Remembering the ‘desaparecidos’

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 1 Nov) – For the families of victims of enforced disappearances or “desaparecidos,” Undas or the Day of the Dead is commemorated not in the cemeteries.

“They are neither dead nor alive. We don’t know which cemetery to go ts. So we only light candles in the church to remember  them,” Bayan Intise, son of desaparecidos, said Wednesday.

Bayan Intise shows photographs of his still missing parents. It has been six years since their enforced disappearance.

Intise, spokesperson of Pagkakaisa ng mga Biktima para sa Hustisya (Hustisya) Southern Mindanao, said his parents, Nelly and Federico, have been missing for six years.

Known for being active in community organizing, his parents were taken by alleged government agents in General Santos City on October 26, 2006.

Intise said his father was a military target for being a consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, while his mother was very supportive of his father’s work.

He recalled that his mother was always present every Undas. Together with his sister, Malaya, the three of them used to visit the graves of their relatives.

Until she disappeared just days before Undas 2006.

“Based on the accounts of those who were once desaparecidos but survived during the Martial Law, the longest period that the military holds their captives is two years,” he said casually.

Knowing how strongly principled his parents were, he said they will never cooperate with the military.

Although he could not entertain the idea that his parents  could already be dead, Intise struggles to hold on to a bit of hope that they will eventually surface.  (Watch video)

That is why he actively participates in the Desaparecidos, a national organization also known as Pamilya ng Desaparecidos para sa Katarungan (family of desaparecidos for justice).

Intise will join the second national congress of Desaparecidos in Manila on November 2-4. The first congress was in 2008.

He said the families of victims became human rights defenders themselves.

“We will create solidarity with all the families of the victims and fight as one in seeking justice for all desaparecidos and other victims of human rights violations,” he said.

“There will be more victims of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings as the Oplan Bayanihan (counter-insurgency program) of the Aquino administration continues to attack human rights advocates,” he added.

Intise’s parents are among 206 desaparecidos since the time of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Thirteen of the victims were from Southern Mindanao.

Under the Aquino administration, two persons have been missing from the Davao region.

One of them is Reynold Marth Esurez, 17, who was last seen organizing members of Kabataan Partylist in Manay, Davao Oriental on January 26, 2011.

Cristoto Premor, 31, a resident in Carbon, Lumiad village, Paquibato District here, has been missing since last October 26, according to the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas.

Intise said he was glad that the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012 was finally passed by Congress on October 16.

The families of desaparecidos are urging President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to immediately sign it
into law.

Despite this victory,  however,  Intise said he is not totally happy as the perpetrators, like retired Army Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr. and other military officials, are not yet prosecuted.

The President has to show his sincerity in promoting “matuwid na daan”  (straight path) in governance and respect for human rights by signing the bill into law immediately so that perpetrators will be put in
jail, he said.

Enforced disappearance is a continuing crime and the abductors of desaparecidos can be arrested and charged under this legislation, Bayan Muna partylist Rep. Neri Colmenares, a co-author of  the bill, said.  (Lorie Ann A. Cascaro / MindaNews)