Raymond Manalo is one of the very few living victims of enforced disappearance.
He was abducted from his family home by armed men in February 2006 along with his brother Reynaldo. During 18 months in secret detention, he was subjected to repeated torture by his military jailers until the brothers made a daring escape.
They have since been reunited with their family but their struggle goes on. No one has been punished for the abuses suffered by the brothers, who were accused of being members of Communist armed group the New People’s Army (NPA), despite them having denied any such affiliation.
After being taken by the security forces, they were held in a cell in a military camp with 12 other abductees, where they were starved and regularly tortured with “searing hot tin cans”, “smacked with wood”, and “beat while pouring water into my [their] nose”.
After surviving the ordeal, Raymond was introduced to a man known as “The Butcher” – then a military commander, who has been prominent in the fight against Communists insurgents. The commander allowed Raymond to go with military escorts and see his parents. He ordered Raymond to ensure that his family would not tell anyone about his detention, bring their case to court, or to speak to human rights organizations.
In the weeks that followed, Raymond was offered the possibility of becoming a soldier, as his captors were apparently impressed by his hardiness. The brothers were moved to an officer’s farm in Pangasinan province, northern Philippines. There they tilled the land as unpaid workers for the officer. Raymond went along with the plan, while all along waiting for his moment to escape.
“One day, our chance came. Our ‘guards’ were all completely drunk and while they slept, my brother and I fled by the side of the farm where there were no houses and made it to the highway.”
In the three years since Raymond’s escape, that justice has been elusive. His attempts to file a criminal case against soldiers who subjected him to abuses have been delayed or dismissed by the courts, while he lives in constant fear that he could be abducted again.
“I am free, but I am not really free. The soldiers can take me again any time, all they need to do is take off their uniforms and do it anonymously”