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Rights group calls for surfacing of former spokesperson

DAVAO CITY—The human rights group Karapatan is demanding that the military surface one of its former Southern Mindanao officers, Honey May Suazo, who has been missing for the past two weeks.

Suazo, 38, had served as Karapatan regional secretary general and spokesperson for five years before leaving the group. She disappeared on Nov. 2 amid the government’s intensified crackdown on activists and organizations it had accused of being linked to the communist movement.

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More than 60 activists have been rounded up in police raids on offices of groups associated with the left-wing Bagong Alyansang Makabayan in Manila and Negros Oriental around the same period that Suazo had disappeared.

Continuous harassment

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“Although she has left Karapatan, it seems that she still remains a target. If her past experiences of continuous harassment are indicative of anything, it is that Honey May is still facing reprisal for her work as a human rights defender,” Jay Apiag, spokesperson for Karapatan Southern Mindanao, said in a statement.

Eastern Mindanao Command spokesperson Lt. Col. Ezra Balagtey, denied that the Armed Forces of the Philippines had a hand in Suazo’s disappearance.

“We request the (Suazo) family to cooperate with the law enforcement agencies if they have information that will help in locating the subject,” Balagtey told the Inquirer in a text message.

Prior to Suazo’s disappearance, Brig. Gen. Antonio Parlade, AFP civil-military operations chief, linked Suazo to the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army.

Suazo was last seen in Panabo City in Davao del Norte on Nov. 2 after she and her partner, Anelo Pabuaya, visited the graves of her relatives.

From the cemetery, the couple stopped by a friend’s house in Barangay Gredu. Around 3 p.m., Suazo set off for Davao City. Realizing she did not have enough money for the bus ride, she called Pabuaya to meet her at the Panabo City Hall to get additional cash.

‘Unseen hand’

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Shortly after they parted, Suazo called Pabuaya again to ask that she be fetched immediately because she had noticed that a white pickup truck was following her.

Pabuaya advised Suazo to go to a police station, but she was not around when he got there. He called her mobile phone but could not reach her.

Karapatan tagged the AFP as the “unseen hand” behind her disappearance.

Apiag said Suazo’s “past experiences of harassment and Red-tagging by state forces” were clues to who were responsible for her disappearance.

“Given her background and the widespread targeting of activists, we hold the AFP accountable on Honey May’s disappearance. We demand … the immediate surfacing of Honey May Suazo and to end all attacks on human rights defenders,” Apiag said.

During her stint as Karapatan secretary general from 2011 to 2016, she received multiple threats and accusations, he said.

Apiag recalled that posters with Suazo’s picture identifying her as a terrorist were displayed in the cities of Butuan and Surigao in April this year.

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