activist groups in PH

Military denies hand in disappearance of 2 IP rights activists

Sherwin de Vera

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Military denies hand in disappearance of  2 IP rights activists

BLAME. Progressive groups continue to blame state forces for the disappearance of activists Dexter Capuyan and Gene De Jesus.

Sherwin De Vera / Rappler

The spokesman of the military's Northern Luzon Command says they want to find one of the missing activists so he could be brought to justice

TARLAC, Philippines – The military’s Northern Luzon Command (NolCom) has denied any involvement in the mysterious disappearance of two indigenous peoples’ rights advocates who went missing in Tatay, Rizal, last April.

Major Al Anthony Pueblas, NolCom spokesperson, said it is not military policy to abduct people.

“Unang-una hindi gawain ng ating AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) ang pag-abduct. We have a process na ginagawa. Of course, sa lahat ng operation na ginagawa ng ating AFP, we put primacy doon sa pagrespeto sa karapatang pantao lalong lalo na yung rule of law and international humanitarian law,” he told Rappler on Wednesday, June 7.

(First of all, it is not the practice of the AFP to abduct (people). We have processes. Of course, in all our operations, we put primacy on respecting human rights, especially on the rule of law and international humanitarian law.)

“Doon sa sigaw nilang ilabas daw itong mga nawawalang indibidwal, yun din yung aming kagustuhan na tulungan sila na mahanap itong mga nawawala nilang kapamilya kasi that is the mandate of our Armed Forces, na protektahan yung ating mga kababayan,” he said.

(Regarding their demand to surface the two missing individuals, that is also our wish to help them find their missing kin because that is the mandate of the Armed Forces to protect our people.)

Pueblas said authorities were also looking for one of the missing activists, Dexter Capuyan from the Cordillera, who has pending arrest warrants for rebellion and other cases “so we can serve justice for the victims.”

“Having these arrest warrants, we also want to find him. First, para matigil na ang issue na dinukot siya, and secondly, para mapanagot siya sa batas,” he said.

(First, to end this abduction issue, and second, to make him accountable to the law.)

40 days

Forty days since the activists went missing, the search continues for Capuyan and Gene “Bazoo” De Jesus. 

On Wednesday, families and human rights groups went to Camp Sevillano Aquino, the headquarters of NolCom, in Tarlac to inquire if the military was holding the activists.

De Jesus’ mother, Mercedita, and the younger brother of Capuyan, Elie, with the lawyer and the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA), asked camp officials for access to its detention facility.

They also brought a letter addressed to NolCom chief Major General Fernyl Buca and an inquiry form on disappeared persons, hoping that the officials would help them in their search. 

Personnel from the Provincial Human Rights Office of Tarlac also accompanied the families.

“Family members of Dexter and Bazoo and their lawyer were denied entry by the military. They also refused to receive the letter from their families and the inquiry form on disappeared persons, citing several reasons, which is not a requirement under the anti-enforced disappearance law,” said CHRA spokesperson Caselle Ton.

Section 9 of Implementing Rule and Regulations of the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012 (RA 10353) requires military officials to issue a certification within 24 hours to four days, depending on the level of command involved, for filed inquiry on the whereabouts of disappeared persons. Individuals who can ask for information include family members, relatives, lawyers, representatives from the Commission on Human Rights and rights organizations, and members of the media.

The NolCom headquarters was among the 14 military and police facilities that families and supporters of Capuyan and De Jesus visited since May 3.

Of this number, only three offices completed the form provided by their families as required under Republic Act No. 10353.

Paper cranes

More than a hundred members of progressive groups from Baguio, Ilocos, Tarlac, and the National Capital Region supported the Capuyan and De Jesus families and staged a demonstration in front of the camp.

The protesters brought paper cranes of varying colors and sizes to highlight the 1,000 Papers Cranes Campaign for Capuyan and De Jesus, based on a Japanese legend that a lei of senbazuru or a thousand paper cranes can grant a person’s wish. It was launched on May 28, a month after the two went missing.

The superstitious belief gained popularity with the story of Sasaki Sadako, a survivor of the Hiroshima atomic bombing who contracted radiation-induced leukemia. She folded paper cranes for her wish to get well.

Although her request did not come true, her story became an inspiration that a monument was built for her at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park with an inscription calling for world peace.

Mercedita said the public response to the campaign has been overwhelming, with almost 3,000 paper crane pledges on May 31 alone. She added that they will continue to collect online paper crane pledges until June 12.

Migrant workers in Italy, where she and her husband work, held their support activity, with the Federation of Filipino Associations in Bologna leading the paper crane-making on June 4 as part of the Independence Day commemoration. –

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