BAGUIO, Philippines – Several University of the Philippines campuses have joined the call to surface two UP-Baguio alumni, both advocates of indigenous peoples’ rights, who have been missing since April 28.
In separate statements, the UP campuses in Baguio, Cebu, and Visayas called on the government to exert efforts to find Dexter Capuyan and Gene Roz Jamil De Jesus.
Human rights groups claimed armed men who presented themselves as members of the Philippines National Police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) forcibly took them in Taytay, Rizal.
“Their disappearance has not only caused anxiety and distress to their loved ones but also created a chilling effect on the safety and security of our community,” UP-Baguio said in a May 24 statement.
“We urge all government and concerned agencies, specifically those that have already been approached by the families of Bazoo and Dexter, to exhaust all means and resources to fully address their disappearance,” the statement added.
It was the first official pronouncement from the institution since the disappearance of its former student leaders.
Capuyan once served as the editor-in-chief of the student publication, The Outcrop, and chair of the city-wide chapter of the League of Filipino Students in the 1980s.
De Jesus, who graduated cum laude in 2016, used to chair the Alliance of Concerned Students and the UP-Baguio Council of Leaders.
The statement came a day after more than a hundred students, faculty, alumni, and supporters held a vigil inside the campus, attended by the mother of De Jesus and Capuyan’s daughter.
Capuyan’s contemporary in the student publication and UP-Baguio professor Willy Alangui came and urged campus officials to support the call to surface the two alumni.
He cited the immediate condemnation by the campus administration of the 2008 enforced disappearance of James Balao, also a former Outcrop editor-in-chief.
“Malaking bagay ‘yong dapat suporta na pinapakita sa paghahanap sa kanilang alumni. Malaking bagay sa pamilya marinig kung paano sila pumusisyon. Kailangan pa natin silang kalampagin para lang mapilitang maglabas ng statement. Hindi dapat (It’s important that they show support to calls to find their alumni. It’s important for the families to hear their positions. But in this case, we needed to make noise first to pressure them into issuing a statement. That’s not right),” Alangui said.
Hours before the UP-Baguio statement, UP Cebu Chancellor Leo Malagar expressed “solidarity with the UP-Baguio community, the families of Capuyan and De Jesus, and all who believe in human rights and freedom.”
He said the disappearance of the two “unsettles as much as it reminds us of the abduction of Dyan Gumanao and Armand Jake Dayoha.”
Gumanao and Dayoha are UP Cebu alumni who were abducted by suspected state agents last January. The perpetrators eventually released them following a public outcry.
“A troubling pattern emerges, calling for immediate and effective collective action. With urgency and optimism, we press for comprehensive investigations and active cooperation from the police and other law enforcement agencies to ascertain the whereabouts of Capuyan and De Jesus,” Malagar said.
He added: “Enforced disappearances achieve nothing more than the erosion of the fabric of a democratic society. Silencing critics doesn’t support the aims of mainstream society; it only weakens our democracy.”
On May 23, the UP Visayas also called for the surfacing of the two UP-Baguio alumni.
“A society is never truly free if its activists and critics are subjected to constant harassment and must fear for their safety. For this reason, we express grave concern over the enforced disappearance of two graduates of UP Baguio,” read part of the statement. “We call on our partners from all relevant agencies of government to help end this pattern of injustice and to join us in demanding the safe return of the two activists.” – Rappler.com
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