By ZOFIA LEAL
At 56, yesterday was Wilma Rodriguez’s first trip out of town. She has always considered herself as a homebody, going out only to attend mass or buy food and other needs. Now, however, she needs to leave the comforts of her home in Rodriguez, Rizal to find her missing son, Noriel.
Noriel, 26, was abducted last September 6. According to initial reports gathered by human rights group Karapatan-Cagayan Valley, Noriel was taken at gunpoint by four armed men in civilian clothes at around 5:00 p.m. in Sitio Komunal, Brgy. Tapel, Gonzaga, Cagayan.
The suspected perpetrators are elements of the 17th Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army stationed at San Jose, Gonzalo, Cagayan.
Noriel has been an active member of the activist youth group Anakbayan- National Capital Region since 2004. In May 2005, he joined the basic masses integration program in Cagayan and decided to stay and commit his time organizing peasant communities through the Kagimungan peasant group.
After almost five years in Cagayan, Noriel went home in late 2008 and left only last April.
Last week, he sent a text message to his mother asking that they send him chocolates. That was the last text they received from him.
Noriel, or Nonge to his family and friends was a mass server in his teens. His mother Wilma explained that she did not raise her children to be bad people. That is why she does not understand why Nonge was abducted.
She has always supported her son’s mission of serving the masses. In fact, she has joined rallies herself and was even a member of a union when she was still working. Even when her son was already based in Cagayan, she did not pressure him to come back even though she was always worried about his safety.
She said her oldest son told her not to cry and to be strong in their search for Noriel. However, sometimes her emotions get the best of her. She could not help it, she said. Wilma admits that she is not brave, but she is trying hard to put a brave face so that she can find her son.
While waiting for the service that will take them to Cagayan, friends of Nonge recalled that he became a member of Anakbayan when he joined a youth camp at the Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac last November 2004.
Since then, he became an active member of Anakbayan with the primary task of teaching literacy classes to children. According to Lei Piñon, Noriel’s friend, their area of work is at the community of the North Cemetery and along the railroad tracks of Blumentritt in Manila.
Lei remembered that they were having difficulties inviting the youth in the communities to join rallies. The youth could not just leave their work. They needed to sell street food to earn a living. It was Nonge who told them that they could sell during rallies so they would be able to join the activity and even earn money.
Nonge was also able to recruit so-called “rugby boys” in the community. Rugby, a solvent, is the inhalant of choice for most poor teenagers wanting to get a high. Since their recruitment to Anakbayan, these boys have not used rugby anymore.
Wilma also attested to her son’s sincerity and kindness. He was always the one worrying about his siblings when they were not yet home, she said.
Both Wilma and Lei expressed their concerns about Nonge’s abduction. For Wilma, she admitted that she is fearful but mentioned that if they do not fight the perpetrators, crimes like these would never end.
Meanwhile, Lei believes that Nonge’s dedication to change society and his perseverance in the face of sacrifice would help him withstand whatever might be happening to him right now, including the possibility of torture.
According to Ken Ramos, national chairperson of Anakbayan, this incident in nothing new. Ramos cited the case of two missing University of the Philippines students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan who were abducted in 2006. Ramos said that despite the overwhelming evidence proving the military’s role in their disappearances, they are still missing up to now.
“The list of desaparacidos will continue as long as the fascist Arroyo regime uses force to protect her self-interests”, Ramos said.
Wilma is not the only mother whose children have been abducted under Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s administration. According to human rights group Karapatan, there are already 207 victims of enforced disappearance as of June 2009.
For Wilma, the fight has only begun. “Nagtatapang-tapangan lang ako. Hindi talaga ako matapang. Pero kapag hindi ka lumaban, hindi rin titigil ang mga yan.” (I just try to be fighter. I am not really a fighter. But if you don’t fight, they would not stop.)
She is uncertain of what awaits her in Cagayan but is ready and willing to be as courageous as her son to be able to find him. (Bulatlat.com)