BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – Two indigenous peoples’ rights activists in the Cordillera were reported missing, prompting student and youth organizations to stage a rally to protest what they believed to be the handiwork of state forces.
The missing activists are Gene Roz Jamil “Bazoo” de Jesus, 27, and Dexter Capuyan, 56, both graduates of the University of the Philippines-Baguio (UPB). Their relatives and colleagues said they lost contact with them on April 28, according to a statement released by the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) on Thursday, May 4.
Several student organizations, including the Alliance of Concerned Students (ACS), Tabak, and Anakbayan, organized a public rally on Friday, May 5, demanding the safe return of the two missing activists, who were suspected of being in state custody.
De Jesus works as an information and networking officer for the Philippine Task Force for Indigenous Peoples’ Rights, while Capuyan is an activist-leader based in Benguet province’s capital town of La Trinidad.
De Jesus served as chair of the Alliance of Concerned Students and the Council of Leaders at UP-Baguio, while Capuyan is a former editor-in-chief of UP-Baguio’s campus publication Outcrop, and chair of the League of Filipino Students (LFS) in the 1980s.
The CHRA raised fears of state custody, as the military and police previously accused Capuyan of being a ranking officer of the Chadli Molintas Command of the New People’s Army (NPA) operating in the Ilocos and Cordillera regions with a P1.85-million bounty on his head.
CHRA spokesperson Casselle Ton said the pair’s last known location was in Rizal, where Capuyan sought medical treatment.
“We still continue the search. We still continue (to ask) the public and government officials and the Commission on Human Rights to help us surface these two,” Ton said.
De Jesus’s mother, an overseas Filipino worker in Italy, posted in Filipino on her Facebook page appealing for the return of her son.
“This is very difficult for our family … We’re trying to act normal when facing this, but behind it all is our anguish. We’re hoping that the search will turn out well,” she said.
Officials of Barangay Dolores in Taytay, Rizal, confirmed that De Jesus’s sister went to the police to file a missing person report.
Roy Tapawan, the barangay chairman, said he was the one who advised De Jesus’s family to report the matter to the police “because he has been missing for three days already. He said the missing person report should have been filed much earlier.
Capuyan’s relatives also went to the barangay on May 4 to report his disappearance. – Rappler.com
(Those with useful information about the whereabouts of the two activists may report it through mobile phone no. 0918-9199-007.)
Angel Castillo is an Aries Rufo Journalism fellow.
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