Voice of the Disappeared

It is a solitary voice, easily drowned by a multitude of lies, deceit and pretension. It stands for what is true, honest and noble, but the ironies of its time distort it. It fights a battle in silence amidst a cacophony of gunfire, muffled screams, heavy blows of wood against human flesh, drowned pleas in drums of water and sadistic laughter. It is a lone voice—the voice of the disappeared.
Unspoken and unheard, this voice is known only to those who dare to listen. It stares people straight in the eye, but many have become blind, choosing to conform to the “truth” fed by their authorities. This voice is chained with fear, apathy and cynicism because believing it is a passport to danger and the possibility of disappearing.
Karen, Sherlyn, Jonas and the nameless, faceless, forgotten others—the gatekeepers, activist leaders, progressive group members, student sympathizers, human rights defenders, trade unionists and land reform advocates—whisper the solitary voice. They are called dissidents, destabilizers, rebels, communist insurgents, enemies of the state and terrorists because of simply threading the unpopular, often avoided, path of activism. The disappeared reveal symptoms of rotten democracy intertwined with the culture of impunity— the Filipino brand of democracy.
Many have died, many are still missing and many fear a lot more will follow. The vicious cycle plaguing the Filipino society is far from over. The world watches through Philip Alston, the United Nations special repertoire, and awaits the government’s next move. Will the military’s blind denial still stand against the countless evidences of extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, harassments and abuses? Will the search for the missing University of the Philippines students and other desaparasidos end in tears? The answer is as elusive as truth, silenced by intimidation, crushed with force.
Yet, like any noble cause, no amount of violence can squelch the voice of our time. A solitary voice in the newspaper Kalayaan, though read only once, has urged the people to take up arms for independence. A solitary voice has announced the fall of Bataan in the Second World War, but it has promised that the cause of freedom will be fought with “heads bloodied but unbowed.” A solitary voice has called on the people to mass up in EDSA, first, to end a dictatorship, second, to end corruption. The voice of our time is continuously muffled to hide the truth it holds. However, for as long as there are people willing to listen, our solitary voice cannot be silenced; it will live on.
The voice of the disappeared is heard through the lips of those who are present. Happy stories of their childhood, achievements and dreams give hope and strength to those who continue to search. Dark stories of their torture, wounds, pains, screams and death give courage to those who continue to fight. Their voice is a warning of deeper social maladies and a call to vigilance against abuse. Those who listen can choose to ignore the voice, or they can choose to make a stand and let the government know that tolerance has its limits. The eyes may be blinded, the ears closed, the tongue held back, but there is a limit to apathy. Today may not be the end of the vicious cycle, but there is always tomorrow with renewed hopes.
They are a multitude of lies, deceit and pretension, not easily drowned by a solitary voice. They stand for what is false, hypocritical and wrong, and their own ironies condemn them. They fight the battle with a cacophony of gunfire, muffled screams, heavy blows of wood against human flesh, drowned pleas in drums of water and sadistic laughter. However, a solitary voice stands against this multitude—the voice of the disappeared.
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