Remembering Jimmy: A father, leader, and desaparecido

The year was 1990. Not long ago, the masses had successfully ousted a dictator and were finally liberated from the atrocities of the Marcos regime; President Corazon Aquino had only two years left in her term and democracy was once again “restored.” The nation was trying to recover and the political climate seemed stable and peaceful. 

On the date October 3, 1990, our parents may be enjoying their teenage years while our grandparents attend their shifts just to make ends meet. It was a typical and ordinary day for the majority, but for the Badayos family, it was a day of fear, uncertainty, and terror. 

In an exclusive interview with the Perspective, Jimmylisa Badayos—daughter of desaparecido Jimmy Badayos—illustrates the events that transpired before and after her father’s involuntary disappearance. 

Meeting Jimmy

Jimmy Badayos was born on November 6, 1957; he was 33 years old at the time of his disappearance. At a young age, Jimmy was already working at the Visayan Glass Factory Inc. (VGFI) as a machine operator to help his parents. He joined the local labor union Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) in 1983 to forward their rights as laborers. 

As a labor leader and community organizer in Cebu, Jimmy was at the forefront of fighting for just wages and favorable working conditions. Their union launched three strikes from 1983 to 1984 at the VGFI to demand for an increase in wages as well as other benefits. They also demanded the reinstatement of illegally terminated union officers and the implementation of a Collective Bargaining Agreement, a contract that presents the agreements made after negotiations that affect wages, hours of work, and other factors involved in employment. However, VGFI did not keep their end of the bargain. 

During their third strike, they were dispersed by water cannons, teargas, and were even beaten with M16 rifles and butt with wood nails. Jimmylisa, being at the picket line, recalled that some of Jimmy’s co-workers were arrested and that her father and other unionists were barred from working at the factory afterwards; they also faced charges. 

After those incidents, Jimmy helped organize workers from Atlas Mining as well as workers from the different parts of Cebu.  

“While organizing with the workers living in urban poor communities, father felt the different plights of the urban poor people. He helped them awaken their rights and to be organized in dealing with problems together. Some problems they faced were threats of demolition, housing, sanitation, privatization of the Carbon Market in Cebu and other issues,” Jimmylisa said. 

Jimmylisa shared, “Ang aking Papa ay mabait, matulungin sa kapwa, at very calm.  Kung may mga kasalanan kami, hindi niya kami pinapalo, makipag-usap lang siya ng kalmado. Kahit busy na, hindi pa rin niya tinatalikuran ang responsibilidad bilang isang ama. Tumutulong siya sa aking mga assignments especially sa Math. Masasabi kong matulungin siya sa kapwa dahil kahit economically hindi kami stable, kaya pa niya mamigay sa iba na mas nangangailangan,” [My father is kind, helpful, and calm. Whenever we made mistakes, he did not hit us. He talked to us calmly. Even though he was busy, he did not neglect his duties as a father. He helps me in my assignments, especially in Math. I could say that he was helpful because even though we were not financially stable, he would always go out of his way to give to the less fortunate]. 

When asked what were her most significant memories with her father, Jimmylisa said that it was during Christmas and New Year because they would attend mass as a family and take pictures at the Santo Niño Basilica. Jimmylisa also said that she was a “Papa’s girl” that’s why she was greatly affected by his disappearance. 

Recalling the day

Jimmylisa recounted the events that happened on the day of her father’s involuntary disappearance. “On October 3, 1990 at around 2:00am, people were knocking at our door.  Because I was awakened, I went to the door to open it. I was shocked when I saw plenty of armed men outside the house bringing long firearms. So, I did not open the door, I went to my parent’s room to inform them of the situation. My father instructed me to open the door.  The armed men came in, they informed my father that they would search the house without presenting a search warrant.” 

“Hinalughog nila ang lahat ng sulok ng bahay. We witnessed na wala silang nakuhang baril. Pinapirma nila ang father ko, walang nakalagay na baril sa pinirmahan niya,” [They searched all the corners of our house. We witnessed that they were not able to seize a gun. They made my father sign, but there was no indication of a “gun” in the documents he signed], she added.

