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Where is Bazoo de Jesus and Dexter Capuyan?

April 28, 2024 | British Columbia

Where is Bazoo de Jesus and Dexter Capuyan?

April 28 marks one year since Gene Roz Jamil de Jesus and Dexter Capuyan were abducted in Taytay, Rizal by men who identified themselves to be from the Philippine National Police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG),  credible and valuable information from witnesses’ accounts and reports.

A year has passed and Gene, popularly known by his nicknames  of Hadji and Bazoo, and Dexter remain missing, deliberately and forcibly hidden from their families, lawyers, and friends and colleagues.

Families of Gene Roz Jamil “Bazoo” De Jesus and Dexter Capuyan at a press conference May 10, 2023. (Photo credit: Philstar.com / Gaea Katreena Cabico)
Families of Gene Roz Jamil “Bazoo” De Jesus and Dexter Capuyan at a press conference May 10, 2023. (Photo credit: Philstar.com / Gaea Katreena Cabico)

Mercedita Centeno De Jesus marks this first year of her son’s enforced disappearance with her unflinching hope and commitment to continue the search for her son and other desaparecidos. She reminds everyone with these words:

“Sa akin, siyempre magpapatuloy kami sa paghahanap, sa paghihintay, sa pakikibaka para sa paglilitaw  doon sa mga desaparecido. Hindi man nila ilitaw, malaman man lang ng mga tao na may talagang nangyayari na ganoon. Kasi hindi pa rin sila naniniwala na iyong mga pagkawala ng mga ito ay  hindi dahil sa ginagawa ng mga aktibista, mga organizer. Hindi! Nawawala sila dahil may ginagawa ang gobyerno na pananakot  sa tao, na tumahimik. Kaya, kaming mga pamilya  ng mga desaparecido, kami ang proof, ang proof na talagang may hindi magandang nangyayari sa lipunan.  Magpapatuloy kami bilang boses, bilang ebidensya, dahil kung walang  ebidensya hindi susulong ang hinahanap na  hustisya.”

(For me,  we will definitely continue to search, to wait, to campaign to have the desaparecidos “surfaced”. Regardless of whether the government/military will surface the disappeared, the people should at least be made aware that this violation is happening. Because people still believe that these disappearances happen because of what activists and organizers do. No! People are forcibly disappeared  because the government terrorizes the people, to silence them.  This is why we, the families of the disappeared, we are the proof, the proof, that terrible things are happening in our society.  We will continue to be the voice, the living proof, because without evidence, we cannot push forward our search for justice.)

Bazoo turned 27 on April 24, four days before he was abducted in 2023. His birthday then was celebrated with his cousins and  other relatives, with Mercedita and her husband joining them by video call from Italy. On the evening of the 28th, Bazoo texted his mother “Good evening”  to which his mother Mercedita messaged back  “Ciao” (Hello). Mercedita could not have known that this was the last contact she would have with her son.

Mercedita celebrated Bazoo’s 28th birthday this year with a mass in Malolos Bulacan with family, friends, students, and colleagues to pray for his safe return. His birthday falls on the 40th anniversary of Cordillera Day, an annual people’s event every April 24. This was when land defender and tribal leader Macliing Dulag was assassinated by the Philippine military in 1980  for his opposition to the Chico River Dam. This year’s Cordillera Day serves also to remember Dexter and Bazoo, activists in the service of the Cordillera people, and to demand that they be surfaced and their abductors held accountable. Mercedita recalls that last year, Bazoo was involved in organizing the 39th anniversary of Cordillera Day.

Birthday Mass for Bazoo last April 24, 2024 in Malolos with Mercedita's family, friends and human rights advocates.(Photo Credit: Roda Tajon/Pinoy Weekly)
Birthday Mass for Bazoo last April 24, 2024  in Malolos, Bulacan with Mercedita’s family, friends and human rights advocates.(Photo Credit: Roda Tajon/Pinoy Weekly)

The Surface Dexter and Bazoo FaceBook page has a ten-day run of social media posts of photos and poems, events, programs from youth, the indigenous organizations, and from the University of the Philippines: a landing post to send birthday wishes and memories of Bazoo,  a “light a lantern” ceremony as a symbolic act of bearing the light for truth, justice, and the safe return of Bazoo and Dexter, and various artworks. The solidarity night of “Remembrance and Resistance” raised the challenge to continue the fiery spirit of the Cordilleran people and to continue the search for Bazoo and Dexter.

The words of Bazoo’s elder sister Idda, captured in her video statement for Cordillera Day, linger: “Ang pagmamahal sa Cordillera ay pagmamahal sa kapwa.” (To love the Cordillera is to love your neighbour.)  Bazoo and Dexter are both activists for the rights of the Cordillera people. Both graduated from the University of the Philippines (UP) Baguio. Bazoo is a staff of the Philippine Task Force on Indigenous Peoples Rights (TFIP), an NGO network focused on the rights of Philippine indigenous peoples to their ancestral lands and was active as a student leader at UP Baguio and graduated cum laude in BA Communications. Dexter was a former editor-in-chief of Outcrop, UP Baguio’s official student paper and is a former Cordillera-based activist.

Mercedita recalls that she, along with the families of Bazoo and Dexter, friends, and human rights workers did the rounds of police stations, military camps and barangay halls and had frustrating conversations with those whose jobs were to protect its citizens. Their search took them to Baguio, Tarlac, Laguna, Rizal, and Manila where all the authorities neither confirmed nor denied that Bazoo and Dexter were in their custody, and who clearly showed either their ignorance or contempt for the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Act of 2012 (Republic Act 10353, also known as the Anti-Desaparecido Law). The petitions for the writ of habeas corpus filed in court have failed to compel the military to surface the two activists.

The campaign to search for Bazoo and Dexter is a campaign that continues to be waged in court, in the streets, in the media, in the schools,  online,  and is heard at home in the Philippines and overseas.

At one protest action, Mercedita asks Nanay Edith Burgos, the mother of desaparecido Jonas Burgos who has been missing for 16 years, how she does it, how she keeps that hope for Jonas. She tells Mercedita, “Heto ang sasabihin ko sa iyo. Tatagan mo, “ and adds, “Ipagpatuloy mo itong ginagawa natin, ang  mga nanay ni Karen (Empeno) at  Sherlyn (Cadapan) at iyong iba pang nangawala. Kung paano mo ikakalat ang awareness na iyan. (This is what I am going to tell you. You have to remain strong. You have to continue what we are doing, what the mothers of Karen and Sherlyn and others are doing. How to continue to spread awareness that this is happening.)

Mercedita Centeno De Jesus is doing just that for her son Bazoo and the other desaparecidos.

Mercedita is expected to give her testimony on the enforced disappearance of her son Bazoo at the International People’s Tribunal (IPT) on May 17-18 in Europe. Enforced disappearances constitute a crime and in the circumstances of the enforced disappearances of Bazoo, Dexter, and hundreds more, these are defined in international law as crimes against humanity.

Surface Bazoo De Jesus and Dexter Capuyan! Hold the perpetrators of their abduction accountable!

#SurfaceDexterAndBazoo

#SurfaceAllDeparecidos

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