By: CMFR Staff
Posted on: June 7, 2023, 4:25 pm
CHEERS TO Inquirer.net and Philstar.com for their respective reports that reviewed the incidents of enforced disappearances under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. Their stories provided not just context but an opportunity for the families of the missing to once again cry for help.
What's the Story?
Gene Roz "Bazoo" De Jesus and Dexter Capuyan from University of the Philippines (UP) Baguio, Patricia Cierva from UP Manila, and Cedrick Casano from Polytechnic University of the Philippines - these were the most recent names added to the growing list of missing activists under Marcos Jr.
While some of the media did report on the disappearances when their schools or groups issued statements, Inquirer.net's Kurt Dela Pena and Philstar.com's Cristina Chi correctly tracked the pattern of enforced disappearances in the Philippines, going back when it was the most prevalent - during the regime of the president's father, Ferdinand Marcos Sr.
(Cierva and Casano went missing for 21 days but have since surfaced, with the military claiming that they were among the rebels who recently surrendered to the government. Groups earlier claimed that the two were taken by soldiers in Cagayan province.)
What the Reports Got Right
Dela Pena's story on May 30 took a broader look at enforced disappearances during various administrations. It also zoomed in on the story of Bazoo's mother, Mercedita De Jesus, who described him as a "lovable" son, a "supportive" brother, and a responsible journalism student who graduated cum laude. The report showed how activists are humane individuals with important advocacies.
Mercedita talked about her anxiety, especially because her son's disappearance brought back past memories of the Marcos dictatorship in the '80s when she was an activist herself. In a 2012 report, the Philippine Daily Inquirer noted that "Marcos Sr.'s regime registered the highest number of desaparecidos with 978 documented victims."
Dela Pena also cited human rights group Karapatan which has documented 206 missing under Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo; 29 under Benigno Aquino III; and 20 under Rodrigo Duterte. "In a mere 10-month period, there have already been 11 victims of enforced disappearances under Marcos Jr., already constituting over 50 percent of the Duterte administration's six-year record," the report pointed out.
He also reviewed the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012 and the establishment of the United Nations (UN) Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances in 1980. The UN group transmitted 782 cases to the Philippines and of these, 621 remain unsolved. And while it has been more than 10 years since the 2012 law took effect, Karapatan said the Philippines still has one of the highest number of cases of enforced disappearances.
Meanwhile, Chi's report on May 26 cited the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines (SCMP), an ecumenical youth group which "sounded the alarm" on the string of disappearances. The report also detailed the cases of Cierva and Casano, along with UP Cebu's Dyan Gumanao and Armand Dayoha who were abducted in broad daylight at the city's pier.
SCMP monitored and listed 21 cases of abductions, including those of Gumanao, Dayoha, and other activists who were later surfaced. They also included a consultant for the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and New People's Army members who were allegedly tortured.
The report also cited Amnesty International which recorded 77 disappearances under Marcos Sr. In a separate editorial, the Philippine Star noted the count of cause-oriented groups which reached 926 during the Marcos dictatorship.
Why Is this Important?
The reports were especially timely as it was published on the International Week of the Disappeared, the last week of May. But apart from and much bigger than that, it is important for the media to track the pattern of human rights violations in various administrations, but most especially under a president whose family has yet to come clean about the rights abuses committed by their patriarch's regime.
Enforced disappearances inflict immeasurable pain and suffering on families who are left in a perpetual state of anguish and uncertainty, desperately seeking answers and the return of their loved ones. Media reports should echo the pleas for help by these families and their search not just for their missing loved ones but for justice and accountability.