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Enforced Disappearances Still a Scourge in Philippines

Acquittal of Ex-General, Recent Abductions Underscore Impunity for the Crime

Relatives and supporters of victims of enforced disappearances shout slogans as they hold pictures of their loved ones during a gathering at the Monument to the Heroes in Manila, Philippines, August 30, 2022. © 2022 AP Photo/Aaron Favila

The acquittal last week of a former Army general for the 2006 abduction and torture of two brothers highlights the persistence of impunity for enforced disappearances in the Philippines.

Moments after the verdict, Raymond Manalo faced reporters outside the court in Bulacan province and wept openly. Manalo had alleged that he and his brother Reynaldo were kidnapped and tortured by then Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan and his men in 2006. Manalo’s earlier testimony had helped convict Palparan in 2018 for the enforced disappearance, torture, and rape of students Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan in 2006. They remain missing. Palparan is serving a 40-year prison term.

The recent verdict came on the heels of a number of abductions of activists in locations throughout the country. On September 29, unidentified men took activists Lee Sudario and Norman Ortiz in Nueva Ecija province. On September 23, alleged soldiers seized activists Job Abednego David, Peter del Monte, and Alia Encela in Oriental Mindoro province; the military claims they were communist New People’s Army (NPA) rebels but has provided no information on their whereabouts. All five remain missing.

Environmental activists Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamayo said they were abducted by soldiers in Bataan province on September 2 and held for days. The military alleged the two women were NPA members who decided to surrender and presented them in a press conference, where they asserted that soldiers had abducted them. The military accused the activists of “hoodwinking them.

On April 28, unidentified men forced Indigenous rights activists Dexter Capuyan and Gene Roz Jamil de Jesus into separate vehicles in Rizal province: they have not yet been found. On January 10, men took activists Armand Dayoha and Dyan Gumanao in public and in broad daylight before a CCTV camera, at a pier in Cebu City. They surfaced days later and recounted their ordeal.

In 2012, Congress enacted a law against enforced disappearance – the first in Asia – but, by most accounts, this law has proven useless. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. should press for the Senate’s ratification of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, the prompt and impartial investigation of disappearance cases, and the appropriate prosecution of those responsible, regardless of position or rank.

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