Commemmoration of the International Day of the Disappeared

Lanterns for the Disappeared


Plaza Miranda/Recto-Morayta         Plazoleta Gay, Iloilo City


August 30, 2008





"We may not be able to find them but we are here to continue what they have been dreaming of. We are doing something for their dream. It’s as if they are still here because we are here."


-- Dee Ayroso, wife of peasant organizer, Honor, who was abducted February 9, 2002 in San Jose, Nueva Ecija


Listen to a recording by Honor Ayroso of Bertolt Brecht's poem "Lahat o Wala". Click here



Picket rally at Plazoleta Gay in Iloilo City. More photos here


Erlinda Cadapan, mother of abducted UP student Sherlyn    


Lamentations of Families of the Disappeared

How does one cope when a loved one was involuntarily disappeared? How does one go on searching for days, weeks, months, years, decades?

Vol. VIII, No. 30, August 31-September 6, 2008

How does one cope when a loved one was involuntarily disappeared? How does one go on searching for days, weeks, months, years, decades?

In a roundtable discussion organized by the Center for Women’s Resources (CWR), August 29, women who are mothers, wives, daughters and sisters of desaperacidos (disappeared) shared their continuing search for their loved ones and for justice.

beth calubadElizabeth ‘Nanay Beth’ Calubad’s husband and son were abducted June 17, 2006 by suspected state agents in Caluag, Quezon. Nanay Beth described his husband as someone who serves the people. Rogelio is a member of the National Democratic Front (NDF) peace panel.

“Hangad niya na ang magsasaka ay lumaya, makamit ang lupa ng mga magsasaka, iyon ang naging dahilan para siya dukutin ng military” (He worked for peasants to be free, to get their own land, this is the reason why the military abducted him.) said Nanay Beth.

Nanay Beth said that her son Gabriel was not involved in his father’s activities. She said that Rudy was only driving the tricycle when the suspected soldiers blocked their way.

Feeling the effects

Nanay Beth related her ordeal since the disappearance of her husband and her son. “Nawala kami sa lugar namin. Kabuhayan, wala rin. At nagtago rin dito sa Maynila dahil kung hindi baka kami rin ay dukutin.” (We left our place. We have also lost our livelihood. We hid here in Manila because we might be abducted, too.)

“Ngayon, paano kami nabubuhay dito? Unang-unang tumulong sa amin ang Karapatan. Lumapit na kami sa [Commission on] Human Rights, hanggang ngayon pangako lang. Pangakong nakapako,” (Now, how do we survive? Karapatan was the first to help us. We went to the Commission on Human Rights, they promised to help us. Until now, it remains a promise, a broken promise.) she added.

Nanay Beth said she has no job. “Sa edad kong ito, wala nang tatangap sa akin.”
(At my age. no one will hire me.)

Nanay Beth took her youngest son to Bataan and then to Quezon City so that he could continue his studies. She said it is also the poor who help them.

She still has a four-year old grandchild. “Nang mawalan siya ng ama, dadalawang taon pa lang.” (When her father disappeared, she was only two years old.)

For Dee Ayroso whose husband Honor Ayroso was abducted February 9, 2002 in San Jose, Nueva Ecija, the impact was not immediately apparent.

Honor was with Johnny Orcino when six armed men on board an owner-type jeep took them.

Dee said it was the second time that Honor and Johnny were abducted. Both were abducted in separate incidents in 1989. The two were interrogated and tortured in safehouses before they were surfaced and charged in court. Honor was acquitted on charges of illegal possession of firearms and subversion.

Dee continued,“Sa unang pagkakataon na iyon, nilitaw pa sila. Itong pangalawa, hindi na.” (During that time, they were surfaced. This time, they remain missing.)

“Hindi malaking epekto noong umpisa. Ang asawa ko, lagi naman nasa malayo, peasant organizer. Habang tumatagal, doon mo nararamdaman kasi hindi na bumabalik eh,” (At first, the effect was not enormous. My husband was always away, he was a peasant organizer. As time goes by, the effect of his disappearance becomes stronger because he no longer comes home.) said Dee.

