Kin seek new probe of IP activists’ disappearance
BAGUIO CITY—The relatives of missing Cordillera indigenous peoples’ (IP) rights activists Dexter Capuyan and Gene Roz Jamil “Bazoo” de Jesus called on authorities on Friday to launch another investigation into their disappearance, especially after two other activists, who went missing in Bataan on Sept. 2, were presented this week in Bulacan by the military and the government’s anticommunist task force.
Capuyan and De Jesus were last seen in Taytay, Rizal, in April and have been missing for almost five months.
Castro and Tamano went missing for almost three weeks before the government announced that they were in its custody after their supposed “surrender.” They are environmental activists affiliated with groups helping fisherfolk communities in Central Luzon, especially those seen to be displaced by reclamation activities in Manila Bay.
But in a press conference by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac) in Plaridel, Bulacan, on Tuesday, Castro and Tamano belied the military’s claim that they surrendered and said that they were abducted in Orion, Bataan.
The military and NTF-Elcac officials, however, maintained that Castro and Tamano were rescued from underground leftist groups and willingly surrendered to authorities, with Lt. Col. Ronnel dela Cruz, commanding officer of the Army’s 70th Infantry Battalion based in Bulacan, saying “they signed their affidavits [of admission] with their lawyer.”
Dittz de Jesus, Bazoo’s mother, said their family had been following the case of Castro and Tamano closely, suspecting that “what was happening to them was similar to what happened to Dexter and Bazoo.”
“The pattern [of abducting dissenters] is very obvious, so it’s only right that all the cases of enforced disappearances be reinvestigated and analyzed,” Mrs. De Jesus said in a mix of English and Filipino in an online interview with the Inquirer.
Gabrielle Capuyan, Dexter’s daughter, believed that Castro’s and Tamano’s case “strengthens the urgency to investigate other cases of abduction,” including her father’s.
Mrs. De Jesus and Gabrielle have also expressed disappointment with how the police and other government agencies have handled the case of their missing family members so far.
“Personally, I can say the effort of the authorities in handling their cases has been very lacking,” Mrs. De Jesus stressed.
The Court of Appeals (CA) had issued a writ of habeas corpus to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP), compelling their officials to present De Jesus and Capuyan in a hearing on July 14, but both the AFP and PNP said they did not receive a copy of the court order.
“Even on the first day of the court hearing, they didn’t show up. That’s why the case has been delayed even further,” Mrs. De Jesus said.
‘Lack of compliance’
In a Sept. 15 program held at the University of the Philippines Baguio to remember incidents of disappearance of local activists, lawyer Marben Panlasiqui, who represents the families of Capuyan and De Jesus, said they “are no longer expecting any sort of participation from state forces” in the case.
Prior to the initial hearing, the De Jesus and Capuyan families had gone to several police headquarters and agencies, asking them to comply with Republic Act. No. 10353, or the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012. Under this law, government agencies are required to reply in writing if a missing person is under their custody.
“There is really a lack of compliance regarding the signing of the ‘desap form’ or even to allow us entry to the police camps that we visited,” Mrs. De Jesus said.
Gabrielle also recalled several instances where they “were not even allowed past the gate” of the agencies that they visited.
“I can only hope that the resolution for my father’s and Bazoo’s case holds those responsible for their abduction accountable,” she said.