Is it justice for ALL or is it justice NO MORE?
What do we get from superheroes on films? We get nothing but a ‘dream on’ phrase; a forever fantasizing of hope. Call me a pessimist but I hate fairy tales and I hate Superman.
Films are sort of a reflection of reality or an exaggeration of it. But here, you’ll get to solve a case after a traumatic no-way-out story. I once believed that I should learn things the hard way in order to get them done perfectly. That’s the very reason why conflicts are made—to create a miserable impact on scenes that we see and to show how tough our lives may get.
But in this story, nobody’s even sure if there’s a way out. We’re still into finding out how to stick the puzzles, before anybody’s life ends.
It was year 2006 when Karen Empeño and Shirley Cadapan got kidnapped by unknown suspects. They were fourth year college students at that time, at the University of the Philippines in Diliman. It was then followed by the disappearance of Jonas Burgos in 2007. These names are just three of the 339 victims of extralegal killings and enforced disappearances under the Arroyo administration. And who will ever forget the hideous crimes in Maguindanao? A massacre that killed 58 lives in one night.
Activist groups have been formed to seek the truth ever since the revolution against Marcos began. It’s been a dreadful arena but they still choose to serve the people no matter what. The worse thing for them is finding out that our own “martials” meant to defend our citizen are also the people responsible for these enforced disappearances. Reports say that former Major General Jovito Palparan, Jr., together with Sgt. Rizal Hilario; Lt. Col. Felipe Antado; Staff Sergeant Edgardo Osorio and two other officers who appeared and were transferred to military custody, were pointed out as the group who abducted Empeño and Cadapan.
This military personnel’s involvement was strongly asserted by Raymond Manalo, one of their captives who experienced torture and abuse while inside the military camp with his brother, Reynaldo. He happened to see and chanced to talk with Cadapan who did not just went through torture, she also suffered from physical abuse and was raped by the involved military men.
A female officer named ‘Lt. Fernando’ was identified as one of the initiators of Burgos’ capture. Mrs. Edita Burgos, Jonas’ mother was hopeful in having a witness statement and that she might finally be able to see his son. Before it happened, the Court of Appeals refused to release at least a photographic sketch of Fernando. What made it worse was the dismissal of her petition to have the Writ of Habeas Corpus in 2008. The Philippine National Police (PNP)-CIDG strongly stressed that the military is not considered suspect. Even with the presence of a military service identified by one of the victims as the escape vehicle for Burgos’ abduction.
A falling action to this story happened in March 2012, when the House Bill 98 or the act “Defining and Penalizing Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance” was passed. The Human Rights Watch and a group called the “Desaparesidos,” relatives of victims of enforced disappearances is sure to keep an eye to hasten and improve trials of their filed cases.
Increasing numbers of enforced disappearances and extra judicial killings simply show that the Philippines and its authorities are not competitive enough to implement equal rights for these student activists. In this year, under the Aquino administration, we have noted seven who are still missing, four have re-surfaced and one was found dead. There’s not much improvement until today. The administration just keep on prolonging the process, saying that it needs longer search. How long do these victims have to suffer?
A reduced number of disappearances is not a sign of better governance; we don’t just aim lowering filed cases here; we demand for it to cease and be given justice. It’s about time for the higher ups to prove that the Philippine constitution is above anybody else. If we’re to check, no member of the Philippine military has been convicted or put to trial despite numerous, strong evidence indicating their involvement.
As a student activist, it’s true that I’m afraid facing the consequences of encouraging others to eliminate hypocrisy and apathy. We are a democratic country with laws defining people’s rights, with a government body implementing the justice system and a set of constitutional policies expected to protect our futures. But given this situation and a lot more proves that the worsening of the Philippine justice system needs attention. While it’s true that future journalists and outspoken activists might encounter being silenced in the future, we still believe there’ll be more avenues to do away with disappearances.
Consistently, we’ll hear about documentaries, newscasts and columnists urging the government to uphold transparency. Media platforms never lacked in encouraging people to move or at least be aware of even the slightest detail in our society. But because of the glossy happy-ever-after brand that attracts us, we begin to isolate ourselves from societal mistreatment. It’s not bad to get entertained with micro sites and fairy tales available but we encourage everyone to at least try and hear what the fuss is all about.
Your eyes might be tired of this or might be fed up by repeated reminders that we are on a let down. But we’ll see how far this story could go. We’ll keep our hopes up to finally seeing the victims of desaparesidos. We always look forward to that day and make it a motivation to continue pressing for judicial reforms in a nation they claim to be democratic.