Families of victims of involuntary disappearances gather outside a church in Manila to remember their missing loved ones on All Souls’ Day. (Photo by Rob Reyes)
Families of desaparecidos, or victims of enforced disappearances in the Philippines, remembered their missing loved ones on All Souls’ Day by lighting candles and offering flowers.
The families also called on the government “to take steps to pursue justice” for those who went missing during the years of dictatorship in the 1970s up to the present.
Without tombs to visit on the Day of the Dead, families of desaparecidos gathered outside a Catholic church in the central district of Quiapo in Manila.
“We are all gathered here, remembering not the dead, but the disappeared,” said Lorena Santos, leader of Families of Desaparecidos for Justice, the organization of families of the victims.
The group also called on President Rodrigo Duterte to form a “truth commission” to look into recent cases of enforced disappearances.
“Their loved ones need to know the truth behind their disappearance, after the [previous administrations] failed to surface them and render justice,” said Santos.
“We have been longing for just and lasting peace in our land. We want to live free from fear of being disappeared, tortured, arrested or jailed for fighting what is just,” Santos said.
A teary-eyed Linda Cadapan, mother of missing university student Sherlyn Cadapan, called on the Philippine military to bring her daughter back alive.
“You took them alive, bring them back alive,” said Cadapan.
Sherlyn was disappeared with another student, Karen Empeno, in the province of Bulacan 10 years ago.
A case of kidnapping and illegal detention against a retired military general is still being heard in a Manila court.
Some 2,300 people remain missing in the Philippines since the 1970s when martial law was declared.
In the past five years, 26 people were reported to have gone missing in the Philippines, the first country in Asia to enact an anti-enforced disappearance law, although no perpetrator has been convicted under it.
The majority of those missing come from very poor families, or are political activists engaged in advancing the rights of farmers, indigenous peoples, and urban poor communities.