Families of desaparecidos call for justice on All Souls' Day
MANILA, Philippines – Families of desaparecidos spent All Souls' Day on Friday, November 2, calling for justice for their loved ones and other victims of human rights violations.
With no tombs to visit, members of the Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND) offered flowers and lighted candles at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani instead.
"As we celebrate the lives of our beloved desaparecidos, who fought for the rights and welfare of the poor and marginalized, we become more acutely aware of the imperative of sustaining the struggle for this cause," FIND co-chairperson Nilda Sevilla said.
According to data from FIND, there are at least 1,996 documented cases of enforced disappearances in the country. Out of this number, at least 1,165 are still missing while 244 were already found dead.(READ: What you need to know about enforced disappearances in the Philippines)
At Plaza Miranda, other families from Desaparecidos Pilipinas laid flowers in front of Quiapo Church, uttering silent prayers for the fate of their missing.
Among those who remember their loved ones was Linda Cadapan, mother of missing University of the Philippines (UP) student Sherlyn.
”We have nowhere to offer candles and flowers, so we do it here for the world to see, and let the people know that we continue to search for them, and we will not stop at seeking justice,” she said.
Sherlyn and another UP student, Karen Empeño, went missing on June 26, 2006, in Hagonoy, Bulacan.
In September 2018, retired Army Major General Jovito Palparan was found guilty of kidnapping and serious illegal detention in relation to the students' disappearance. He was sentenced to up to 40 years in prison.
The families also called for measures to aid their pursuit for justice, including the full implementation of Republic Act 10353 or the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012. (READ: It's a first in Asia: 'Desaparecidos' law)
The law seeks to penalize with reclusion perpetua – 20 to 40 years in prison, eligible for pardon after 30 years – those found to have committed the crime and provides support to victims and their families through reparation.
Groups, however, criticitized the lack of proper implementation of the law once hailed as the first of its kind in Asia. (READ: Poor law implementation denies desaparecidos justice) – Rappler.com