MANILA — A small gathering of around 20 activists, human rights defenders, families and friends outside the office of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) in Quezon City Thursday repeated a familiar call: “Surface Bazoo and Dexter.”
Gene Roz Jamil “Bazoo” De Jesus (Bazoo) and Dexter Capuyan (Dexter) are activists who were last seen in Taytay, Rizal on April 28 this year.
Bazoo, 27, recently started working with the Philippine Task Force on Indigenous Peoples’ Rights (TFIP) as an information officer while Dexter, 56, was accused of being a leader or a member of the New People’s Army (NPA).
Their families have tried searching for them in various Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) offices in Southern Tagalog, Cordillera and Central Luzon but could not find any trace of them.
The only information they gathered is from tricycle drivers in a subdivision in Taytay, Rizal who supposedly saw armed men arresting 2 people who fit Bazoo’s and Dexter’s descriptions on April 28.
The armed men allegedly identified themselves as members of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG).
The PNP has denied any involvement.
Armed with this information, the families filed writs of habeas corpus petitions before the Court of Appeals in July to compel state forces to present their kin, to no avail.
In a 26-page ruling dated September 13, 2023, the CA 12th Division junked both petitions, noting the lack of evidence to establish the claim that it was Bazoo and Dexter who were allegedly abducted on April 28.
“First, there is no evidence that would establish the identities of the two (2) individuals allegedly abducted on the night of April 28, 2023 at the Golden City Subdivision in Taytay, Rizal. Neither is there evidence that points to the fact that the persons who were allegedly abducted are Bazoo and Dexter,” the ruling penned by CA Associate Justice Florencio Mamauag, Jr. said.
“The information gathered by the petitioners on the alleged abduction were only relayed to them by random individuals whom they interviewed and who also have no personal knowledge of the incident. Simply put, petitioners have not presented any evidence that the persons allegedly abducted are Bazoo and Dexter,” it added.
CA Associate Justices Victoria Isabel Paredes and Mary Charlene Hernandez-Azura concurred in the ruling.
The appellate court also noted that the allegations in the petitions were not about illegal detention or deprivation of liberty of Bazoo and Dexter but about their alleged abduction and disappearance, which are features of enforced disappearance and “falls within the ambit of the writ of amparo.”
A petition for a writ of amparo is a remedy available to those whose rights to life, liberty and security are violated or threatened with violation by an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employee, or of a private individual or entity.
The dismissal was not what Dexter’s daughter, Ley, had hoped for.
“Medyo nakakadismaya lang, nakakabahala kasi…we didn’t receive full cooperation of the AFP and PNP, which we suspect of being the abductors of my father and Bazoo. So medyo frustrating, nakakalungkot, nakakagalit,” she told ABS-CBN News, speaking for the first time since his father’s disappearance.
(It’s disappointing and concerning. We didn’t receive full cooperation of the AFP and PNP, which we suspect of being the abductors of my father and Bazoo. It’s a bit frustrating, sad and infuriating.)
Bazoo’s sister, Idda, said they are studying the possibility of filing a petition for a writ of amparo instead, even as they continue to hope to see him again, alive.
“Mahirap bumalik doon sa dati na pamumuhay namin. Andaming kailangang i-adjust, andaming kailangang magbago kaya’t buo pa rin ang ano namin na umasa pero yung pag-asa na ‘to, kailangang may pagkilos pa rin,” she said.
(It’s hard to go back to our old life. So many things to adjust and so many things need to change but we are still full of hope and we need to act on it.)
Both said they believe state forces were behind Bazoo’s and Dexter’s disappearance, especially with a recent incident where 2 environmental activists were initially presented by the anti-insurgency task force as rebel surrenderers only for them to declare that they were, in fact, abducted.
Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano, who were conducting research on the Manila Bay reclamation, said military personnel forced them to board a van in Bataan and were coerced to sign an affidavit indicating that they voluntarily left the rebel movement.
“It’s possible, given the conditions. I worry that they are being subjected to the same treatment…With the recent press conference of Jhed and Jonila, I believe that all cases of abduction need to be investigated,” Ley said of his father and Bazoo.
Idda noted similarities and differences between her brother’s case and those of Jhed and Jonila’s but she called on the PNP and AFP to cooperate with their search for their missing kin.
“Harapin nila kami. Yung talagang sincere, genuine cooperation sa amin dahil nagtatanong lang din naman po kami. Yun bang wag na nilang itago kung ano man nalalaman nila…I-exhaust na rin nila kung anong means meron sila para matulungan kami,” she said.
(They should face us. Show us sincere, genuine cooperation because we’re just asking. They should not hide anything from us and instead exhaust all means to help us.)
Ley’s call is more pointed.
“Stop the attacks against these human rights defenders, these activists. They shouldn’t be silenced. There’s nothing wrong with advocating for the rights of others,” she said.
And for her father whom she hasn’t been in contact with for a while, a promise that she will continue searching for him.
“We’re still looking for you,” she said in between tears. “We’re still hoping to see you. We won’t stop advocating for you.”