Families of the missing say they are stalked by security agents
The friends and families of victims of enforced disappearances in the Philippines held a protest outside Manila’s Quiapo church yesterday calling for government action to mark International Day of the Disappeared.
A somber procession of mothers and other relatives spoke to the gathered crowd about their lost relatives, some 11 people since President Benigno Aquino took power two years ago, according to human rights group Karapatan.
“The practice of enforced disappearances among those [the government] perceives as ‘enemies of the state’ did not stop when martial law was ended,” said the group Families of Desaparecidos for Justice, referring to the 20 years of martial law that ended in 1986 with the ouster of former president Ferdinand Marcos.
In one case a year ago, farmers Michael Celeste, Jully Devero and Gerald Abale were abducted by alleged members of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army, a breakaway faction of the communist New People’s Army which has since made peace with the government. They have not been seen since.
Vencer Crisostomo of youth group Anakbayan accused the government of refusing to take measures to combat enforced disappearances.
"We hold the [Aquino] government responsible for all the disappearances that have happened under his regime," he said.
When Aquino came to power in 2010 he promised to provide justice to victims of human rights violations.
Cristina Palabay, the secretary-general of Karapatan, called on Aquino to sign into law pending legislation that criminalizes the act of enforced or involuntary disappearances and penalizes state security forces and government officials found responsible.
"The measure appears as ignored as the bill for justice and compensation for victims during martial law... these, and more, reflect the administration’s very low regard for human rights," said Palabay.
She said it was "unfortunate" that relatives of the disappeared "continue to be haunted, not only by their protracted search for their loved ones, but also by the continuing harassment of elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines."
Families of missing activists have reported that they have been shadowed by military agents.
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