The couple has two sons. When Honor disappeared, they were six and almost two. Today, the eldest is already 13 and the youngest, 8.

aya santos, desaperacidosMeanwhile, Lorena Santos whose father Leo Velasco and mother Elizabeth Principe were abducted in separate incidents said she continues to overcome guilt feelings.

Velasco, an NDF consultant, was abducted by government agents on Feb. 19, 2007 in Cagayan de Oro, the city capital of the province of Misamis Oriental, southern Philippines.

Meanwhile, Principe, was presented to the media by Army officials as a high-ranking cadre of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army. Army officials said she was captured on November 28 in Cubao, Quezon City by virtue of standing arrest orders for six criminal charges, including kidnapping, arson, murder and frustrated murder in the provinces of Isabela and Nueva Vizcaya. She is detained at the Camp Crame.

Lorena has been working as a volunteer of Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights). She said, “Bago pa mawala si Tatay, kasama na ako ng mga kaanak ng mga biktima ng sapilitang pagkawala sa paghahanap. Pumapasok kami sa mga kampo ng military. Hindi ko akalain na ako ay maghahanap sa tatay ko.” (Before my father disappeared, I joined the families of the disappeared in searching for their loved ones. We went inside military camps. I didn’t expect that I would also search for my father.)



Dee said she went to the Philippine Army, Philippine National Police (PNP) in San Jose, PNP in Cabanatuan City, PNP in San Fernando, and to the CHR. “Wala akong nakuhang tulong.” (I was not given any help.)

Dee said that the CHR in Region III just told her they have no funds.

After two months, Dee said that CHR investigators went to their house. A senator wrote to CHR to appeal for urgent action regarding the case of Honor and Johnny. Dee related, “Iimbestigahan daw nila ang kaso ng asawa ko. Sa akin hinahanap ang wtiness. Nagtago na ang witness, tricycle driver. Siyempre, takot din siya para sa buhay niya.” (They told me they would investigate the case of my husband. They asked me about the witness. The witness, a tricycle driver, already went into hiding. Of course, he fears for his life.)

The only thing that Honor left behind was his belt bag, said Dee. The police showed it to her but refused to give it to her.

Lorena said she also wrote to CHR asking for help. Until now, she has not received any reply.


Dee said that the most difficult to overcome is the feeling of helplessness. “Lahat ng pagtanungan mo, walang alam. PNP, Army, walang alam. Ni hindi kami nakapag-file ng kaso sa korte dahil wala kaming testigo, nagtago na ang testigo namin.” (Every one we asked claimed that they knew nothing. The PNP, the Army said they knew nothing. We could not even file a case in court because we have no witness. Our witness went into hiding.)

Lorena shared the same feeling. “Lahat ng pwedeng gawin, gagawin mo talaga pero bakit wala pa rin sila? Sa lahat ng pwedeng lapitan, sasabihin nila wala sa amin.” (I did everything that could be done but why are they still not here? We went everywhere but they all told us our loved ones were not in their custody.)


Lorena continued, “Sabi ng isang Isfap, hindi naming ginagawa ang mandukot. Ang sarap sabihin, sinungaling kayo.” (An Isafp agent claimed that they do not abduct people. I wanted to tell him, you are liars.) Isafp stands for Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Nanay Beth said, “Nag-file na kami nga habeas corpus, umabot na ng dalawang taon mahigit. Sa Sept. 16, mayroon pa kaming hearing. Ewan ko. Talagang mailap, walang katarungan ang nararamdaman naming mga kaanak.” (We filed a petition for habeas corpus, it’s been more than two years since. On Sept. 16, we would have another hearing. I don’t know anymore. We, relatives of missing, feel that justice is elusive, if not absent.)


Bilet Batralo, youngest sister of Cesar Batralo, NDF consultant who was abducted Dec. 31, 2006, related that Cesar’sbilet batralo, desaperacidos daughter Gabriela who was then only four years old, dreams of becoming Darna (a superhero in Filipino comics) so that she could fly and look for her father. “Dadagitin daw niya ang mga kumuha sa tatay niya.” (She said she would snatch her father from his abductors.)

