News Release

18 March 2019

Families of desaparecidos write to UN WGEID, appeals to reject “delisting” of cases of enforced disappearance

Rights group Desaparecidos (Families of the Disappeared for Justice) on Friday submitted a letter to the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance (UN-WGEID) in their continuing appeal not to accept the Philippine government’s move to delist the 625 victims of enforced disappearance in the Philippines between the years 1975 to 2012.

Signed by 24 relatives of victims of enforced disappearance across the years, from the Marcos dictatorship up to the Duterte government, the letter appealed to Bernard Duhaime, chair-rapporteur of the WGEID “not to accept the said proposal, and hear the voice of the families of the victims who have been searching and seeing justice for our missing loved ones — the same families of victims who sought for the help of the UN WGEID many years back to raise the issue of enforced or involuntary disappearance in the Philippines.”

They pointed out in the letter that “even with the existence of a law criminalizing enforced disappearance, there is no assurance that justice will be obtained: justice which means the abducted will be surfaced and the perpetrators brought to justice.”

“From our actual experience with the Philippine justice system, we know that unless the institutions cooperate and comply, the laws are useless,” the relatives said in the letter.

“We stand that “delisting” victims from the lists of the United Nations, runs contrary to the state’s so-called “adherences to the principles and standards” set by the nation’s laws as well as international instruments that provide a venue for victims to seek justice outside the country. It defeats the purpose of providing relief and respite for victims of enforced disappearance so they may be surfaced, their rights recognized, and for justice to be served,” the letter further stated.

Among the signatories of the letter were Edita Burgos, mother of missing farmer activist Jonas Burgos, Erlinda and Asher Cadapan, parents of missing UP student Sherlyn Cadapan, Concepcion Empeño, mother of missing UP student Karen Empeño.

They also raised in the letter how they, families of the disappeared were the ones to pursue justice by filing cases in court. They also lamented how the current Duterte government vilifies the disappeared despite their continued disapperance, as in the case of Maria Luisa Posa-Dominado.

“Luisa, together with Michael Celeste, are two desaparecidos included in the proscription list filed in February 2018 by the Department of Justice accusing them as terrorists. This is after more than a decade has passed since Luisa was abducted,” they said in the letter. Luisa’s daughters Maywan and Tamara are among the signatories of the letter.

Posa-Dominado was likewise recognized as a legitimate martial law victim entitled to compensation under RA 10368. “Now, the present administration wants to use this as a basis for delisting, as proof that she has been compensated,” the letter stated.

“We respectfully hope that the UN WGEID echo the stand of the families of victims as the Philippine government has yet to fully implement the said laws and its provided mechanisms. We respectfully ask the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances to visit the country and investigate the cases. Even before giving audience to the proposal to “delist” the victims, we appeal to the UN WGEID to hear the families of the victims on the ground. We ask to maintain the list of the 625 victims, and raise this concern to the Philippine government,” the relatives appealed. ###

Reference: Erlinda Cadapan, Desaparecidos chairperson, 0919-9880630