RELATIVES of several desaparecidos, among them the mother of one missing activist from Laguna, have petitioned the United Nations to reject the Philippine government’s attempt to delist 625 victims of enforced disappearances from 1975 to 2012.
In a letter, the human rights group Desaparecidos (Families of the Disappeared for Justice) appealed to the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance (UN-WGEID) not to accept the Philippine government’s move to delist the desaparecidos.
Signed by 24 relatives of victims of enforced disappearance across the years, from the Marcos dictatorship up to the Duterte government, the letter appealed to Bernard Duhaime, chairman and rapporteur of the WGEID, “not to accept the said proposal, and hear the voice of the families of the victims who have been searching and seeing justice for our missing loved ones — the same families of victims who sought for the help of the UN WGEID many years back to raise the issue of enforced or involuntary disappearance in the Philippines.”
Among the signatories was Erlinda Cadapan, mother of Sherlyn Cadapan from Los Baños who was abducted by soldiers in 2006 along with Karen Empeño. They pointed out in the letter that “even with the existence of a law criminalizing enforced disappearance, there is no assurance that justice will be obtained: justice which means the abducted will be surfaced and the perpetrators brought to justice.”
They expressed the fear from that, “from our experience with the Philippine justice system, we know that unless the institutions cooperate and comply, the laws are useless.”
Delisting the desaparecidos, they said, “runs contrary to the state’s so-called ‘adherence to the principles and standards’ set by the nation’s laws as well as international instruments that provide a venue for victims to seek justice outside the country. It defeats the purpose of providing relief and respite for victims of enforced disappearance so they may be surfaced, their rights recognized, and for justice to be served.”
Among the signatories of the letter were Edita Burgos, mother of missing farmer-activist Jonas Burgos, and Concepcion Empeño, mother of Karen.
They also complained about “slow justice” under the current Duterte government that, they said, vilifies the disappeared despite their continued disappearance.
“We respectfully hope that the UN WGEID echo the stand of the families of victims as the Philippine government has yet to fully implement the said laws and its provided mechanisms. We respectfully ask the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances to visit the country and investigate the cases. Even before giving audience to the proposal to ‘delist’ the victims, we appeal to the UN WGEID to hear the families of the victims on the ground. We ask to maintain the list of the 625 victims, and raise this concern to the Philippine government,” the relatives said.