My name is Relyn T. Bon, 21 years old, a graduate of Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education in the University of Pasig, Philippines. I am currently working as an Administrative and Finance Staff of Teachers’ Dignity Coalition a non-government organization for teachers in the Philippines. I’m here to represent Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND) – a human rights advocate in the Philippines where the Samahan ng mga Anak ng Desaparecidos or Association of the Children of the Disappeared from which I take part. It is one of the pet programs they established to help for the rehabilitation of sons/daughters of the victim of involuntary disappearance. I am glad to be part of the 19th Annual Conference here at Balducci Centre, reflecting upon: “Children and Women of the World: Protagonist of the Human Future”. It is indeed a great privilege to be a proactive participant of this convention.
I really feel so honored to share with you my personal experienced as a child of a disappeared and how our family faced the situation. I’m just one of the numerous children, parents, wives, brothers and sister of the disappeared in the Philippines who are also experienced losing a loved ones. Some victims were found surfaced alive; while other found dead and many are still remain missing.
We are six siblings in the family of three girls and three boys. I am the youngest. My mother’s name is Yolanda T. Bon, 56 of age a member of FIND. She was only three months pregnant with me when my father disappeared. A simple housewife but because of the disappearance of my father she work hard for her to support and fed us. My father’s name is Remigio P. Bon, He was a labor leader and a member of Alyansa ng Manggagawa sa Pasig (ALMAPAS) a labor organization. He disappeared August 8, 1989 at Barangay Ueg, San Mariano, Isabela, Philippines. The probable cause of his disappearance is politically motivated. My father’s disappearance has been psychologically and emotionally traumatizing our surviving family, because he is the breadwinner in the family. A very sad experienced that I have because I grew up without him to guide and to care for me while I’m growing. I lost the person who could be the first source of my strength and help me when I’m in trouble or need advice. It’s very difficult to realize that I missed out the father who could make me laugh or smile when I feel bad and most specially to show his love for me. But I know wherever he is now he protects our family.
After six years of his disappearance the horrible remains of my father was exhumed June 23, 1995 I was five years old then. FIND workers, together with my mother and the University of the Philippines (UP) Anthropologist Professor Jerome Bailen went to Barangay Ueg, San Mariano, Isabela Philippines to conduct a low profile investigation and searched to my father’s remains. Base on the investigation that they conducted the result was positive. The remains of my father brought to the UP laboratory for the examination of his skeletal remains and base on the autopsy report my father was summarily executed. He was given a final burial October 29, 1995. Enforced Disappearance is the most cruel and most brutal form of human rights violation because it violates the right to life of a victim like what had happened to my father. Indeed, my father’s human rights were violated and the worst part of the story since our bread winner and the head of our family’s life were taken away from us we until now are suffering form its holistic turmoil.
Our country, the Philippines, is one of those who have reports on human rights violations and our family’s story is just one of the various cases. One specific case of human Rights violation in the Philippines is the so – called enforced Disappearance. What is Enforced Disappearance? Enforced Disappearance – “is the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agent of the state or by persons or group of persons acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place such a person outside the protection of the law.” (as define by the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance).
We as human beings are entitled to certain rights or freedom of action to realize our innermost potentials and to achieve our goals and aspirations. Needless to say basically we have the right to life, to dignity, self-development, to survive, to self-determination and to national development. But as much as we would like to preserve the inalienable and inviolable rights of each human family, violations of the said rights are happening in each country. Reported atrocities of human rights violation are been reported in the United Nations and other international body and non-governmental organizations which advocated the protection of human rights.
We need to address human rights violation as a serious matter. We are pursuing our campaign on the protection of human rights, as one of those who have experienced losing a love one due to enforced disappearance I personally appeal to all human rights organizations to take a stand and participate enthusiastically with conviction and persistence in our campaign to educate the many on issues pertaining to human rights violations, pursue in achieving justice for the victims – perpetrators should be brought to justice, they have to pay the price of the things they have done.
At the latest we are pursuing the call for the enactment of an Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disapperance Law still pending in the Philippine Congress. We are asking you to support the immediate enactment of the proposed Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2011 and the signing and ratification by the Philippine Government of the United Nations International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPAPED), you can sign the petition online on our website http://www.find.org.ph/campaigns . It is right and timely that this action should be taken as an urgent matter. Human Rights should be protected and it is an International issue needed to be address. The road that we may be passing is long and narrow but we believe that in the long run we could achieve what we longed for: A world with peace and love for humanity.
