Philippines: two youth go missing after harassmentEvent
- Initial Date
- Sep 29, 2023
- Event Description
Relatives of two missing activists demanded that their abducted loved ones be surfaced in a press conference on Wednesday, October 11.
“Whoever is holding my brother, please surface him now,” Nica Ortiz said. She was with her sister Nicole along with Karapatan-Central Luzon Spokesperson Danilo Cadano and Karapatan legal counsel Maria Sol Taule. They also sent letters to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on the same day to ask for assistance in locating their missing brothers.
Activists Norman Ortiz and Lee Sudario were reported missing on September 29.
According to Nica, her brother told her that he will be going to Gabaldon, Nueva Ecija on September 28. The following day (September 29), Norman texted his sister at around 1:00 a.m. informing her that he is with Lee Sudario and that he would send a message when they leave Bantug village in Gabaldon. But Nica said Norman did not message her after that.
Norman’s family then asked Karapatan-Central Luzon for assistance. They went to the area of the incident on October 2. They found out that around 10 armed men wearing fatigue abducted two men around 1:00 am to 2:00 am on September 29.
“A witness said he was not able to see the face because it was dark, but the description fits my brother. Witnesses who also live nearby said that they were frightened to go out and check because they saw that the men had firearms,” Nicole said, adding that at that hour the dogs barked loudly which was unusual.
According to those who witnessed the incident, two men were forced into a van. One of the individuals, they said, attempted to flee to a nearby cemetery but got caught and was dragged back to a waiting van.
“They said that it is very seldom for a van to go to their area that is why they would immediately notice it,” Nica added.
They also went to the barangay hall to file a blotter report of the incident but they were told that they should file it instead at the place of residence of Norman and Sudario.
On October 4, the family of Norman went to the military camp of the 91st Infantry Battalion in Baler, Aurora and on Oct. 6 to Fort Magsaysay. Similar to the experiences of families of other missing activists, Nica said that they were not allowed to look inside the camps. Authorities also declined to sign a certification stating that the missing persons are not in their custody. The said certification is stated under the Anti-Disappearance Act of 2012.
Nica said that prior to his brother’s abduction, soldiers would go to their house looking for him.
Karapatan Central Luzon also said that Sudario was accused of being a member of the New People’s Army and was among those charged with the anti-terrorism law and crimes against humanity in November 2022.
Taule said that they have observed an alarming trend that those being abducted were later surfaced by the authorities as rebel returnees.
Taule said this was the case in Jhed Tamano and Jonila Castro who were also presented by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) as former guerrillas. In a press conference organized by NTF-ELCAC, they denied it and stressed that they were abducted.
The reported missing youth activists Michael Cedrick Casaño and Patricia Nicole Cierva were also presented by the military as surrenderers.
In recent reports, the three indigenous peoples rights advocates who were reportedly abducted in Mindoro were also presented by the NTF-ELCAC as surrenderers.
“We are alarmed with the pattern that we observed lately because we don’t know what happened to those who were abducted days prior to their surfacing,” Taule said.
As relayed by Tamano and Castro, as well as Dyan Gumanao and Armand Dayoha, they were kept in a safe house days prior to their surfacing. In Gumanao and Dayoha’s case, they said they underwent psychological and physical torture.
“This means that during the days that they were held captive in a safe house, they cannot be accessed by their families and their lawyers. And then later on they would execute affidavits without the assistance of a counsel of their own choice,” she said.
“For us, affidavits like that have no bearing because, like in the case of Jhed and Jonila, it was not executed in the presence of their chosen lawyers and was executed under a very coercive environment. You would admit everything they tell you when you are in the hands of people who hold your life, that is the logical effect of this kind of situation,” Taule said.
Taule said they and the families are in the process of filing a legal remedy to pressure the authorities to surface Norman and Sudario.
- Impact of Event
- Gender of HRD
- Rights Concerned
- Right to healthy and safe environment
- Suspected state
- Monitoring Status
- Event Location
- Event Location
- Summary for Publications
On 29 September 2023, Norman Ortiz and Lee Sudario, were abducted suspectedly by suspected state actors holding weapons after being monitored around their houses and accused of being affiliated with terrorist groups in Gabaldon, the Philippines.