TWO indigenous peoples’ rights activists in the Cordillera have been reported missing after relatives and colleagues lost contact with them on April 28, the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) said in a statement on Thursday, May 4.
The CHRA in the Cordillera, families and friends, are appealing to the government to surface Gene Roz Jamil “Bazoo” de Jesus, 27, and Dexter Capuyan, 56, both graduates of the University of the Philippines Baguio (UPB),who they believe are being held by law enforcement authorities.
“We express deep concern for the safety and well-being of Dexter Capuyan and Gene Roz Jamil De Jesus,” the CHRA said in a May 3 urgent alert.
The CHRA raised fears of state custody, as the military and police previously accused Capuyan of being a ranking officer of the Chadli Molintas Command of the New People’s Army operating in the Ilocos and Cordillera regions with a P1.85 million bounty on his head for two counts of murder lodged at the Branch 35 of the Regional Trial Court in Bontoc, Mountain Province.
Capuyan is among the individuals named in the list of alleged leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army released by the Department of National Defense and Department of Interior and Local Government. He was among the more than 600 individuals named in the Department of Justice petition to proscribe the CPP-NPA as a terrorist organization. His name was removed when state prosecutors trimmed the number of respondents to eight. The court junked the petition in September last year.
His name was also implicated in the February 2015 NPA ambush against a military and police convoy in Quirino, Ilocos Sur, resulting in five soldiers’ deaths and wounding six others.
“We believe that state security units have them in custody and fear for their safety and well-being. We urge whoever holds them to surface them immediately, respect their rights and treat them humanely,” the CHRA group added.
At the time they were reported missing, De Jesus was working as an information and networking officer for the Philippine Task Force for Indigenous Peoples’ Rights, while Capuyan was an activist-leader based in Benguet province’s capital town of La Trinidad.
CHRA spokesperson Casselle Ton said the pair’s last known location was in Rizal where Capuyan, a Bontoc-Kankanaey-Ibaloi from La Trinidad, Benguet, sought medical treatment. It was not clear, however, what he was doing with De Jesus when they went missing. Their last reported contact from their peers was on April 28, 9:00 P.M., from somewhere in Taytay, Rizal. De Jesus last communicated at 7:36 P.M., according to his mother’s social media post.
“We still continue the search. We still continue (to ask) the public and government officials and the Commission on Human Rights to help us surface these two,” Ton said.
Ditz, De Jesus’s mother, an overseas Filipino worker in Italy, posted in Filipino on her Facebook page appealing for the resurfacing of her son.
“This is very difficult for our family … We’re trying to act normal when facing this, but behind it all is our anguish. We’re hoping that the search will turn out well,” she said in Filipino.
“Napakahirap para sa aming pamilya ang bagay na ito. Ilang araw nang dala-dala namin ang matinding pag-aalala. Pinipilit na maging normal ang pagharap sa lahat ngunit sa likod ay puno ng paghihinagpis. Sana ay magkaroon na ng linaw ang paghahanap,” Ditz said in the post. (This is very hard for our family. We have been deeply worried for several days now. We try our best to face all these despite our pain. We hope to see the light in our search.)
The two were former University of the Philippines Baguio students.
Capuyan was a BA Social Sciences student. He served as the editor-in-chief of the student publication, Outcrop, and was the League of Filipino Students chairperson in the early 1980s.
A friend and contemporary in college, who asked to remain anonymous, described him as “a charismatic leader.”
“He was everybody’s crush (crush ng bayan). Aside from his leadership skills and being articulate, he can also write, sing and play the guitar. He was always happy, smiling, and playful,” his one-time party mate in student politics recalled in a mix of English and Filipino.
Capuyan’s friends added that they also admired him because “despite coming from a prominent family and upper-middle-class family, he lived simply.”
Meanwhile, De Jesus, a BA Communication Major in Journalism cum laude, was the chairperson of the Alliance of Concerned Students and the UP Baguio Council of Leaders before graduating in 2016. He also served as the Cordillera regional coordinator of the National Union of Students of the Philippines.
Leia Castro-Margate, a former instructor of De Jesus in UP Baguio, described him as a “good writer.”
“He was the kind of student you would be proud of as a teacher. He didn’t neglect his studies while still serving the people outside school work. He is not just an activist for show but someone who walks the talk,” she said in an online interview.
“He was very humble and down to earth,” Castro-Margate added..
No trace of the two
Barangay Dolores in Taytay, Rizal has confirmed that the sister of De Jesus filed a blotter report.
“I advised to blotter kasi three days nang nawawala. Within 24 hours dapat ay na-report na nila sa pulis,” Dolores barangay captain Roy Tapawan said.
The family of Capuyan visited the barangay on May 4 to also file a blotter report about Dexter’s disappearance.
As of Friday, there have yet to be any official statements or responses from the local police or military responding to the allegations of state custody for the 2 activists, and there remains no information as to the whereabouts of the 2.
There is a public appeal from the anguished families and friends to help locate their two missing loved ones.
For any information you could give, please contact these numbers: [CHRA]—0918-9199007.” – with a report from Sherwin de Vera – www.nordis.net