The non-governmental organization FIND was established on Nov. 23, 1985, through the initiatives of eight families and with the help of Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFD). These families are the mother, father, broche, sisters and wife of the disappeared. They are the founding member of FIND.
The exhumation of my father’s remains set off FIND’s daring quest to search for the missing. FIND had participated in previous International fact-finding and search missions, but my father’s case was the first exhumation mission initiated and carried out by the organization.
The early therapy sessions for the children of the disappeared led to the establishment of the group Samahan ng mga Anak ng Desaparecidos or the Association of the Children of the Disappeared. Theater has become a form of therapy for the children which became a potent medium in projecting the issue of disappearance to the public. It also served as a medium through which the children are enlightened about the reasons behind the disappearance of their parents. Thus, it helps in elevating their social awareness.
SAD has staged major productions in the country and its members have ventured into other activities that have both therapeutic and creative value, such as painting and writing. Our paintings have been featured on exhibits and our written work published in “The Search”, FIND’s official magazine.
I was only six years old when I started participating in SAD. We do theater arts by performing through interpretative dance and cultural presentation. We are invited from different schools and Organizations to perform. This is also a part of campaign so that the public may know and be aware on the issue of enforced disappearance. We use the creativity of drama and acting as a form of expression our own experiences and it also serves as a way of re leasing our pain and emotions cause by the disappearance of our loved ones. Through these kinds of engaging activities we cling to our last hope that our voices be heard and our emotions be felt by people in all walks of life.
As a child of a victim of the disappearance, I witnessed how my family struggled to survive. Indeed my entire family suffered physically, emotionally, psychologically, socially, and most specifically financially. As I reminisce things in the past, whenever my mother and I went to church I usually see other children walking hand in hand with their mother and father. One time I heard a child calling a man “Papa” and it was then that I begun to question myself why don’t I have a father to be called as such? I asked my mother but she told me that my father died in an accident. In my innocent mind, it’s quite difficult for me to understand and what I had then is an egoistic mind of attending to my need of fulfilling the emptiness that I have in my heart as I longed for my father. It was in the year 1995 that the remains of my father were found and recognized in Isabella province. It was then that I begun speculating and questioning myself on the truth behind my father’s death. Questions like, “What really happened to him?” “Why am I not even given a chance to see him alive?” etc. Certainly, these were the questions that I even keep on wondering until now. Honestly, I envy. I envy children who have their father around attending their holistic needs; a father who brings them to school every day; a father who shows unconditional love toward his children every now and then; a father who takes care of his children when they are sick. These things were all taken away from me due to my father’s disappearance. My brothers and sisters were even lucky for they were able to see our father and to feel his tender loving care unlike me who only saw him through the memories left in his pictures with the family when he’s still alive and it pains me a lot. It is very difficult to live without a father for there’s no one to protect the family in danger; we lack security of having our basic needs and necessities in life and even education. Because of my father’s death, our mother was unable to shoulder all the responsibilities so she decided to bring some of us in the province and we lived our lives away from each other. Some of my siblings experienced working at very young age to sustain a living and survive; others entered early marriage while others did not even finish their studies. All these things happened because we lacked the guidance of our beloved father.
This is not just our story for it is also the story of all other families that experienced similar injustices brought by the disappearances of their family members. FIND as an organization has become a helping hand in order to surpass all the challenges that our family are facing due to losing our father. Because of FIND we were able to retrieve the remains of my father; because of SAD which is a project of FIND, our eyes were opened for the further realizations of the real social issues existing in the country making us socially aware; our talents were all unleashed as we encountered various unforgettable experiences of mingling, meeting, and being with people and families with similar experiences as ours; Most especially, I must say that I found a second family and second home in the hands of FIND. Until now, together with FIND, we never stop aiming for justice not only for the death of my father but also for the death of other victims of disappearances not only in the Philippines but in the entire world for I still dream of a peaceful place to live for everyone.
May our voices struggling for justice that echoes in the whole world be heard to stop human rights violation from ruining our lives and the hopes of our future. No to disappearances! YES for peace, safety and prosperity for everyone!
I look forward to also hear your stories that might touch and inspire not only those people like me but all of us here in the conference. This is the story of my life that transformed me into a person with conviction to dignity and justice and I do hope that my story remains through the depths of your hearts that whenever you recall “RELYN BON” you will remember the phrase “JUSTICE for PEACE”.
Thank you so much for lending me your ears for a while may we all have a nice evening ahead everyone. KEEP THE FAITH!
October 1, 2011