Jimmy signed a document that had no connection to a retrieved gun. However, when the Badayos family were already reading the charges against him, they noticed a blank before his signature which stated that the police indeed “seized” a gun. Jimmylisa shared that during that time, instead of outright planting evidence, the police would leave spaces before the accused person’s signature so that they could include other “evidences.”

When asked what was the last memory Jimmylisa had with her father, she shared, “Before they left, my father hugged me and said, ‘I will be okay, please help your mom with the household chores.” 

Jimmylisa’s mother (Elisa) and two siblings went with Jimmy to Camp Sotero Cabahug, Cebu but only her mother and siblings came home after. “​​Hinawakan ng dalawa kong kapatid ang mga paa ng Papa para hindi siya madala, pero nag-attempt ang mga nag-aresto sa kanya na i-kick ang dalawa kong kapatid kaya bumitaw sila. Narinig nila na parang sinuntok si Papa doon sa itaas, at nakarining sila ng sounds na parang tinorture si Papa,” [My siblings held tight on my father’s feet so that he would not be taken, but the people who arrested him attempted to kick my siblings so they had to let go. They heard noises and sounds like he was being punched and tortured.] 

Jimmylisa stated that the armed men who took her father were carrying the orders of current Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson who was the then Commander of Metrodiscom Cebu. According to Jimmylisa, these men were later involved with Kuratong Baleleng, originally an anti-communist group, but was later revealed to be an organized crime syndicate. (Read: From Kuratong Baleleng to elected gov’t: The rise of the Parojinogs

According to Jimmylisa, her mother Elisa and her siblings were sent home by Ping Lacson; Lacson said that they should just return tomorrow as Jimmy was still under interrogation. The next day, Jimmylisa and her mother went back to the camp to bring Jimmy food but the guard on duty said that there was no “Jimmy Badayos” in their arrest records. Even after vigorous assertion, they were unable to see and visit Jimmy. 

On October 5, 1990, two days after Jimmy’s disappearance, state forces came to the Badayos’ home. Jimmylisa’s family did not open their doors to these individuals as they were still horrified from their father’s arrest. However, these armed forces knocked down their door and ransacked their home. They were even met with guns. 

“Takot na takot ako nung time na yun. Habang nakatutok ang baril, tinanong nila sa amin kung ‘nasaan si Papa’.  Halos sabay kaming sumagot na ‘dinala ninyo sa kampo si Papa, tapos magtatanong kayo kung saan siya?’ Sabi nila naka-iskapo siya. Since then, hindi na namin nakita si Papa,” [I was so scared. While we were pointed with guns, they asked us where my father was. We told them that ‘they were the individuals who brought my father to camp and yet they asked us his whereabouts.’ They said that he escaped. We haven’t seen our father since then.]

State forces then declared that Jimmy Badayos escaped. The Badayos family filed a writ of habeas corpus but the judiciary sided with the state forces; the case was resolved due to an affidavit from the guard on duty that Jimmy escaped. Jimmylisa asserted that her father did not escape because there was tight security in the camp and if he did manage to escape, Jimmy would have gone directly to them. 

Jimmylisa added that her father was never even placed inside a detention cell. “Until now, I cry if I remember him. Everytime na nag-nanarrate ako sa pangyayari, umiiyak ako. Kahit ngayon sa pag-reply ng queries ninyo, nakakaiyak. Ang sakit, wala kaming puntod na mapupuntahan. Nag-novena kami after ilang months ng kanyang pagka-missing, ang hirap sabihin ang kanyang name sa “Novena ng mga Patay.”  Dahil hindi siya patay. Kinuha siya sa amin ng buhay.” [Until now, I cry if I remember him. Everytime I narrate all the events, I cry. Even now when I’m responding to your queries, it makes me tearful. It hurts because we don’t have a tomb to visit. We did novena months after my father’s disappearance but it’s hard to include his name in the “Novena ng mga Patay.” Because he’s not dead. They took him from us alive], Jimmylisa said. 

Jimmylisa shared that they went to various funeral parlors to search for Jimmy but their efforts were to no avail. She would even send birthday and Father’s day cards to camp for her father. 