Bilet said when she started searching for her brother in military camps, she experienced different forms of harassment. “Nakaranas akong kasahan ng baril." (I already know how it feels when soldiers cock their guns to try to scare you.)


Lorena also has to deal with guilt feelings. “Bakit hindi ko nahanap ang tatay ko? Mayroon ba akong hindi nagawa? Hindi pa ba ako maingay? Kailangan ba mas maingay pa ako para mahanap ko siya?” (Why can’t I find my father? Is there anything I failed do? Am I not generating enough noise about his abduction? Should I be more vocal to be able to find him?)


Jacqueline Ruiz, a psychologist said that the most difficult for those who search for their missing loved ones is the absence of closure.

Dee said, “Parang pakiramdam din ng namatayan eh, na wala na ang tao… kaya lang malupit dahil wala kang mabisitang libingan.” (It’s like that your loved has died, he is already gone…but this is harsh because you don’t have a tomb to visit.)

Ruiz said that they who search continue to hope that they will soon find their loved ones.

She added that relatives of the missing, while continuing their search, have to go on living. “Kailangang maging matatag para sa iba pang kaanak.” (We have to be strong for our other relatives.)

Ruiz said that a support group helps a lot in coping with difficult situations. She said that the knowledge that others are experiencing the same could provide strength.

Lorena said that every time she feels guilty, she talks with relatives of other disappeared persons. “They too did everything to search for their loved ones.”

For now, Lorena said they just have to continue searching and fighting for justice. She said that enforced disappearances would stop only if there would be a change in the societal system.

Lorena said, “Kailangan naming sumama, kumilos para sa pagbabagong ito para hindi mawala ang mga kamag-anak namin. Hindi sila mawawala sa memory, sa history, sa pakikibaka ng mamamayan.” (We need to participate, work for genuine change so that the memory of our loved ones would not fade in the history, the process of the people’s struggle.)

Dee said, “Hindi man makita, narito kami kung ano man ang pinangarap ng mga nawawala, may gingawa kami tungkol doon. Nandito pa rin sila kasi nandito kami.” (We may not be able to find them but we are here to continue what they have been dreaming of. We are doing something for their dream. It’s as if they are still here because we are here.) Bulatlat


    Concepcion Empeño, mother of abducted UP student Karen



Enforced disappearance, one of the most serious violations of human rights, constitutes an international crime. The Arroyo regime, its police, military and para-military units are all guilty of this crime. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, in the criminal tradition of Marcos and post-Marcos governments, continue this heinous practice of kidnapping, abducting and detaining people and holding them in secret.

August 30th of this year marks the 25th anniversary of the “International Day of the Disappeared” and in the countries where authoritarian rulers reign supreme, like the Philippines, the familes and friends of the “disappeared” commemorate this day and march out to the streets to remember (and have us all remember) that their loved ones have not yet come home.

In the rallies, the families come with pictures of their loved ones, held close to their hearts. The mothers stand out in the crowd, walking with the wives or husbands and the children, some of them with lanterns and candles. They march to the plaza, and hold up the huge photos in front of the noses of the riot police as if to say “Look closely at this face, surely you must know where my child is!”

Enforced disappearance challenges the very essence of human rights: it denies the right of all persons to exist, to have an identity. Enforced disappearance turns a human being into a non-being. The disappeared person is deprived of all his or her rights and he or she remains totally defenceless, in the hands of his or her torturers, outside the protection of the law. It is a clear violation of the fundamental values of humanity and the basic principles of the rule of law, and, in general, of international law.

Enforced disappearance is part of the strategy of the Arroyo’s counter-insurgency program, sanctioned and supported by the U.S. government. Making people disappear is aimed at spreading terror and insecurity among the communities to which the “disappeared” belongs and the wider society as a whole. The use of enforced disappearances is nothing but another systematic form of repression, which hides the human evidence, whether alive or dead, while the perpetrators go free.

