a letter from a friend
I have to write this last communique alone cause, as you all know, Adam is already home in the Bay. In the last week since Adam left the Philippines, the most important update I have from the time I spent with workers and peasants is the fight against the political repression, disappearances and killings of the mass leaders in every sector of the moment under GMA.
Originally, I was scheduled to go to Baguio for four days to do an exposure with Gabriella and Lesbond in the area. just two days before i was going to leave, a doctor, who is a leader of the Bayan Muna party list near Baguio City, and his wife were shot in front of their 7 year old daughter. He survived the shooting, but his wife did not. Because of this and other threats to mass leaders in the area, my exposure there was cancelled. (I will send an article about the shooting of Dr. Constancio Claver, known as Chandu, and his wife Sandy right after this update.)
The reality throughout our trip is that unarmed mass leaders were killed abducted almost every single day in different regions across the country. The situation escallated dramatically after SONA, when GMA said that political killings must end, but praised the work of General Jovito Palperon, the number one suspect and known arhitect of the counter-insurgency strategy of "extrajudicial killings." This blanket approval from GMA, gave a green light to an already epidemic crisis. The wave of killings and abductions that followed immediately the week after SONA caused even the mainstream newspapers to run 4 to 5 stories a day about political killings of Leftists and targetting GMA for her lack of action to stop this humanitarian crisis.
When she finally came under this pressure and some increasing pressure from KARAPATAN Philippines, Amnesty International and other human rights watch dogs, GMA issued a memorandum last week calling for the police to resolve 10 cases in the next 10 weeks. The police claim that they cannot meet this deadline. Still to this date, the police have not produced a single arrest of any suspect for any of the more than 720 political killings that have occured since GMA took power 5 years ago.
Why? Because it had become increasingly open knowledge that it is the State itself that is sytematically carrying out a terror campaign against the Left. Even all the mainstream press in the Philippines are pointing repeatedly to the Philippine Armed Forces and National Police as the prime suspects in these extrajudictial killings and abductions of leftists. The National Democratic Front, as well as international human rights groups like Amnesty International, are now calling for an independent investigation of these cases.
The Military and the Police as the Prime Suspects
Just last Thursday, Sta. Rosa, a pastor of the United Methodist Church who was also a member of the peasant mass alliance KMP, was shot dead by about 10 masked gunmen outside his home in Barangay Malobago here Thursday night.
The incredible thing about this incident was that during the attack, he was that although he did not survive the attack, Pastor Rosa was able to obtain one of the guns of his attackers. In self defense, he shot and killed one of the ten men. This attacker was then positively identified in the newspapers as a member of Phippine National Army, and he was carrying orders to Pastor Rosa.
The same facts echo in nearly every story you hear. I was able to join one day of a fact finding mission during the International Peasant Solidarity Mission. I will share just two short brief excerpts of the families and victims from Central Luzon who I was able to meet during this mission:
1. The mother of Leodigario Dunzal
Leodigario was a sign painter by trade. He lived alone with his 71 year old mother in Central Luzon. He also volunteered his time to paint banners for the Anak Pawis Party List. Last September, 2005 he was was shot at 1pm, in broad daylight. His mother witnessed the shooting and yelled at the killer as he slowly walked away from the scene. He was shot while he was painting a banner for Anak Pawis. The police refused to even search for the killer. When they came to the scene, they told his mother that there was no way that anyone could be found. To this date, the police have refused to open the case, sighting a lack of evidense.
2. The mothers of Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno, 2 UP students who were abducted with their classmate Mario Marino. Sherlyn, Karen, and Mario were abducted on June 27th, 2006 while they were conducting final work for their thesis on the peasant situation in Central Luzon. Karen was a member of Anak Bayan, Sherlyn was not a member of any political organizations. Sherlyn was two months pregnant at the time of the abduction. Sherlyn cried out repeatedly for help as they were being abducted, and she was then beaten very badly. Many members of the community did come out to see what was happening, and those witnesses to the incedent have now gone into hiding with the mothers of these two girls, so that they can continue to speak out and call for their release. Each of these witnesses has sighted that the men who abducted these students were wearing full military fatiques with their faces covered. The military has denied that they are in custody. The family just filed a case in the Philippine Supreme Court calling for the military to produce the bodies of these three young students.
There are so many stories just like these, literally every day.
Despite all of this evidense, and countless stories, GMA is not under nearly enough pressure. She is under more pressure from the cases of theft and corruption (which are serious as well) then she is for these horrendous murders.
Many people in the Philippines expressed to me that their greatest fear is that the people will somehow get used to this. That if GMA and General Palperon continue to act with impunity, the killing of Leftists and progressives will become accepted as the state of things, and this highly abnormal climate of Fascism will be somehow made normal. For this reason, they all issued such a strong plea to left activists and progressives in the U.S. to take action and get the story into the U.S. Media. They called on all of us to help expose the crisis internationally, and to show our outrage in our actions.
Sorry, if this update is coming across very intense. We all know that this repression is in fact a testiment to how truly strong the National Democratic Movement is at this time. The government is clearly affraid, and they are trying desperately to crush everyone sympathetic to the demands of the poor and of the workers. So now is also a time when our actions of international solidarity are even more important and carry even that much more significance.
It was so so hard to leave after such an incredible experience. But I did leave yesterday. I am actually writing this from Seoul, Korea. Tonight, I will meet up with the KEEP delgation of Korean organizers from the U.S. I will get a chance to be with them in solidarity for the mass actions in the next four days led by the Pyongtaek farmers and left labor unions fighting against U.S. military expansion of bases in South Korea, and against the U.S -South Korea Free Trade Agreement. It's a huge blessing and opportunity to be here, and I hope some of the news from this week will break through the white out in U.S. press too. I'll document as much as possible to bring home very soon.
Looking forward to coming home soon.
p.s. Our kasamas from LFS and Babae San Francisco will also have even more information about the current fight against political killings in the Philippines, because many of them concentrated their time supporting the efforts of KARAPATAN in mouting the lastest stage of the fight against human rights abuses in the Philippines. I will send out an announcement of thier report backs as soon as I have them.