Debunking notions

One might think that our country was in tranquility because an infamous dictator had just been ousted from power. Jimmylisa had this to say: “Noong time na yun, maraming hinuhuli, pinapatay at ina-abduct na mga aktibista. Dalawa na ang kasamahan ni Papa sa Visayan Glass factory, na naging biktima din ng involuntary disappearance sina Soccoro Mirabueno at Anselmo Malgue. Ang iba niyang kasamahan ay pinapatay. Isa na rin si Fr. Rudy Romano na sumusuporta sa mga workers ng Visayan Glass ay naging desaparecido,” [Around that time, many activists were apprehended, killed, and abducted. Two of my father’s co-workers, namely Soccoro Mirabueno and Anselmo Malgue, were also victims of involuntary disappearance. Their other colleagues were killed. Fr. Rudy Romano, who supported the workers from the Visayan Glass Factory, also became a desaparecido.]

(Read: [FIRST PERSON] Stories of death during the Marcos regime

Jimmy and Elisa were members of the Basic Ecclesial Community (BEC), a small community organized by Church workers. During the 1980s, Jimmy was affiliated with the Alyansa sa mga Mamumuo sa Sugbo (AMA-SUGBO), an organization connected to KMU. He was also part of an urban poor organization such as PANAGHUGPONG.

Jimmylisa believed that her father’s affiliations played a big role in his disappearance. “​​The government doesn’t like that the workers and urban poor sectors will be awakened with their rights. They don’t want the marginalized sector to rise up against the unjust policies and treatment of our government, who are collaborating with big compradors and landlords.”

“My father is one of the threats that the people in Cebu will be organized and will voice out and stand for their rights. I can prove that because when they launched a strike in the factory, I was still eight years old at that time but I witnessed how our government forces dispersed the workers instead of hearing their plights. I also saw during rallies that my uncle and aunt were arrested just for demanding an increase in wages, land for the tillers, stop demolitions in urban poor areas, and other issues,” she added. 

Continuing the fight 

After Jimmy’s enforced disappearance, Elisa dedicated her time in human rights work. She was a member of Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND)—a non-governmental organization dedicated to eradicating enforced disappearances—and later on, staff of KARAPATAN-Cebu. She also took part in the organization Pamilya ng Desaparecidos para sa Katarungan (DESAPARECIDOS). 

Jimmylisa shared that in the early 90s, they were organized together with the children and relatives of other desaparecidos. They have a group named Samahan ng mga Anak ng Desaparecidos (SAD). 

SAD made sure that the children would still be able to continue their education; they also launched psycho-social activities for them. There was cultural training and the children would perform afterwards. “We were trained to be a cultural performer, na nagsasalarawan sa totoong buhay ng aming mga mahal sa buhay na naging biktima ng involuntary disappearance, kung paano sila nagsilbi sa sambayanan, at kung ano ang ginawa ng gobyerno sa kanila.” [We were trained to be a cultural performer, portraying the real life of our loved ones who became victims of involuntary disappearance; how they served our nation and what the government did to them.]

Jimmylisa’s brother was a member of the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines (SCMP)—a national democratic mass organization—in college. While she, herself, volunteers to help the local fisherfolk and peasantry who were victims of reclamation projects, land conversion, and other issues in Central Visayas. 

Last October 5, 2012, Jimmylisa and her husband Calixto Vistal were illegally arrested. It was around 5:00 pm after their work when suddenly, men who were wearing plain clothes approached them. These men told Jimmylisa and Calixto to follow them and even presented a “warrant of arrest.” But before Jimmylisa could even read the document, they snatched it from her hands. Jimmylisa screamed for help but their mouths were being covered. Before they were placed inside the vehicle, these men seized Jimmylisa’s bag. She went to grab it inside the car but she felt something metal so she immediately let go. 

