Enforced Disappearances Under Aquino Regime Continue: Daughter of PISTON Partylist-ST and KASAMA-TK Organizer, Abducted

Gestine,18 years old, St. Scholastica Academy Marikina Student, Daughter of PISTON Partylist Southern Tagalog leader and organizer and KASAMA-TK organizer

The Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa sa Timog Katagalugan-Kilusang Mayo Uno (PAMANTIK-KMU) condemns to the highest level the abduction of a PISTON Partylist and Katipunan ng Samahang Magsasaka sa Timog Katagalugan (KASAMA-TK) organizers’ daughter on April 2, 2013. The said incident is the second recorded abduction involving the victim within four months.

Gestine May B. Canaman, 18 years old, was abducted by suspected military members on April 2, at around 9 o’clock in the evening. The abduction took place just outside the Saint Scholastica Academy Marikina, where the victim has been sheltered following the first recorded abduction incident in November 2012.

According to Vangie Llanguido, Gestine’s co-scholar at the St. Scholastica Academy, the victim detached from their group to buy prepaid mobile phone credits from the adjacent loading station. Apparently, it was the last time that they have seen Canaman, prior to reporting her missing.

At around 9 o’clock in the evening, an hour after the victim detached from the group, Llanguido and the rest of their dorm mates began to worry, as Canaman has yet returned to their dormitory.

It was at the same time that Llanguido received two text messages from the victim, saying “Bdbe tulong ung sundako” (Babe help, the soldier). Within less than two minutes after receiving the said message, the recipient attempted to call the victim’s number, but it was unreachable by then.

At present, the parents of the victims, together with members of PAMANTIK-KMU, KARAPATAN-ST, and other organizations are launching simultaneous visits to different military camps, police stations, and hospitals around the vicinity in hope of finding their missing kin.

A repeated abduction case

On November 19, 2012, KARAPATAN-ST recorded the first abduction case involving the same victim by suspected military members in Bayan, Los Banos, Laguna. The incident took place at around 5 to 6 o’clock in the evening, as the victim was on her way home after attending her classes at the Laguna State Polytechnic University.

A white tinted car, which parked right beside Canaman, was unloaded by two unidentified armed men and forcibly took her into the car. The suspects immediately blindfolded and gagged the victim, and transported her to an unfamiliar place.

Canaman says she was brought to a safehouse, where she was continuously interrogated and physically harassed by more armed men about her parents’ whereabouts.  As she remained silent, the suspects threatened to shoot her.

Around 11 pm, Canaman was left blindfolded, hands-tied in an isolated area between Calauan and Sta. Cruz Laguna.

According to Tranquilino and Arlyn Canaman, their daughter returned home past midnight that day. The victim was traumatized, unable to speak, and without her left shoe.

Continued threats to the family

Prior to the abduction of their daughter, Tranquilino and Arlyn, both fulltime organizers of progressive groups PISTON Partylist and KASAMA-TK, have long been targets of harassment and demoralization by suspected military and paramilitary elements.

On June 25, 2012, an unidentified man handed over an envelope to Arlyn, while the latter was busy purchasing goods at a certain wet market in Los Banos, Laguna.

Inside the said envelope labeled ‘Arlyn’ was a letter tagging her and her organization as a supporter of the New People’s Army, offering a huge amount of money in exchange of her ‘cooperation’. Also included in the letter were threats against informing anyone about the incident.

Gestine Canaman: A Jonas Burgos under the Aquino Regime?

Just a few days after the Court of Appeals declared the AFP’s accountability on the Jonas Burgos case, Canaman’s disappearance sets the alarm for the Commission on Human Rights to act on current human rights violation cases.

“This is not an isolated human rights violation case under the current administration. Since the implementation of Aquino’s counter insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan, there have already been 3 cases of enforced disappearances and 20 cases of extra judicial killings. In all of the said cases, victims are members of progressive groups and partylists.” Hermenegildo Marasigan, PAMANTIK-KMU Spokesperson, said.

“Despite his pretentious attempt to address the worsening human rights situation in the country, Aquino has stagnantly pointed fingers without taking real actions in serving justice to the victims. Just as Jovito Palparan, the mastermind of hundreds of enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings during Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s time, remains at large, the AFP, PNP, ISAPF, and other paramilitary forces are continuously used as state apparatuses in silencing the people.” Marasigan added.

“While Aquino repeatedly vows justice for the victims of the Maguindanao massacre, election-related violence such as the abduction of the daughter of a PISTON Partylist organizer proves his insincerity. He endlessly condemns and accuses the Arroyo administration for HR violations with his self-vested political interests; but in reality, his hands are no different from the blood-drenched hands of Arroyo.”

“Obviously, Aquino is afraid that more progressive lawmakers will make it to the lower houseand his administration is taking all necessary steps to stop them—even if it means jeopardizing innocent lives such as Gestine’s.”

“We will not stop searching until we find Gestine. Even more, we are determined to expose Aquino’s anti-people administration and counter insurgency program which blatantly violates constitutionally guaranteed rights of the people.” Marasigan ended.###


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