Community Radio Coordinator of FARDEC and IAWRT’s disaster response community radio Radyo Sugbuanon broadcaster sill missing after a year.
by Sarah De Leon
In the Philippines, at least 20 journalists have been killed in their line of work since President Rodrigo Duterte sat on the presidency. Not one perpetrator has been brought to justice.
At least three journalists—all women—have been imprisoned. They were arrested through midnight police raids’ enforcement of search warrants for firearms and explosives, the usual ‘script’ and the usual cases used to put activists and government critics behind bars. One is on trial but have posted bail while one remain in jail.
But one community radio broadcaster, Elena Tijamo from Bantayan Island in Cebu, has been disappeared for a year.
Last year on June 13, suspected military elements—four armed masked men in civilian clothes accompanied by two women—broke into Tijamo’s home in Barangay Kampingganon and held back family members while they covered Tijamo’s mouth with tape, tied her hands, and took her away.
They heard one of the male perpetrators said, “Her husband committed a major offense” and another was overheard saying “This house does not recognize a government.”
Family and colleagues suspected that the perpetrators were state agents as they managed to easily transport Tijamo amid strict lockdown measures at that time.
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas-Cebu (KMP-Cebu), Amihan Peasant Women Cebu, and Anakpawis-Cebu conducted successive visits to concerned government offices and military and police camps on June 7, to amplify the call to surface Tijamo.
Farmers’ rights advocate, community radio broadcaster
Tijamo is the Sustainable Agriculture Program coordinator of the Central Visayas Farmers Development Center (FARDEC), a non-profit, non-government organization (NGO) that offers paralegal and educational services to farmers facing land issues.
She is also the Community Radio Coordinator of FARDEC in Bantayan Island, Cebu. The group maintains radio programs, knowing that this is the medium most accessible to farmers. FARDEC’s radio program Radyo Sugbuanon, launched in 2018, was in partnership with IAWRT.
FARDEC relayed that on the night Elena was taken, her family members received text messages instructing them not to contact the authorities and Tijamo would be able to go home later.
Tijamo would be allowed to contact her family several times, always reminding to ask to take down any reports of her disappearance or she won’t be released, as her captors threatened. But she has not returned to this day.
Tijamo was abducted while the Philippines was on lockdown. Cebu was returned to total lockdown from June 16, hampering the family and FARDEC’s search for Tijamo.