By: Jasmine Margarette Estrella with reports from Northern Dispatch
Students and staff from the University of the Philippines Baguio (UPB) joined the families of missing Indigenous Peoples’ rights activists Dexter Capuyan and Gene Roz Jamil “Bazoo” De Jesus, on May 23, to urge the UPB Administration (Admin) to speak out about the UP alumni’s disappearance.
Council of Leaders (CL), All UP Academic Employees Union (AUPAEU), and Surface Dexter and Bazoo’s Team organized a vigil and solidarity gathering in UPB to call for the administration to release a supporting statement, Patricia Joan Daloria, CL chairperson said in an interview.
Daloria questioned why the UPB Admin has not issued any statement that could refute the accusations of trolls and red-taggers.
“Are they [UPB Admin] supporting [Surface Dexter and Bazoo’s Campaign]? Are they not supporting the campaign? In fact, nauna pang mag-release yung Chancellor of UP Visayas ng statement supporting the campaign for the surface of Dexter and Bazoo,” Daloria said.
Daloria mentioned that Bazoo’s mother and Dexter’s daughter personally went to UPB to ask the administration for support and commitment to help surface the two missing UPB alumni.
“We really got no concrete answers [at] solid answers [from UPB Admin] sa kung ano yung maibibigay talaga nila na suporta”, Daloria stated.
Mercedita De Jesus, Bazoo’s mother, said that they felt the strong support of everyone who attended the vigil and solidarity gathering for Dexter and Bazoo while she called the attention of UPB Admin.
“Ang hinihiling naman namin ngayon ay suporta mula sa administrasyon…sana lubus-lubusin na yung pagsuporta sa laban nating ito…ang isang aktibista ay hindi terorista,” Mercedita said in her message.
Dexter’s daughter, Gabrielle Capuyan thanked those who helped them call for the surface of Dexter and Bazoo and appealed for the support of UPB Admin.
“Bilang alumni ang aking ama, at ang kanyang kasamahan na si Bazoo. Ayun po, so we continue to call for the support of the UP Administration as well as gather a statement from them,” Gabrielle said.
According to AUPAEU President Wilfredo Alangui, UPB used to release a statement for their missing alumni in the past years.
“‘Yan ang hinahanap natin ngayon sa administrasyon. Malaking bagay ‘yung dapat suporta na pinapakita nila sa paghahanap sa kanilang alumni. Malaking bagay sa pamilya [na] marinig sila, kung paano sila pumusisyon,” said Alangui.
Alangui believes that as a university, UPB should willingly release a support statement.
“[Hindi yung] kailangan pa natin silang kalampagin [kausapin] para lang mapilitang maglabas ng statement”, he added.
Mercedita said that it has been 25 days since the disappearance of Dexter and Bazoo while Gabrielle emphasized that they will not stop until they surface the two.
UPB, on May 24, released a short statement on their Facebook page following the call.
UPB expressed their concern for Dexter and Bazoo’s disappearance, but the UP constituents demand more.
Meanwhile, several University of the Philippines campuses have joined the call to surface two UP Baguio alumni who have been missing since April 28.
In separate statements, the Baguio, Cebu, and Visayas campuses urged the government to assist in finding Dexter Capuyan and Gene Roz Jamil De Jesus.
Human rights groups claimed armed men who presented themselves as members of the Philippines National Police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) forcibly took them in Taytay, Rizal.
“Their disappearance has not only caused anxiety and distress to their loved ones but also created a chilling effect on the safety and security of our community,” UP Baguio said in a May 24 statement.
“We urge all government and concerned agencies, specifically those that have already been approached by the families of Bazoo and Dexter, to exhaust all means and resources to fully address their disappearance,” the statement added.
This is the first official pronouncement from the institution on the issue since the disappearance of its former student leaders. Capuyan was the editor-in-chief of the student publication, The Outcrop, and chair of the city-wide chapter of the League of Filipino Students in the 80s. De Jesus, who graduated cum laude in 2016, formerly chaired the Alliance of Concerned Students and the UP Baguio Council of Leaders.
Hours before the UP Baguio statement was released, UP Cebu Chancellor Atty. Leo Malagar expressed “solidarity with the UP Baguio community, the families of Capuyan and De Jesus, and all who believe in human rights and freedom.” He said the disappearance of the two “unsettles as much as it reminds us of the abduction of Dyan Gumanao and Armand Jake Dayoha.”
Gumanao and Dayoha are UP Cebu alumni who were abducted by suspected state agents last January. The perpetrators eventually released them following a public outcry.
“A troubling pattern emerges, calling for immediate and effective collective action. With urgency and optimism, we press for comprehensive investigations and active cooperation from the police and other law enforcement agencies to ascertain the whereabouts of Capuyan and De Jesus,” Malagar said.
“Enforced disappearances achieve nothing more than the erosion of the fabric of a democratic society. Silencing critics doesn’t support the aims of mainstream society; it only weakens our democracy,” he added.
Earlier, on May 23, the UP Visayas also called for the surfacing of the two UP Baguio alumni.
“A society is never truly free if its activists and critics are subjected to constant harassment and must fear for their safety. For this reason, we express grave concern over the enforced disappearance of two graduates of UP Baguio,” the statement said.
“We call on our partners from all relevant agencies of government to help end this pattern of injustice and to join us in demanding the safe return of the two activists,” it added.