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Families of 'disappeared' struggle to memorialize loved ones

Where can the 'desaparecidos' mourners grieve?

Victims' families gather to make their own tribute Victims' families gather to make their own tribute
  • Philippines
  • November 2, 2012
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Families of victims of enforced disappearances, or "desaparecidos," have no tomb at which to light candles or place flowers on All Souls' Day.

"We don't know if he's dead or alive," said Erlinda Malicdem, wife of Jimmy, an urban poor leader who went missing in 1987.

Malicdem, now 54, her three children and five grandchildren, went today with other families to light candles at the "Memorial for Desaparecidos" outside the Redemptorist Church in Manila.

They have been doing this every year during Undas, the Filipino observance of All Saints' and All Souls' days, since the memorial was erected in 1994.

The names of missing people are written on the memorial wall, which was unveiled on the ninth anniversary of the disappearance of Redemptorist priest Rudy Romano, a human rights activist who was allegedly abducted by military agents in 1985.

The Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND), an organization of families, friends and colleagues of the disappeared, has documented 1,838 cases of disappearances in the country since 1971.

Most of the cases happened during the 20-year rule of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos from the 1970s to the late 1980s.

Wilma Tizon, deputy secretary-general of FIND, said the memorial’s sculpture of a mother carrying a torch and a child holding the picture of his father symbolizes "the courage of those left behind to continue the struggle for justice" and the hope that the families will be reunited with their missing loved ones.

FIND hopes that the government will soon pass a law that will make enforced disappearances a crime. A proposed measure already passed in Congress and is awaiting the signature of President Benigno Aquino.

"We hope he will sign it soon," said Malicdem. "We don’t want more families to experience the pain that we suffered," she said.

The maximum penalty for offenders would be life imprisonment. Victims of enforced disappearance and their kin would also be entitled to compensation, restitution and rehabilitation.

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