FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 2, 2013
Reference: Valerie Francisco, Chairperson, GABRIELA USA, chair@gabusa.org

GABRIELA USA Remembers Filipina Desaparecidos

Imagine your loved one taken from you, suddenly, without warning. You go searching for days on end, months, even years, with only a glimmer of hope that they may still be alive. Imagine living in a place where people are abducted and disappeared simply for speaking out for justice. In the Philippines, human rights violations, such as enforced disappearances, run rampant as a means to silence dissent. On August 30, GABRIELA USA commemorates the International Day of the Disappeared alongside all other nations in the world who use enforced disappearances as a means quell movements for social and national liberation, by remembering all of the women and men who have been abducted, tortured, killed and disappeared, under the bloody hands of the state sponsored regime.

Current Philippine President, Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, reached his mid-term in office, but shows no signs of prosecuting the perpetrators of gross human rights violations committed under his predecessor, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Under Aquino’s Presidential term thus far, human rights group, Karapatan, has documented at least 142 cases of extrajudicial killings and 17 cases of enforced disappearances.

In December 2011, retired Major General Jovito Palparan went into hiding after he, along with three other military officials, were finally charged with kidnapping with serious illegal detention for the disappearance of students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan. The two were abducted and disappeared in June 2006.

“Many Filipinas who are targets of human rights violations are subject to gender violence because of a system that condones violence towards women. There’s no accountability for corrupt practices by the Philippine military,” says GABRIELA USA Chairperson, Valerie Francisco. Both women were raped and tortured by the Philippine military.

In May 2009, Filipina-American, Melissa Roxas, was abducted while doing community health work in the Philippines and surfaced after 6 days of physical and mental torture . Even though Roxas has survived her ordeal, her abductors remain at large.

“People are being abducted, killed for standing up against a self-serving government that does not look out for the welfare of its people. In fact, the government is, instead, capitalizing on exploiting their people and making profit out of the country’s resources, causing the majority of the population to suffer from extreme poverty” says Francisco. Even with the passage of the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012, the Philippine government has done little to nothing to end enforced disappearances, and the country’s most notorious perpetrator, Palparan, continues to evade arrest.

Additionally, with no investment by the government to allow for national industries to flourish for the benefit of its people, the wealth is instead concentrated in the pockets of the country’s 1% for the benefit of multinational corporations and U.S. imperialism. The people are consequently left with no jobs, affordable housing, food, and social services.

Because of the conditions in the Philippines caused by corrupt government practices and U.S. imperialism, Filipinos are being forced to migrate out of the country, and in that process, migrant workers also become victims of human trafficking and systemic exploitative practices. “It is no wonder why people are standing up against these repressive practices by the U.S.-backed Philippine government and military. Aquino’s administration and U.S. imperialism should be detained and put under investigation!” says Tina Shauf, GABRIELA USA’s Vice Chair of Campaigns.

GABRIELA USA demands and defends people’s rights to speak out against these injustices and put an end to the culture of impunity. The families of those who have been disappeared, and spend endless days and nights searching for their loved ones, deserve to know the whereabouts of their loved ones.

Like kababayans who remain in the Philippines, we see the importance of overseas migrants who also experience human rights violations, to organize for their own rights and welfare. This October 2-4, in New York City, GABRIELA USA is co-sponsoring the International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees 4 (IAMR4), calling on migrants to speak out on behalf of all migrants who are also victims of human rights violations. GABRIELA-USA remembers and demands justice for all victims of political repression and enforced disappearance!

Justice for all victims of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings!

Surface Karen Empeno and Sheryl Cadapan!

End the culture of impunity!

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