STATEMENT | On the Commemoration of the International Day of the Disappeared
On the International Day of the Disappeared, Panaghiusa Philippine Network demands justice for the victims of state-sponsored disappearances and other human rights violations in the Philippines.
Enforced disappearances violate human rights granted by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including the right to liberty and security, the right not to be subjected to torture or cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or punishment, and the right not to be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
James Balao's case is one of the most well-known in the Philippines. Balao is a respected Cordillera indigenous leader and a founding member of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance, a formation of grassroots-based organizations in the region. Balao was kidnapped by state elements in Lower Tomay, La Trinidad, Benguet, on September 17, 2008, during the presidency of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Before his disappearance, his colleagues documented surveillance of him and his family by the police and military. This coming September 2021 shall mark his 13th year of disappearance.
The instances of Balao and other Desaparecidos demonstrate the government's restless attempts to silence dissenters who stand with the people in their struggle for their rights.
Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance, a human rights organization, identified 2,326 cases of enforced disappearances between 1983 and May 2018. However, during a press conference in 2018, Secretary-General Mary Aileen Bacalso of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) stated that only 1,993 individuals (85.68%) were documented, leaving thousands unidentified.
With the alarming number of killings, fabricated charges, and arrests in the Philippines, the potentially severe repercussions of state-sponsored and "convenient" red-tagging and terrorist-labeling, and the railroading of anti-people policies, including the Executive Order 70 that created the National Task Force to End Local Communist Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, we can presume that many more innocent lives may suffer the same fate.
We do not wish for anything like this to happen again. Hence, we strongly urge the Filipino people to continue to demand justice for the Desaparecidos, political prisoners, victims of killings, human rights violations, and state-sponsored attacks.
SURFACE THE DISAPPEARED!