Human rights group Karapatan in central Philippines confirms Elena Tijamo’s death
Last year on June 13, suspected military elements—four armed masked men in civilian clothes accompanied by two women—broke into Elena “Lina” Tijamo’s home in Barangay Kampingganon, Bantayan Island in Cebu and held back family members while they covered Tijamo’s mouth with tape, tied her hands, and took her away. She was taken under curfew hours and lockdown and that impeded her family’s efforts to search for her. She has been missing ever since.
On August 30, 2021, human rights group Karapatan Central Visayas confirmed Elena Tijamo’s death in a hospital in Metro Manila, far away from where she was abducted. Moreover, the group found the circumstances around her death to be questionable.
On August 28 at 1:00pm, Tijamo was able to call her brother Carlos (who is in Manila) from VRP Medical Center in Mandaluyong City to say that she is alright and would soon be discharged.
A few minutes after, a certain “Michael” called Carlos telling him to meet him outside of the hospital "because Carlos would not be able to enter the hospital due to COVID-19 restrictions."
Once at the hospital, “Michael” told Carlos that Tijamo had already died after a goiter operation. “Michael” gave Carlos the bill and told him it was already paid.
Tijamo’s body was brought to St. Peter’s Funeral Homes without Carlos’ knowledge. Carlos discovered that Tijamo’s body would not be released to him because it was registered under a different name: Ava Perez Reyes.
Tijamo’s daughter Dawn was able to speak to the funeral parlor and found out that the person who brought Lina’s body to the funeral home was a certain “Neil Reyes,” who claimed to be Lina’s nephew.
The family does not know any “Michael” or “Neil Reyes”. These circumstances and those who brought Tijamo’s body to the funeral home under what is suspected to be false names hinder the family from claiming the body.
Tijamo was the program coordinator for sustainable agriculture FARDEC, non-profit, non-government organization that offers paralegal and educational services to farmers facing land issues. She was also the Community Radio Coordinator of FARDEC in Bantayan Island, Cebu. The group maintained a radio program, Radyo Sugbuanon in partnership with the International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT) Philippines.
Following questionable circumstances surrounding her death and her body’s delivery to a funeral parlor, the family of Tijamo has yet to gain full custody of her remains so they can mourn her in their place of preference.
IAWRT extends its condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of Tijamo and calls on concerned institutions in the Philippines to investigate the circumstances of her disappearance and death and mete out justice for Tijamo and her family.