human rights defenders

Cebu human rights worker Elena Tijamo still missing after a month

Lorraine Ecarma
Cebu human rights worker Elena Tijamo still missing after a month

Andoy Edoria

Police in Bantayan, Cebu, still have no lead as to who are behind her abduction

Over a month since her abduction, human rights worker Elena Tijamo still has not returned home and the police still have no lead as to who are behind her disappearance.

In a zoom interview with Rappler on Thursday, July 16, Tijamo’s youngest daughter said that her mother was able to contact the family about 4 times over the past month. During each phone call, Tijamo would only repeat the demand of her kidnappers – to have news articles on the abduction taken down.

Ipadelete to ang mga news kay pagka-alas onse ato nanggawas na man ang mga news bahin niya,” she said. She added that Tijamo also pointed to Rappler’s article on the abduction in particular.

(They asked for the news to be deleted since at 11 pm that same day, news on the issue started getting published.)

Tijamo was the Sustainable Agriculture Program coordinator for Farmers Development Center (FARDEC). She was forcibly taken by unidentified armed men from their home in Barangay Kampingganon in Bantayan, Cebu, last June 13.

Despite this, the family gave their consent for further coverage on the issue. They pointed out that during the first phone call, Tijamo was made to say she was going to be released within the next 24 hours. It’s been over a month since that phone call.

In the same interview, Violeta, Tijamo’s sister, said police have visited their household twice to investigate the abduction.

She added that weeks before Tijamo’s abduction, persons who claimed to be from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) visited their household for a survey on the government financial aid. Dressed in plain clothes, they reportedly could not present identification cards when asked by members of Tijamo’s family.

Violeta said they later found out that only their household and that of their closest neighbor were visited for the survey.

She also said that her sister did not receive threats during the days leading up to the abduction. But she just learned from a former classmate that before the abduction, police officers were asking residents whether or not the Tijamo family were native to Bantayan.

Naa pa’y police nagutana nga kanang apelyedo namo, taga-diha ba gyud, lumad ba gyud nga taga-diha,” she said.

(The police asked if our family name really originated from Bantayan, if we were really natives.)

They have also reportedly received reports from their neighbors on the presence of unidentified men aboard a private vehicle and a motorcycle surveying the vicinity weeks before Tijamo was forcibly taken.

In a phone call with Rappler, Colonel Roderick Mariano, Cebu Provincial Police Office Director, said that he received no report of cops asking about the Tijamo family from the Bantayan police chief.

He also told Rappler that the Bantayan chief of police, said there was still no lead as to who was responsible for the abduction of Tijamo.

“So far, as far as the [Banatayan] chief of police is concerned, wala pa silang update, wala pa silang (they have no update, and no) lead who abducted our victim,” he said.

However, he confirmed that the intelligence officers in Bantayan have reported the arrival of unidentified men aboard pump boats in the area before Tijamo was taken. This was still being looked into by the Bantayan Police Office.

Mariano also said that the Bantayan intelligence force and the mobile force have since received augmentation due to the continuing investigation on the issue. He added that they have already coordinated with the Philippine Coast Guard, neighboring police offices and force multipliers, and fisherfolk in the area.

Violeta still believed her sister was alive. She urged the authorities to expedite facilitation for her safe return.

Kung kinsa man unta to ang nagkuha sa akong isguon ug naggunit karon, mamalihog lang ko i-release siya karon kay ang among pamilya lisod na kaayo. Taas na kaayo ang higayon nga naa siya sa ilaha, gigunitan ra gihapon,” she said, in tears.

(To whoever captured my sister and is holding her captive right now, I’m asking you to please release her now because our family is going through a really tough time. She’s with them for a really long time now, still being held captive.) –