Situated in the same camp Jimmylisa’s father disappeared in, the police laid out the contents of her bag and a gun was found. Jimmylisa and Calixto were detained but they weren’t aware of their charges as warrants were never presented. Inside prison, Jimmylisa suffered from bleeding and was brought to the hospital. The next morning, she learned that her husband was charged with murder. Jimmylisa was released after recovering but was charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives. “​​Nag-file kami ng counter affidavit at humarap ako sa korte, kaya pinabalik sa fiscal ang kaso. Hindi ko na alam kung ano na ang update sa kaso. Baka isang araw hulihin na lang nila ako especially kung active ako bilang isang aktibista.” [We filed a counter affidavit and returned to Court that’s why our case was returned to fiscal. I don’t know any updates on our case. Maybe one day, they’ll just arrest me, especially because I am an activist.] 

Calixto, however, was sentenced with reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment. Jimmylisa has filed an appeal at the Court of Appeals but the decision was the same, reclusion perpetua. She has also forwarded the case to the Supreme Court (SC) but until now, there hasn’t been a decision. 

After Jimmylisa’s arrest, she was elected Secretary General of Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA) Cebu. Dedicated in human rights work, she also became a volunteer at KARAPATAN Cebu. Last 2017, Jimmylisa and her mother Elisa conducted a fact-finding mission in Negros Oriental to probe into the military’s transgressions in the said area. As they were in the midst of the said mission, armed men made bullets rain, taking the life of Elisa. The local farmers from Bayawan, Negros relied on Elisa to help them on legal matters; she was working under KARAPATAN Negros Oriental. (Read: Bruised but still fighting for human rights)

Arbitrary arrests. Evidence planting. Extrajudicial killings. Impunity. 

The circumstances surrounding Jimmy’s disappearance hit too close to home. Because when we look closely, these crimes and antics still happen today. Last August 16, 30 armed policemen from the Police Regional Office 4A illegally arrested eight indigineous farmers. Trade union organizers were charged with illegal possession of firearms and weapons after they were “raided” in December last year. Personal accounts, however, said that this evidence was planted. As Jimmylisa links Senator Ping Lacson to her father’s disappearance, let us remember the current President’s link to the culture of impunity. (Read: 4 years on, climate of fear and impunity blocks justice for Duterte’s drug war victims

Whether the year was 1990 or 2021, one thing remained constant. The masses are still suffering at the hands of the state and the ruling class; and the armed forces are still serving as state machinery, carrying out the interests of those in power. 

This International Day of the Disappeared, the UPLB Perspective commemorates the desaparecidos in all presidential terms. The Southern Tagalog 10 of the Marcos regime, Armando Portajada Sr. amidst Cory’s rule, Jonas Burgos, Karen Empeño, and Sherlyn Cadapan from the Arroyo administration; and Honey Mae Suazo, Joey Torres, and Lora Manipis of the current Duterte led government. 

Jimmy Badayos is but one of the thousands of desaparecidos across the country throughout history. 

Contrary to popular belief, gross human rights violations existed in all administrations and the Aquino regime is no different. 

Jimmy as a kind father, an understanding colleague, and a militant labor leader is still engraved inside the hearts of many. The state robbed the Badayos children from spending Christmases and Father’s day with their father; they deprived Jimmy of his life and liberties.  

Up to this day, Jimmy has yet to be found. It has been 31 years since his disappearance. We stand with the families of victims of enforced disappearance in the call to resurface all desaparecidos. Because out there, a grieving parent, sibling, spouse, or child seeks for justice. 

“Ang mensahe ko lang sa lahat ng pamilya ng biktima ng enforced disappearances ay hindi tayo titigil sa paghahanap sa ating mga mahal sa buhay. Patuloy nating isigaw ang hustisya sa lahat ng biktima ng enforced disappearances [My only message to all of the families of victims of enforced disappearance is that we won’t stop searching for our loved ones. Let us continue to demand justice for all the victims of enforced disappearance],” Jimmylisa said. 

A state that feigns ignorance on the rights of its citizens will be the downfall of our democracy. 

While the government is dominated by the ruling class and continues to prioritize their own interests over that of the people, we must continue to assert the resurfacing of all desaparecidos. For Jimmy’s unfinished fight is also our struggle. [P]

Photo by Jimmylisa Badayos

Layout by Michael Ian Bartido

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