whom the NBI probe found to have been involved in the abduction and subsequent killing of the six “passersby”.
The wife of one of the victims claimed that she reported to the police that her husband was missing. The police denied having him in their custody and refused to allow her to look at the cells to verify if her husband was really not there.
The prior abduction and secret detention of the six extrajudicially killed men is clearly a case of enforced disappearance and not kidnapping and serious illegal detention which under the Revised Penal Code is committed by private individuals. The killings have all the inculpatory elements of enforced disappearance: 1) deprivation of liberty, 2) by public authorities, and 3) followed by the concealment of the whereabouts of the victims. The faked “nanlaban” (have-fought-back) police allegation cannot stand against the veracity of these factual elements.
Eight years after the criminalization of enforced disappearance under R.A. 10353 or the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012, concerned government agencies have yet to call a spade a spade and bring perpetrators to justice. The crime of depriving the six men of their liberty by the of the City Drug Enforcement Unit of San Jose del Monte, Bulacan is enforced disappearance, not kidnapping and serious illegal detention.
Fully and strictly implement R.A. 10353.
Accede to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
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