The pattern is insidious. Activists, community organizers, and citizens critical of the regime are abducted, interrogated and tortured by the military, police and its agents. The perpetrators hide their captives in military camps, headquarters and government offices. There is good reason to believe that some of the “disappeared” may have been killed and their bodies hidden. Or that some of them are indefinitely and secretly detained, or held incommunicado, in secret prisons or hospitals or military camps. There are testimonies from victims lucky to have been “surfaced” either in prison, or sent home after being coerced into becoming military assets. In many cases, there are witnesses to these abductions, which are mostly done in broad daylight by the perpetrators, as if to arrogantly proclaim this ultimate abuse of power executed with such impunity.



The suffering that enforced disappearance imposes on relatives and friends of the “disappeared” is severe: the eternity of waiting and the constant uncertainty about the fate and whereabouts of the loved ones is particularly cruel. It is a form of on-going torture for mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, partners, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters of the “disappeared” person. The absence of the “disappeared” loved one leaves a heartache that never goes away, thus, the rallies and marches of the families are collective outpourings of individual, personal heartaches that transform themselves into political statements of clenched fists and strong resolves to demand that their loved ones are surfaced.

The Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights reminds the Arroyo government that enforced disappearances (as with torture and extra-judicial killings) are violations of its own Constitution which guarantees human rights to its citizens as well as violations of international covenants on human rights and articles of war to which the Philippine government is a signatory, including that of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP)-National Democratic Front (NDF) Comprehensive Agreement on Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.

We also are aware of the fact that the Philippine government has NOT signed, which is the preliminary step to ratification, the U.N. International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

We join the collective voice of the families and friends of the “disappeared” and demand that :

• that the government surface the “disappeared.”
• that the government and the military open all military camps, detachments and safe houses to searches by the families of the “disappeared” and by human rights organizations;
• that the families and human rights organizations have access to information and records to resolve the fate and whereabouts of the “disappeared”;
• that the perpetrators be brought to justice thereby sending a clear message that the practice of “enforced disappearances” will not be tolerated;
• that the Arroyo regime STOPS the practice of “enforced disappearance.”

We link arms with the families and friends of the “disappeared” who struggle against enforced disappearances and impunity and carry the burden of uncertainly everyday. Their resistance against the very same government that should have protected them and their loved ones do not go unnoticed. We gather strength from mothers and wives and husbands and families who demand, not beg, for justice that is rightfully theirs.

August 30, 2008
The Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights
Vancouver, B.C. Canada


Dee Ayroso, wife of abducted activist Honor    

Tula ni Bertolt Brecht
salin ni Jose F. Lacaba

Note: This poem was one of the poems read by Honor Ayroso in September 1995 in a voice recording he and his wife Dee made for their first born, who was then still in the womb. On February 9, 2002, Honor was abducted and disappeared with Bayan Muna coordinator Johnny Orcino in San Jose City, Nueva Ecija.

ALIPIN, sino ang magpapalaya?
Silang nasadlak sa dilim
Sila lamang ang papansin
Sa iyong mga hikbi at luha
Alipin din ang magpapalaya

Lahat o wala
Lahat o wala
Ang nag-iisa’y walang magagawa
Sandata o tanikala
Lahat o wala
Lahat o wala

TAONG GUTOM, sinong magpapakain?
Kung gusto mo ng kanin at ulam,
Halika, sumama ka sa amin
Kumakalam din ang aming tiyan
Taong gutom din ang magpapakain

Lahat o wala
Lahat o wala
Ang nag-iisa’y walang magagawa
Sandata o tanikala
Lahat o wala
Lahat o wala






BIKTIMA, sinong magtatanggol?
Ikaw na iginigupo ng bugbog
Dinggin ang mga nakalugmok
Ang mahihina’y malakas tumutol
Kasama, kami ang magtatanggol

Lahat o wala
Lahat o wala
Ang nag-iisa’y walang magagawa
Sandata o tanikala
Lahat o wala
Lahat o wala

API, sinong mangangahas?
Siyang hindi na makapagtiis
Siyang walang sawa na sa panggigipit
Ay nag-iibayo ng lakas
Lalaban tayo ngayon, at hindi bukas!

