MANILA -- Families of victims of enforced disappearances gathered Saturday, carrying faded photos, flowers and candles at the Bantayog ng mga Desaparecido in Baclaran, Parañaque City.
Among them were Connie Empeño and Asher Cadapan, who came with the posters of their daughters Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan, respectively.
The 2 University of the Philippines students were abducted by suspected military men in Hagonoy, Bulacan in 2006 after they were linked to a rebel group. Retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan and 2 other Army men in 2018 were found guilty of kidnapping and illegal detention over the incident.
“’Yan ang hinanakit sa akin bilang ama ni Sherlyn dahil wala kaming puntod na matitirikan ng kandila dahil hindi namin alam kung nasaan siya,” said Mr. Cadapan.
But Empeño clarified that the annual rite does not mean they already accepted their kin’s death, and that they are now moving on.
“Hangga’t buhay ako, mananatili si Karen sa akin,” she said in tears. “Tuloy-tuloy ang (aming paghahanap), ang aming pakikipaglaban hangga’t kami’y humihinga.”
Gina Macaldo, niece of disappeared labor leaders Jose Delos Reyes and Roque Montero in the late ’80s, still carries the agony of missing her uncles.
“Masakit po. Sabi, move on, pero ang hirap. Andu’n pa rin ’yung sakit. Sana kasama namin sila lalo magpapasko,” she said.
Cases of enforced disappearances were rampant during the martial law period, but the incidents continued even until after the Marcos regime.
According to the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD), there are nearly 2,000 desaparecidos since the ’70s.
Sonny Resuena of Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND) said there are 73 reported cases of enforced disappearances since the Duterte administration started in 2016.
“Sa NCR, ang karamihang biktima ay mga suspect sa drugs. Ta’s sa mga probinsya naman, mga aktibista na dinukot at hindi na nakita,” he said. “’Yung mga pulis, mga sundalo, sila ang nire-report na gumagawa ng pandurukot eh.”
Families urged the Duterte administration for the effective implementation of the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012 to stop similar cases from happening again.