News Release
19 February 2019

Families of desaparecidos to UN: Keep open 625 cases of enforced disappearances, look into more cases thereafter

Instead of accepting the Philippine government’s move to delist the 625 cases of enforced disappearances reported to the UN, Desaparecidos (Families of the Disappeared for Justice) urged the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances to keep open the 625 cases and look into more cases which have not been reported to the body.

“We appeal to the UN to raise to the Duterte government how it has perpetuated enforced disappearances by looking into the cases of enforced disappearances under the current administration, and how it has broken existing laws by covering up for such,” said Cristina Guevarra, secretary general of Desaparecidos.

According to Desaparecidos, it is more alarming and compelling that enforced disappearances continue now that while there are already laws supposed to protect persons from abduction and disappearance, many continue without a trace in the same pattern as before, with their loved ones experiencing more difficulties in the search and seeking justice for them.

“The Duterte government should not be believed in its claims that the mere presence of so-called legal mechanisms, or even recognition, is equivalent to providing space for respite for the victims. This move of delisting desaparecidos is a malicious scheme to hide its own crimes of disappearances and impunity,” Guevarra explained.
The group said 40 years and counting from the martial law dictatorship to the present, victims remain uncertain of the whereabouts of their loved ones, alive or dead.

“Despite the passage of the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Law, not a single state agent has been convicted and punished for carrying out enforced disappearances. Even the conviction of retired Army general Jovito Palparan was not because of the Duterte government’s adherence to existing ‘legal framework and institutional mechanisms.’ It was the families of desaparecidos who endured every difficult step to pursue the perpetrators,” said Erlinda Cadapan, mother of desaparecido Sherlyn Cadapan and chairperson of Desaparecidos.

The group said Palparan is yet to be punished by virtue of the RA 10353, or the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Law. He was sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of kidnapping with serious illegal detention on the abduction and disappearance of two University of the Philippines students in 2006.

Cadapan also hit the Duterte government’s grounds for delisting, including being able to receive compensation, citing the passage of the RA 10368 or the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act, and the prosecution of perpetrators of state forces who have implemented enforced disappearances.

“Does the monetary compensation for martial law victims that victims received brought back the our missing loved ones? Compensation and recognition is partial justice, for rights violation victims stood firm that the passage of the law indemnifying martial law victims is history in writing that there were rights violations perpetrated by the state during the dark days of the dictatorship. What then is the motive of the Philippine government now, that after the recognition, they want our loved ones who were disappeared to be erased from official international records, and even from the nation’s memory?” Cadapan explained.

Desaparecidos said that in rejecting the delisting, the UN WGEID should see that in the cases of enforced disappearances in the Philippines, the Duterte government is maintaining the pattern of silencing dissenters while using abduction as a way to sow a reign of fear in the country.

“The UN should ask the Duterte government, if it is dead serious in stopping enforced disappearances, they why are they giving the families a hard time in searching their camps, denying us of any information about the victims, while they continuously vilify our loved ones, tagging them as enemies of the state and calling them by many names? Why do we continue to ask to this day, where are our loved ones?” Cadapan added.

Desaparecidos reiterated that there is no basis for delisting the more than 600 names of desaparecidos as long as they remain missing.

“What the Philippine government will not tell the UN is that our families continue to search for the hundreds, if not thousands of desaparecidos. The painful truth that enforced disappearances also continue to this day is a glaring basis for the UN WGEID to reject the Duterte government’s act of covering up the truth,” Cadapan said.

The group is set to raise to the UN the recent cases of enforced disappearances which have not been reported to the body, to counter the Philippine government’s claims.

”We again urge the UN WGEID to heed the clamor of the victims, the families and rights groups to fulfill mandate of assisting families in their search and their search for justice. We are ready to speak and belie the claims of the Duterte government and put them accountable to the continuous crime of disappearance. This is only how we can give justice to our disappeared loved ones,” said Cadapan. ###

Reference: Cristina Guevarra, Secretary general, Desaparecidos, 09061880128