Lahat o wala
Lahat o wala
Ang nag-iisa’y walang magagawa
Sandata o tanikala
Lahat o wala
Lahat o wala

■  Download recording of the poem by Honor Ayroso

    Edith Burgos, mother of abducted KMP activist Jonas
Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño      
        KARAPATAN statement



UA Date: 28 August 2008
UA Title: Human Rights workers in Central Visayas, Philippines receive threats through SMS

UA Case: Threat/Harassment/Intimidation

Victim/s: Staff of KARAPATAN-Central Visayas, namely
Dennis Michael Abarrientos, secretary-general;
Vimarie Arcilla, public information officer;
Jean Heracleo Suarez, research-documentation officer;
Concordia Oyao, services officer;
Paz Silva, administrative officer

Place of Incident: Cebu City, Philippines

Date of Incident: 21-24 August, 2008

Alleged Perpetrators: a certain Joy and Benjie, suspected operatives of the AFP 3rd
Civil Relations Group and Military Intelligence Group,

Account of Incident:

On 21 August, 2008, the victims and other staff of KARAPATAN-Central Visayas were having a consultative meeting at the office of the non-government developmental institution Community Empowerment and Resource Network at Rosedell Apartment, V. Rama Ave., Ingles, Cebu City.

On 21 August 2008, staff members of KARAPATAN-Central Visayas were in attendance at a consultative meeting at the office of Community Empowerment Resource Network Incorporated (CERNET Inc.), a network of development organizations and institutions in Central Visayas, Philippines.

Five of them have received threatening messages on their mobile phones, namely Concordia Oyao, Dennis Abarrientos, Vimarie Arcilla, Jean Suarez and Paz Silva. The message, coming from mobile phone numbers 09059393006 and 09096217843 read: “I know what your doing HR (human rights). Your time is up.”

They sent a reply and called the source of the threatening short message system (SMS). The senders used the code names “Joy” and “Benjie,” whom the victims say were the code names used by two persons who regularly speak in gatherings known as “pulong-pulong” or mass meetings, organized by the 3rd Civil Relations Group and Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Military Intelligence Group (ISAFP-MIG) in Cebu and Bohol.


Later that day, two staff members of CERNET received a message from the same senders, admonishing them for supporting human rights activities.

The next day, 22 August, at about 10:30AM, the victims received SMS from the same numbers. The SMS read: “Stop your Fault-Finding Mission” and “Suffer the consequences!!!”

Immediately, the victims called back hoping the lines were still open, but the phones were already “unavailable” and “unattended.”

The last threatening message was received by Oyao on 25 August, at about 2:30PM. It said, “You can not hide. Your scheme will be no more.”

BACKGROUND : Vimarie Arcilla has been receiving sporadic threats through SMS since she had worked on case of Calixto Alfante, a victim of enforced disappearance in Brgy. Dobdob, Valencia, Negros Oriental on 11 June 2008.


She accompanied Calixto's wife Lucita in searching for the Calixto in various military camps, detentions centers and government offices. The investigating team led by Arcilla went to Brgy.Dobdob where they were able to speak with witnesses and likewise confirmed that Calixto was abducted at the height of military operations in the area.

Since KARAPATAN-Central Visayas took up Alfante's case, the military have heightened its vilification campaign against the group, in particular Colonel Cesar Yano, commander of 302nd Infantry Brigade (IB). It is reported the unit involved in Calixto's abduction and disappearance, is under Colonel Yano's command.

Your urgent response to this action alert is being sought.


Send letters, emails or fax messages calling for:

1. The immediate formation of an independent fact-finding and investigation team that will look into the threat, harassment and intimidation of human rights workers in Cebu and human rights defenders in the Philippines.

2. The military to immediately cease its campaign of incitement to violence against human rights defenders.

3. The protection of human rights defenders.

4. The Philippine Government to be reminded that it is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and that it is also a party to all the major Human Rights instruments, thus it is bound to observe all of these instruments’