Desaparecidos - Families of the Disappeared for Justice gathered together on November 2, offering candles, flowers, and prayers before the Bantayog ng mga Desaparecido at the National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in Baclaran, unwavering in the hope that, one day, they may be finally reunited with their loved ones who still remain missing to this day.

As Filipino families gather in cemeteries to visit the tombs of their kin who have passed away this All Souls’ Day, mothers and relatives of victims of enforced or involuntary disappearance across various administrations stand united in renewing their demand for perpetrators to surface their missing kin. Between hope and despair, they continue to call for justice for all victims of enforced disappearances. 

Ang sigaw ng buhay ko sa bawat segundo: nasaan na ang anak ko? Nasaan na si Sherlyn Cadapan? Hindi sapat na tagumpay ang pagkakulong sa berdugong heneral na si Jovito Palparan Jr. at dalawang kasamang militar sa kulungan. Hangga’t di nila nililitaw ang aking si Sherlyn na kanilang inabuso, ginahasa, nilapastangan, binaboy at sinaktan, hindi ako titigil sa paghahanap (I scream for every second of my life: where is my daughter? Where is Sherlyn Cadapan? It is not enough that the butcher Palaparan and his two military companions will rot in jail. As long as they do not surface my Sherlyn whom they abused, raped, violated, dehumanized, and hurt, I will not stop in searching for her.),” said Erlinda Cadapan, chairperson of Desaparecidos and mother of missing University of the Philippine (UP) student-activist Sherlyn.

Sherlyn, together with fellow UP student-activist Karen Empeño went missing on June 26, 2006, in Hagonoy, Bulacan after being abducted by soldiers under Palparan. September last year, the retired general was finally found guilty of kidnapping and serious illegal detention for Karen and Sherlyn’s disappearance and was sentenced up to 40 years behind bars.

“Sa loob ng mahigit 13 taon, higit pa sa pisikal na torture ang aking dinaranas, ganoon din ang aking pamilya. Ang mental torture ang pinakamabigat na kaakibat ko ngayon. Nasaan na ang aking anak na si Karen? Nasaan? Bagamat nakakulong na ang berdugong si Palparan at ang dalawa pa niyang kasamahan, hindi kailanman maibsan ang aming pangungulila kay Karen. Pakiusap ko po sa estado na bigyang pansin ang hiling naming hustisya at ilitaw si Karen Empeño, Sherlyn Cadapan, at lahat ng dinukot ng estado na hanggang ngayon ay nawawala pa rin (In more than 13 years, I experienced torture fare greater than physical torture, including my family. The mental torture was the heaviest to bear.  Where is my daughter Karen? Where is she? Even if the butcher Palparan and his two accomplices are already behind bars, it will never quench our longing for Karen. I am asking the state to surface Karen Empeño, Sherlyn Cadapan, and all those who have been abducted by state forces who remain missing to this day.),” said Karen’s mother, Connie.

The two mothers joined other families of victims of enforced disappearances in demanding before the Duterte administration the full and proper implementation of Republic Act No. 10353, or the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012, criticizing its lack of proper implementation as cases of enforced disappearance continue with impunity under the Duterte government. 

May batas na tayo para parusahan ang mga dapat parusahan pero sa ilalim ni Duterte, 9 na ang desaparecido. Patuloy pa rin ang mga pagdakip at ilegal na pag-aresto at detensyon. Patunay lamang ito na hindi kami dapat tumigil na manawagan para sa hustisya para sa aming mga anak at mga kapamilya. Hanggang malaya ang mga berdugong dumakip at pumatay, hindi kami titigil na lumaban (We already have a law to hold accountable those who need to be held accountable but, under Duterte, there are already 9 desaparecidos. The abductions and llegal arrests and detentions continue. These are proof that we should not stop calling for justice for our children and families. As long as murderers are free to abduct and kill, we will not stop fighting.),” Cadapan said. 

Desaparecidos reiterated that enforced disappearances are among the worst forms of human rights violations: “We do not want anyone to experience what we have gone through; nobody deserves this unending longing and pain. Our missing loved ones are good people. They are brilliant and they stood for people’s rights. Today, we light candles in their memory – – an indication that the fight for justice is far from over, ” Cadapan ended. ###