By Desaparecidos (Philippines)
and Fundacion Amancio Samuel Villatoro (Guatemala)
As we commemorate the International Day of the Disappeared, we express our solidarity with the families of the desaparecidos in all parts of the globe where a loved one was seized by state security forces and never seen again. Let us turn this day not a time to mourn our loss but a time to rise; a time to firmly resolve that our fight against enforced disappearance and other forms of human rights violations shall continue until justice prevails.
While the killing of a loved one is painful, the involuntary disappearance of one is even more excruciating. Being kept in limbo on their whereabouts makes one nurture hopeless hope that one day they will surface alive and hale. And endlessly guessing and imagining what they have gone through brings in the chill, the tormenting anguish.
But we choose and we dare to rise above this situation. Let us admit without accepting that in a society ruled by greed of the mighty and the powerful, exploitation and oppression of the weak persists. They will try to silence those who profess dissent and those who aspire for meaningful change. But let this not dampen our spirit nor cow us to submission; rather, let this inspire us to action, to spurn and change this system. Together we shall triumph, justice and peace shall prevail.
Enforced disappearance is a policy and practice of States meant to terrorize the people and to silence its critics and the dissenters. This is evident in the Latin Americas during the 1960’s to 1980’s where US-backed military dictators ruled. It was through Operation Condor that enforced disappearance was systematically perpetrated as part of counter-insurgency programs of military regimes. Initiated by the Central Intelligence Agency of the US, Operation Condor aimed to eradicate communism and its ideas and to suppress any potential opposition movements against its member governments. Soviet Union at that time poses as a threat to the world order which the US is the dominant power. Regimes in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil were supported by the US government through technical support, military aid and providing training in the US army School of the Americas, where the grotesque acts of torture, killings, disappearances, rape and other forms of rights abuses were instituted and taught in the operational field manuals.
The Guatemalan people have earlier suffered the pain brought about by the enforced disappearances of 45,000 persons due to the Civil War which started in the 1960’s. To protect the economic interest of US in Guatemala, the earlier phase of the counter-insurgency of Guatemalan government was under direct assistance of US Public Safety Advisor John P. Longan to senior military and police officials in implementing covert and overt anti-guerilla operations. State security forces began to abduct, torture and kill PGT (Guatemalan Labor Party).
And it is no coincidence that in the Philippines, Pres. Ferdinand Marcos then was laying the ground for the declaration of martial law and implemented it in 1971, while military dictators in Latin Americas were perpetrating various human rights violations.
In the Philippines, cases of enforced disappearance continue. From Marcos’ martial law, where 759 victims of enforced disappearance were recorded, the supposedly icon of democracy, Cory Aquino, surpassed the record and registered more than 821 cases of disappearance. During the Ramos administration, 39 disappearances were reported. Despite Joseph Estrada’s short stint in the presidency, 26 victims were documented during his time. Meanwhile, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s record on enforced disappearance shows 206 cases.
To this date, the current dispensation of Noynoy Aquino, who speaks of a changed military institution that has respect for human rights, registered 16 victims of enforced disappearance from the time of his ascendancy as president in 2010 to April 2013, despite the enactment of a law that criminalises the act of involuntary or enforced disappearance.
Attached to every President who came into power is a counter-insurgency operational plan — hatched, funded, and undertaken with a combination of brute force and covert means — to suppress the protest of a discontented people and combat the people’s movements for freedom and national democracy. At present, Aquino’s counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan has claimed 142 victims of extrajudicial killings, 76 cases of torture, more than 500 victims of illegal arrest. Such program is largely being driven by the US government’s complicity with the Philippine government to maintain its geo-political, economic and military dominance in the Philippines and in the Asia Pacific region. Thus, the same policy, tactics and techniques are applied to other developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America where U.S. interests are at stake.
It is imperative that we, families of the disappeared, stand alongside the oppressed peoples of the world, unite and fight this rapacious policy and practice of our governments and U.S. imperialism. Also on this day, families of victims of enforced disappearances in Guatemala, Fundacion Amancio Samuel Villatoro, Museo de los Martires del Movimiento Sindical Estudiantil y popular de Guatemala, Organizacion HIJOS Guatemala, UNAMG, Familiares de victicmas Verdad y Justicia caso diario Militar, and in the Philippines, Families of Desaparecidos for Justice form our solidarity and jointly commemorate and remember all desaparecidos in our countries and all over the world. Let our voices of protests and rage resound in every continent. Let us register our resolve to pursue justice for our missing loved ones and to fight for and build a society where the rights, welfare and the democratic aspirations of the people are respected and realized.