Press Release
September 4, 2017


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Mr. President, I rise on a point of personal and collective privilege.

Last August 30, we mark the International Day of the Disappeared - a day when we come together to remember those who have been victims of enforced disappearances by despotic governments or non-state armed groups.

The Spanish word for it is desaparecidos, and Latin American history is rife with accounts of those who have been disappeared and kept outside the mantle of protection of the law. In the Philippines, enforced disappearance was a key weapon of choice of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, whose Martial Law resulted in the deaths and disappearances of thousands of Filipinos, many of them young people. According to documented reports, some 2,300 individuals still remain missing in the Philippines since the declaration of Martial Law in the 1970s until around 2016. Hanggang ngayon, ang dalawang libo at tatlong daan na taong ito ay hindi pa nabibigyan ng maayos na libing, at hanggang ngayon ay patuloy pa din ang pangungulila at pagtatanong kanilang mga mahal sa buhay.

Isa na po dito si Ronald Jan Quimpo, Jan sa mga nagmamahal sa kanya, na ang huling mga salitang iniwan sa kanyang kapatid na si Susan ay pagtirhan siya ng ulam. Hanggang ngayon, nangungulila pa din ang kanyang pamilya. "Buti pa si Marcos, may bangkay", ang sabi ni Susan, sa kasagsagan ng mga debate hinggil ng pagpapalibing kay Marcos sa libingan ng mga bayani. Incidentally, Mr. President, on Monday we celebrated National Heroes' Day. Silang mga desaparecidos ay kasama sa mga tunay na bayani, hindi ang diktador na pumaslang sa kanila na ngayo'y nakahimlay kasama ng mga magigiting na Pilipino.

Mr. Marcos's callous disregard for civil liberties and human rights plunged this country into two decades of darkness - and its effects are still felt to this day.

And yet, it seems, that we have not learned the lessons of history. We commemorate the International Day of the Disappeared this year, 2017, under a similar spectre of darkness. A few months ago, the Commission on Human Rights revealed a secret detention center holding 12 people in a police station in Manila, right at the heart of the capital. In the past two weeks, the whole nation bore horrifying witness to the more than 80 killings in Caloocan, Batangas and Manila in the hands of policemen - all of which are a part of the many thousands of deaths under the President's War on Drugs. Kasama na dito si Kian, whose murder was clearly part of the design of the reprehensible Oplan Tokhang and whose family's vulnerability was capitalized on by the powerful who created that vulnerability in the first place. Ang tumawag kay Kian na drug runner, ang nagsabing blown out of proportion ang kaso ni Kian, ang nagsabing gawing state witness ang mga pulis na bumaril sa bata, at higit sa lahat, ang nagsabing papakain sa isda ng Manila Bay ang bangkay ng lahat ng adik - sila ngayon ang nakapaligid na parang buwitre sa mag-anak na kapit-patalim.

Mr. President, we remember today those who have been disappeared through the years, not only in the Philippines, but all over the world. I especially mention today the Rohingya people, persecuted in Myanmar and targeted by a vicious military campaign that has resulted in scores of disappearances, including among women and children. And as we remember them, so too do we remember they who have been rendered invisible - they who have been called the dregs of society, they who have been deemed undeserving of second chances, those whose economic and social vulnerabilities have led to more vulnerabilities. We remember those felled in the dark alleys of the city, with a cardboard to mark their sins, and the grief of their loved ones unheard in the chambers of power unless sufficient traction is generated in the media and the status quo is shaken.

Sa ngalan po ng mga desaparecidos, we call on the Philippine government to immediately ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPED), as well as strict and full implementation of Republic Act 10353, or the Anti Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance of 2012. But a call remains even more urgent: stop enforced disappearances, close down secret detention centers, and most of all, STOP THE KILLINGS. Itigil po ang karumal-dumal na patayan. Salamat po.

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