Statement on the PICOP 6 Anniversary
14 October 2011
The Truth in Plain Sight…
Enforced disappearance is an inhuman act of the state and a barefaced
concealment of the truth. This is the bitter truth that the families of
victims of enforced disappearance face in their search for their loved
ones. This is the case of six workers of the Paper Industries
Corporation of the Philippines (PICOP) who were forcibly made to
disappear by members of the 62nd Infantry Battalion in
Barangay Sta. Maria, Trento, Agusan del Sur eleven years ago.
The six workers: Joseph Belar, Jovencio Lagare, Romualdo Orcullo,
Diosdado Oliver, Artemio Ayala and Arnold Dangkiasan, accused of being
members of New People’s Army by the military, were held at gunpoint and
brought inside the army camp gate where they were tortured to death.
Their bodies were burned to ashes. The parents and relatives of the six
workers looked for their loved ones but the military blatantly denied
having them in their custody.
The PICOP 6 case could have been a cold case like many others if it were
not for an army sergeant, Sgt. Esequias Duyogan who, bothered by his
conscience, came forward four years after to testify as to what really
happened. With his testimony, the PICOP 6 case achieved a landmark
victory with the conviction of an army corporal as an accomplice to the
kidnapping and serious illegal detention.
The victorious prosecution and conviction of an army corporal has no
less proven that nothing is impossible for those who strongly will. The
families of the victims who have regained the trust and confidence in
our criminal justice system later filed a multiple-murder case against
13 soldiers, including the Camp Commander.
However, the glimmer of hope is now fast fading when Col. Duyogan
succumbed to kidney illness and died on 9 May 2011 while under the
Witness Protection Program of the government. With the way the military
stonewalled the truth and insulated themselves with legal
technicalities, it appeared that the truth which the families of the
victims seek for died with him.
The Aquino government is quite aware of this case. Human rights groups
personally presented the case information to President Aquino in a
face-to-face meeting with him a few months after his assumption to
power. PNoy as a commander in chief was even requested to take special
attention or if necessary make an intervention to ensure that the truth
will come out. Unfortunately, until now, there is still no action from
his government not only on the PICOP 6 case and all other previous cases
of enforced disappearance in the country but most urgently on its
continuing occurrence. This is so considering that already, ten new
cases have occurred under his watch.
Since there is still no law defining and penalizing enforced
disappearance, which is supposedly a separate and autonomous criminal
offense and that the newly adopted international legally binding
instrument for the protection against enforced disappearance has yet to
be signed and ratified by the Philippine government, enforced
disappearance will only keep on happening. It will continue to happen
under a prevailing climate of impunity where perpetrators of serious
human rights violations can walk free from their criminal
The disappearance case of the six PICOP workers makes all the more
obvious the fact that enforced disappearance spares no one. It is no
longer just an act of political repression aimed at silencing political
dissenters but it has become a threat to the whole society and the
Unearthing the “truth” about the past administration’s crime against the
people including human rights violations is already a truth in plain
sight. PNoy should only just accept the inconvenient truth that he did
not only inherit a bad government from his predecessor, but also he
could make it worse if he continues to put aside human rights from his
government’s top agenda.
Truth is indispensable for justice and justice is a requisite for good
government. Pnoy’s “matuwid na daan” will only lead to
nowhere if he does not know where to begin with, in the first place.
Today, as the families of the victims and the human rights community
commemorates the 11th anniversary of the disappearance of the
PICOP 6 workers, the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearance
(AFAD) challenges the Aquino government to make a clear resolve in
putting an end to enforced disappearance and other forms of human rights
violations by establishing the truth and bringing those responsible to
He can concretely do so by
immediately enacting of an anti-enforced disappearance law and by
signing and ratifying the International
Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance which
are vital steps to rekindle the hope of
the victims and their families for truth and justice.
and authenticated by:
MARY AILEEN D. BACALSO