REMEMBERING THE FILIPINO DESAPARECIDOS
JULY 13, 2010
The blood of martyrs are the seeds of faith. To concretize this, we remember the valiant men and women who were made to disappear because of their brave fight for freedom and democracy. We honor their works and sacrifices in the service to humanity.
For the families of those who disappeared, theirs is a continuous struggle of memory against forgetting. But this struggle should also be embraced by the rest of society. After all, enforced disappearance is an issue of the community and the greater society.
In the Philippines, the Filipino desaparecidos are memorialized by the Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearances (FIND) through the establishment of monument called the “Flame of Courage.” It was erected sixteen years ago at the Redemptorist Church, Baclaran, Pasay City. The monument, which depicts a figure of a woman holding a torch along with a child carrying a picture of his father, symbolizes the undying hope against hope of many families to be reunited with their disappeared loved ones. It is a witness to the cruelty of the government to the best and brightest men and women who offered their lives before the altar of freedom and democracy. A granite panel was also erected near the monument which bears the names of 1,347 disappeared. Thus, the monument is named the Bantayog ng mga Desaparecidos. In this place, the families of the disappeared traditionally pay respects to their beloved desaparecidos especially during All Souls’ Day as they have no graves to visit. The monument is a concrete symbol that the fight for truth and justice continues….
This monument was unveiled on 13 July 1994, almost coinciding with the 9th anniversary of the disappearance of Fr. Rudy Romano, a Redemptorist priest and a human rights advocate abducted by armed men on 11 July 1985 in Tisa, Labangon, Cebu City. He was a staunch champion of the poor and a leading human rights crusader during the Marcos dictatorship. He linked arms with the wretched of the earth – the urban poor dwellers; the laborers, the poor peasants and the rest of the sectors of society in their struggle for life. He braved the military’s truncheons, shields and teargases during mammoth rallies and demonstrations He was imprisoned for following the footsteps of Christ the Redeemer. For treading the road less travelled, championing the cause of the poor, the deprived and the oppressed, Fr. Rudy was made to involuntarily disappear. All legal and meta-legal remedies used to find the truth about what happened to him proved futile. Twenty-five years have passed but his fate and whereabouts are still unknown and his case remains unsolved. A three-foot-high concrete slab marking the abduction site was recently built in his memory.
Fr. Rudy’s name is only one in the growing list of victims of enforced disappearance in the country. Human rights groups have documented more than 2,000 disappearance cases since the dark days of Martial law up to the present. Impunity still reigns as disappearance continues to happen while perpetrators remain unpunished. This is stimulated by the Philippine government’s failure to criminalize the act of enforced disappearance and to sign and ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances. These two important legal measures, when put in place, can serve as effective tools to help strengthen the Philippine government’s capacities to eradicate disappearances, punish the perpetrators and provide justice and redress to victims and their families.
In commemoration of these two historic occasions, the Asian Federation Against Involuntray Disappearances (AFAD), a regional federation of organizations and human rights advocates working for the absolute erradication of the practice of enforced or involuntary disappearances from the face of the earth, vows to continue the quest for truth and justice to all desaparecidos, thus, attaining a world free free from enforced disappearances and other forms of human rights violations.
To finally put closure to the case of Fr. Rudy and other cases of enforced disappearances in the Philippines and the rest of the world, the attainment of truth, justice and memory are the most basic foundation. Realizing this would be our most fitting and lasting tribute to the noble sacrifices of our beloved desaparecidos.
Signed and authenticated by:
MUGIYANTO MARY AILEEN BACALSO