Filipino American Women Honor the Disappeared and Families that Search for them

Jonas Burgos, desaparecido since 2007

For Immediate Release

Contact: Raquel Redondiez, Chairperson, GABRIELA USA, chair@gabusa.org

Filipino American Women Honor the Disappeared and Families that Search for them

On August 30th, GABRIELA USA commemorates the 27th International Day of the Disappeared, a day to remember the thousands of people that have been kidnapped or secretly imprisoned across the world.  As Filipina-Americans in the US, we remember the hundreds of missing Filipino community workers, union leaders, teachers, journalists, and civilians that have been subject to enforced disappearances by the Philippine government. In the last decade in the Philippines, there have been over 200 enforced disappearances with 31 of them being women under presidency of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA).  GABRIELA USA also stands in solidarity with the thousands missing across the globe from Mexico, Colombia, Algeria, and other countries demanding the surfacing these citizens.

These disappearances have had a grave impact on women, especially the mothers of those who have disappeared. Edith Burgos, mother of Jonas Burgos who was abducted three years ago in Quezon City allegedly by the Philippines military, is still searching for her son. Connie Empeno and Linda Cadapan are mothers of Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan, students at University of the Philippines-Diliman that were kidnapped four years ago in Bulacan while doing research. These mothers have not stopped searching for their children, and have become advocates and fighters for all those who have disappeared. We honor not only those who are still missing, but also the relatives that are still searching for their loved ones. Mothers have lost their children. Wives have lost their loved ones. Children have lost their parents. There must be justice for these families.

There have also been cases of those who have disappeared, but who have surfaced due to international pressure, including Melissa Roxas, a  U.S. Citizen and Filipino American human rights advocate who volunteered for a community medical mission in the Philippines. Last year in 2009, she was forcibly abducted at gunpoint, believed to be by Philippine military, along with two companions, blindfolded, and thrown into a cell where she endured physical and psychological torture until finally being released six days after.  She was surfaced due to an immediate campaign coming from people’s organizations including KARAPATAN and BAYAN USA who filed missing reports that hit international news circuits.

These cases of enforced disappearances are not individual cases, but a trend in conjunction with the Philippine military’s Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL). This program was GMA’s counter-insurgency plan that has terrorized thousands of  innocent civilians and has paved the way for extreme human rights violations. Since 2001, there have been over 1200 extrajudicial killings along with over 200 enforced disappearances. OBL places Filipinos at the mercy of a government that prohibits due process, and has resulted in an increased population of missing persons.  Under newly elected President Aquino, OBL continues to be   the primary excuse to assassinate, illegally imprison, or abduct labor leaders, teachers, and other community workers by targeting them as armed insurgents.

While newly elected president, Benigno Aquino III, has promised to thoroughly investigate these disappearances under Arroyo, we must continue to hold him and his administration accountable to pursue justice for the disappeared, their families, and all victims of human rights violations. As president of the Philippines, he should put an end to the terror of OBL by scrapping it and putting an end to this “witch hunt”, and investigating the cases of thousands of unsolved human rights violations.

GABRIELA USA strongly condemns the culture of impunity deeply embedded within the Philippines.  We urge for the prosecution Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and all involved government and military officials for their crimes against the Filipino people.  We demand justice for all victims of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings through the release of all political prisoners, and the surfacing of all victims of enforced disappearances.

SURFACE THE DISAPPEARED!

PROSECUTE GMA! END IMPUNITY IN THE PHILIPPINES!

SCRAP OPLAN BANTAY LAYA!

JUSTICE FOR ALL VICTIMS OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN THE PHILIPPINES!

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