In the past decade, more than 200 Filipinos have reportedly been victims of enforced disappearance. In each case, the victims are robbed of their liberty – and usually their life as well. Few investigations take place into allegations of abductions, torture and killings and hardly anyone is brought to justice for these abuses, resulting in a culture of impunity.
Raymond Manalo, 29, is one of a few abductees who survived to tell his story. Raymond and his brother Reynaldo were taken from their family home by armed men in February 2006. Philippine security forces accused the brothers of being members of the New People’s Army, the military wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines. Both brothers deny this accusation.
After being taken by the security forces, the brothers were held in a cell in a military camp with 12 other abductees, where they were given little food and regularly tortured. “We lived like their slaves.” Raymond says, “I still have scars where they branded my skin with searing hot tin cans. They kicked me, smacked me with wood and beat me while pouring running water into my nose… But I didn't want to die. I knew my parents would be looking for me and that thought kept me going. Both me and my brother - whatever they wanted to do, we withstood it."
In the weeks that followed, the brothers were moved to an officer's farm in Pangasinan province, northern Philippines. where they worked on the land as unpaid labourers.
One day, 18 months after Raymond was taken from his home, the soldiers guarding him at the farm fell asleep, drunk. Raymond woke his brother: “It was time to leave and make our escape… My brother and I fled and made it to the highway. As luck would have it, just as we got out a bus went past. We flagged it down and got on.”
After his escape Raymond began to speak out about his ordeal. “I wanted to file a case. I wanted to fight and to show that I was a victim who also witnessed crimes—abductions and killings—carried out by the army. I need to expose the human rights violations taking place in the Philippines and help others who have been forcibly disappeared… I have lived a nightmare that will always haunt me and my family's life has been destroyed, yet the government has done nothing to help me. I am free, but I am not really free. I walk around with fear. I want justice for the abuses I experienced, and for those suffered by others who have disappeared.”
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