SC grants protection plea of youth advocate searching for her missing mother, friend

Mike Navallo. ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 09 2022 05:57 PM

Supreme Court in Manila. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News
Supreme Court in Manila. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — The Supreme Court has granted the protection plea of a 22-year-old youth advocate searching for her missing mother and a friend who were allegedly abducted in Tarlac in July this year.

In a resolution issued Nov. 29 and released only on Friday, the high court issued a writ of amparo in favor of Azase Galang, who filed the petition on Nov. 4 for her 52-year-old mother, Ma. Elena “Cha” Pampoza, and her friend, Elgene “Leleng” Mungcal, 51. 

Pampoza and Mungcal are both long-time peasant organizers in Central Luzon. Pampoza is part of Anakpawis, while Mungcal belongs to the Gabriela Women’s party-list.

The 2 were last seen boarding a “kolong-kolong” or a sidecar on July 3 in front of a supermarket in Moncada, Tarlac, on their way to a consultation with farmers in Tarlac. 

But they did not appear during the meeting and have not been seen since. Azase tried messaging her mother several times but received no response.

The Supreme Court also granted a temporary protection order in favor of the petitioners prohibiting the respondents from going within a 1-kilometer radius from the petitioners and their families.

The respondents were also required to file within 20 days their comment to the petition and a verified return laying down their defenses and efforts exerted to locate the whereabouts of Pampoza and Mungcal, among other details.

Top officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, as well as the head of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, were listed as respondents to the petition. 

According to the petition, state forces allegedly accused Mungcal of being a member of the New People’s Army while the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) vilified their organizations as “communist terrorist groups” and “communist terrorists” prior to their disappearance.

After the pair went missing, persons who identified themselves as police and military personnel allegedly looked for them in the places where they were staying.

“As state forces falsely accuse Leleng (Mungcal) of being an NPA member, an enemy of the state, it stands to reason that the elements or agents of State security forces, are the ones who caused their disappearance,” the petition claimed.

Susan Lazaga, the owner of the sidecar that picked up Pampoza and Mungcal on the day they disappeared, was also included as a respondent. 

Lazaga claimed she dropped them off at the Welcome Arch of Anao along the Moncada-Anao road, but CCTV footage contradicted her statement as there was no trace of the peasant leaders and the sidecar.

The petition said there is basis to believe Lazada not only knew what actually happened on July 3 but that she also “collaborated with state security forces” which supposedly led to the disappearance of the pair.

“The continued disappearance of Cha (Pampoza) and Leleng (Mungcal) is a clear and an undisputable proof that their rights to life, liberty and security was already violated the moment that they were abducted and eventually ‘disappeared’ on 03 July 2022. The fact that they remain missing up to the filing of this Petition is proof that there is a continuing violation of these immutable rights,” the petition said.

Galang, who claimed she was surveilled and harassed after her mother’s disappearance, welcomed the SC ruling but said the fight was far from over.

“Maliit na tagumpay pa lang yun kumpara sa kapanatagan ng loob kapag nakita na talaga sila Mama pero wala namang magagawa kundi lumaban, magpatuloy sa paghahanap,” Galang told ABS-CBN News in a message.

“Sana ngayon mga panahong ito, may iisang hangin kaming nilalanghap, may iisang espasyo kami para magkadaupang-palad. Sana sa panahon na nakakakain ako, ganun din ang idinudulot nitong busog sa kanya,” she said. 

“Mahirap pero nakakataas ng morale kapag naaalala ko yung palagiang pangaral nya. Bukod sa ganda, yung tatag ng loob at prinsipyo niya yung nananatili sa akin. Tuloy ang laban para sa karapatan ng mamamayan! Diyan sya matutuwa,” she continued.