BAGUIO CITY – Families and supporters of missing activists Dexter Capuyan and Gene Roz Jamil “Bazoo” De Jesus on Wednesday sought a dialogue with the police and military here and in nearby Benguet province following allegations that the two were in the custody of the government forces.
Capuyan’s mother Cynthia, 89, and his aunt, Georgina Gonzalo, 81, were accompanied by their lawyers and human rights advocates when they visited the regional police’s office at Camp Dangwa in Benguet’s capital town of La Trinidad to ask for a certification that the two activists were not in its custody.
In an interview, Cynthia said she was fearing for her and her son’s safety after learning that he and De Jesus could be victims of forced disappearance.
“I cannot sleep at night. I wonder if he is eating well. I fear that the captors have killed my son,” she said.
She added: “What we can do is pray for all of us, for our safety, and for guidance in our search for my son and his companion.
Lawyer Ryan Solan, counsel for the Capuyan family, cited Republic Act 10353, or the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Law, which allows the family to visit military camps and ask the heads of these camps to certify whether they are holding the missing kin illegally or not.
The law requires government agencies, including the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, to immediately reply in writing to a person or group inquiring about a disappeared person.
The rules also call for the maintenance of an official up-to-date register of all persons under detention or confinement, who shall be held in officially recognized and controlled places of detention or confinement.
According to the law, the victims’ families, lawyers, Commission on Human Rights and interested parties shall have access to the registers.
“What’s difficult here is that we don’t know what happened. We don’t know who is holding them [Capuyan and De Jesus). We will check every military camp to find out if the two are being held there. That’s the only thing we can do for now,” Solan told the Inquirer.
During the dialogue with the missing activists’ families, Police Col. Patrick Joseph Allan, deputy regional director for administration of the Cordillera police, assured them that the policemen would help locate the missing two.
Allan also told the families that the police would issue a certification after checking all their units in the Cordillera.
In a separate interview after the dialogue, Police Lt. Col. Greg Ammiyao, deputy regional director for Cordillera police’s Community Affairs and Development Division, asserted that Capuyan was not in the police’s custody.
Ammiyao confirmed that they have a copy of a warrant of arrest for Capuyan but he could not remember the charges.
“Despite the warrant, we will do what we can to assist the family in their search for [Capuyan],” he said.
In Camp Allen in this city, soldiers refused to receive the family’s letter requesting a certification that the Capuyan and De Jesus were not in their custody, saying the head of their office, Army Col. Christopher Sab-it of Task Group Baguio, was not around. The task group is a joint military and police initiative under the Army’s 5th Infantry Division that denounces the communist rebellion.
Capuyan and De Jesus were reported missing by their families after losing contact with them since 9 p.m. on April 28 in Taytay.
De Jesus, 27, and Capuyan, 56, both studied at the University of the Philippines Baguio (UP Baguio) and became student leaders.
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.
Citing accounts from the relatives of the two, Capuyan was in Rizal to seek medical attention, but it was not immediately known why he was with De Jesus when they went missing.
Human rights and activist groups feared that the two were in government custody, saying the police and military 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 and has a P1.85 million bounty on his head.