Surface the disappeared

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat.com

Just last week, JL Burgos posted this on his Facebook account:

“Yesterday, Edith Burgos, was followed by ‘unidentified’ men. Despite of my mom’s effort to lose the ‘unidentified’ men (and believe me she’s good at it), they would eventually end up where my mom is. A black van and at least 3 men on foot were monitoring her the whole day. She was able to get the black van’s plate number, we tried to check the plate number thru the LTO and it was registered to a car and not a van. This post is to let you know that it is still happening and to let them (the people who are following her) that we know that we’re being surveiled. Stop harassing Human Rights workers! Surface Jonas Now!”

This is not the first time that Mrs. Burgos , widow of press freedom fighter Joe Burgos and mother of missing activist Jonas Burgos, experienced such form of harassment. As JL said, her mother has become good at losing her “tails.”

A few weeks ago, siblings of James Balao received text messages claiming that James, who has been missing since September 17, 2008, is already dead and that he was allegedly killed in an encounter along with three other New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas. The information turned out to be false. To begin with, James is not an NPA as claimed by the military.

Who has the capacity and the gall to do such heartless things?

In one of my conversations with Mrs. Burgos, she said, “What do they want from me? I am just a mother looking for her son. If they want me to stop what I am doing, they must surface Jonas and other victims of enforced disappearances.”

Mrs. Burgos has been searching for more than five years. Balao’s parents, meanwhile, had died without seeing him again. James’s siblings continue searching for him.

Both families, like the mothers of University of the Philippines (UP) students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan, have sought the help of the courts but their loved ones remain missing and they endure the torture each day. Enforced disappearance is the most inhumane form of human rights violation, far worse than extrajudicial killing.

Loved ones of the desaparecido always ask questions such as “Where is he now?” “What is she doing right now?” “Are they feeding him?” “Does she know how much I love her?”

Love is indefatigable and no matter how difficult and how long, it is certain that Mrs. Burgos, Mrs. Concepcion Empeño, Mrs. Erlinda Cadapan, Balao’s siblings and other relatives of the disappeared will not give up.

Let us join them in their search for justice, in their quest for a humane society. Let us demand from this administration to open all military camps, all safe houses and surface all those who have been snatched away.

Under the Aquino administration, there have been 11 victims of enforced disappearances, according to Karapatan. Ironically, even after the dark days of martial law, enforced disappearance has not been considered a crime under Philippine laws. The bill seeking to criminalize enforced disappearances, just like most of the legislations on human rights, is not a priority bill and as such, gathers dust.

A few minutes ago, JL posted:

“Dear friends and colleagues,

Please take down your profile picture on August 30, Thursday, in solidarity with the friends and family of the missing, from the Martial Law days up to the present, who continue to seek justice. It also signifies our being one with the call to immediately pass the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Bill. August 30 is the International Day of the Disappeared.”
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