After losing two friends in the recent massacre, a Filipina leader speaks out for the future of her homeland
Since childhood, Malayapinas has seen the dark side of globalization and violence in the Philippines. She walked to school barefoot after early morning hours selling eggs and cigarettes to ship passengers in her nation’s ports. She toiled in the banana plantations to earn her way to college and became a young mother. Since secret military forces abducted her trade-union husband, she has raised her voice for local health, fair trade, and food security. Her dream is to see the Filipino people live to the fullness of their potential and women free to chart their own destiny. She faces numerous death threats for speaking out.
I am crying with anger at the shocking news of Monday’s mass slaughter in Maguindanao, a province not far from my home in the southern Philippines. Ever since I learned that my two women lawyer friends were among the casualties, my body has turned numb.
Concepcion “Connie” Brizuela, 56, and Cynthia Oquendo, 35, were stalwart human rights defenders on cases of extra judicial killings in Mindanao under the Arroyo government until the very end. We were together in our advocacy to stop political killings here in the Philippines …
… Public Outrage
As public outrage grows, I recently joined hundreds in a nationwide indignation rally in Jaro Cathedral, Iloilo City. We gathered to condemn the violence that has led to the most gruesome killings in modern Philippine history. Candles and torches were lighted as symbols of protest and courage. I was surrounded by more than one hundred journalists, activists, human rights lawyers, women, student journalists and church leaders.
As the flames of the candles and torches lighted the darkness of the night, I could see the faces of my two friends and all other victims shouting for justice. As the shivering voices of women and journalists raged in the silence of the night, I can hear their cries begging for their lives!
“We must rage against this gruesome mass slaughter,” challenged Nestor Burgos, National of Union Journalist of the Philippines (NUJP) Chairperson during the rally.
“This is not only against press freedom but this is against humanity. I find it hard to sleep in this time of mourning and anger,” Burgos cried.
“We will never allow this horrifying death of our women and journalists to happen again,” lamented Lucy Francisco of Gabriela, a national women’s human rights network.
“President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo must be answerable to all these violence in Mindanao and all over the country.”
I may not able to hear their cries, their voices of anger but I know they fought and died bravely. I will raise their voices. The Filipino people, the women, the journalists and lawyers today are turning their anger and sadness into courage; the courage to fight violence by state instruments; the courage to be free and the courage to face death and fight for life.
It is imperative that the Filipino people unite together and call Mrs. Arroyo accountable to this culture of violence and impunity.
The military and police officers allegedly involved in the massacre must be arrested, including the Ampatuans who allegedly masterminded the massacre. Court cases must be immediately filed against the perpetrators in independent courts of the country.
Indemnification must be given to families of the victims by the government. Ampatuan and their private armies must be disbanded immediately.
Only through strong public pressure such as demonstrations, a massive information campaign against impunity of killings, networking with all sectors of our communities, lobby work among legislators, and international and independent fact finding missions will the Arroyo government be answerable to such a gruesome crime against the Filipino people.
We call on the international community to support us in our quest for justice and peace in our homeland.
As for me, my commitment to serve my people and my sisters in need calls me every second of the day. This I can’t refuse.
I salute the women and all the victims of Maguindanao massacre who bravely defied the powers of warlordism and violence. Their living memories, as well of those of all my murdered colleagues and friends, hold me to giving, hoping and fighting for freedom and a better tomorrow beyond my lifetime.
Corazon Aquino, the first woman president of the Philippines and Asia recently passed away on August 1st after a long battle with cancer. She was instrumental in leading the People Power Revolution that ousted the Marcos dictatorship in 1986. She stood her ground fighting tyranny until the very end. She believed that “the real power of our democracy lies in the people.”
And so, the ultimate hope for us Filipino people is ourselves, holding on to the belief that we as a people can make social change even in the darkest years of our history. (full long 2 pages text).
(Malayapinas is an award-winning Voices of Our Future citizen journalist correspondent for World Pulse Media, which covers global issues through women’s eyes. World Pulse’s Voices of Our Future program provides rigorous web 2.0 and citizen journalism training for emerging women leaders who are reporting from the frontlines of social change in some of the most forgotten corners of the world).