Finding hope in the search for the disappeared

April 26, 2024

Edita Burgos and Ida De Jesus during the Sunset Gathering. (Photo by Dominic Gutoman/Bulatlat)


MANILA – No words can effectively describe what the families left behind by the desaparecidos are going through.

For Ida De Jesus, sister of disappeared activist Gene Roz De Jesus, rage is rapidly becoming her default emotion.

“It is coupled with hope, love, and the will to fight. Forgiveness has no place in my heart for as long as our fathers, mothers, children, siblings, friends, and loved ones are being disappeared by the state,” De Jesus said in Filipino.

Gene Roz, more commonly known as “Bazoo” by his loved ones, would have celebrated his 28th birthday on April 24 with his loved ones. But on April 28, 2023, he was abducted by individuals claiming to be from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) together with his fellow Cordillera activist, Dexter Capuyan.

Recent developments in the case

De Jesus said in an interview with Bulatlat that there is no development in the search for Bazoo and Dexter. In July 2023, their families filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus before the Court of Appeals. Unfortunately, their petition was dismissed in September 2023. “Last November, we discussed with a new group of lawyers. They recommended the filing of a new petition for legal remedy,” De Jesus said.

Habeas corpus is a legal remedy related to a person’s right to liberty. It is used when a person is believed to be illegally detained or unlawfully restrained. It also extends to all cases of illegal confinement that deprived the person of his liberty.

De Jesus said that what they can observe is very limited in the search missions that she joined, particularly in the police and military camps.

“Some would allow entry but with a limited view. We are not allowed to explore. They also imposed restricted areas. There are cases when the camps would not grant us any access at all. That is why up to now, there have been no results,” she said.

The search team and the families also reached out to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) which conducted separate search and investigation efforts.

“They coordinated with me. They also conducted their search. However, it came to the point that they also did not find anything because of their limits,” De Jesus said.

Hope and struggle

De Jesus used to be a lecturer at a satellite campus of Bulacan State University (BulSU) on literature, communication, English, social science, and contemporary works.

Her continuous search for her brother and all the disappeared activists endangered her life and livelihood as she experienced harassment and intimidation, including red-tagging. This forced her to stop teaching.

“For months, I searched for a job. Many companies ghosted me. Eventually, I found a remote job that aligns with my principles and I enjoy it. But the sad part is, he was not present and he cannot see my situation now,” she said.

De Jesus taught for eight years at the Hagonoy campus of BulSU. She is currently working for an Australian start-up company known for sharing knowledge and wisdom via video calls and bite-sized video content.

“He left a void in us to the point where we do not touch his belongings. They remain in the same place. We do not throw away anything he left because we want to make sure that he has something to return to,” De Jesus told Bulatlat.

She added, “There is nothing wrong with the way I want to project or express my continuous hope amid the struggle.”

Solidarity as the guiding light

Edita Burgos, mother of disappeared activist and musician Jonas Burgos, has been searching for her son for 17 years. On April 28, it will be the 17th year of her son’s disappearance, coinciding with the first year of De Jesus and Capuyan’s disappearance.

Just like the case of De Jesus and Capuyan, Burgos said that there has been no development in their legal fight. “They have not acted on my petition despite our victory in 2013. They have not surfaced Jonas, or at least, make [relevant] documents accessible to me.”

Read: 17 years since the disappearance of Jonas Burgos, activists continue to be abducted

There was a time when Jonas appeared in her dreams, reminding her of their conversation: “The only way that you can catch the sun is to turn your back on the sun and face the darkness.”

Burgos said that in facing the darkness — of loss and uncertainty in the condition of his son Jonas — the light comes from the people who remain tireless in joining them in search, in solidarity.

“Aren’t human rights defenders who shield us in times of adversity our light, or religious people who would tightly hug us, or the artists, painters, and playwrights who became the voices of the dispossessed?” Burgos said in Filipino.

Burgos said that she chose to remember and honor the memory of Jonas by upholding his values and virtues.

“With our children, when they know friends or acquaintances with no clothes, they would give them something to wear. When those beside them have nothing to eat, they would give them food. It is the same with Jonas when he was still little, he always shared his food with our neighbors,” she said.

She said that Jonas managed their small farm. When he disappeared, she assumed the responsibilities.

“I farm and I help in the rice field. Because that’s what he did. This way, I can celebrate his life and feel his presence,” Burgos told Bulatlat.

The movement behind

Despite the lack of progress and the government’s seeming lack of political will to address the plight of the families, Burgos said that the yearly commemoration of the desaparecidos is to broaden the movement calling for justice. “This is to let the people know that the enforced disappearances are happening in the country and it has not only affected the families, but also the future generation.”

For her part, De Jesus thanked the people who continue to campaign for the surfacing of her brother and all victims of enforced disappearance.

“There are a lot of people who are helping with the case, the search, and to me, personally. There have been a lot of adjustments. There are also people who help us in providing psycho-social therapy sessions,” De Jesus said.

Families and friends of desaparecidos under various networks and human rights groups, particularly the Free Jonas Burgos Movement and Surface Dexter and Bazoo, are conducting activities to amplify their campaigns.

As of now, cases of enforced disappearance continue to increase in the Marcos administration. In his first two years, the number of victims already reached 14, more than half of the victims during the Duterte administration. The most recent case of enforced disappearance is that of veteran labor activist William Lariosa.

Read: Eyewitnesses say military involved in abducting labor organizer

“We will hold them accountable. The sun will rise tomorrow and there is hope. For as long as we are still together, with the families who are also with us, we are very inspired to continue the work.”

“We wish for the end of cases of disappearances. We wish that we can embrace our children, grandchildren, and the next generation. But that could only happen if we look forward to the sun rising,” Burgos said. (RTS, DAA) (

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