Break Hearts of Filipino Expatriates
Although they share
the grief of losing relatives and friends in the Philippines, Filipino
expatriates in Europe and Canada are undaunted and vow to campaign for
justice as alleged Arroyo hit men continue to prey on government’s
political foes tagged as “enemies of the state.”
BY D. L. MONDELO
Seven hundred sixty
may seem small compared to about 8.5 million. According to the latest
figures from human rights organizations monitoring the vicious
extrajudicial killings, the number of victims has surpassed 760, and the
statistics are still rising.
Indeed, 760 may seem
miniscule and farfetched from the more than 8 million Filipinos sweating
it out for a living overseas. But the wave of political killings has been
eliciting shock, anger and condemnation among Filipinos overseas. For many
among our “modern-day heroes,” the victims are not merely statistics –
they are brothers, sisters, cousins, fiancés, confreres and close friends.
“It breaks your heart
to learn about these killings,” says Anita (not her real name), a
long-time migrant in Belgium who works as a domestic worker. Though not
related to any of the victims, Anita expresses anger over the killings,
and is worried about the militarization of her town in Bulacan, a province
north of Manila.
at sakit ng kalooban” (It’s a mix of anger and pain), is what E. says
she and her family feel over the killing of her sister, Juvy Magsino. Juvy
was Naujan, Mindoro Oriental vice mayor and member of Bayan Muna. She was
assassinated by death squads believed to be under the command of then Col.
(now retired major general) Jovito Palparan. Magsino was killed on Feb.
13, 2004, alongside public school teacher Leyma Fortu who was a Bayan Muna
(People First) district coordinator.
E. has been working
in Rome, Italy as a domestic worker for the past several years and though
she is at a loss over who actually pulled the trigger, she strongly
believes that the regime of Gloria Arroyo is responsible for her sister’s
makibaka para sa katarungan ng aking kapatid” (We’re ready to fight
for justice for my sister), E. declares. In fact, she says, her mother
continues to travel to Manila from Mindoro to follow up on her sister’s
case, despite the financial constraints on her family. She says they
maintain close contact with Bayan (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, New
Patriotic Alliance), Bayan Muna and human rights groups, and are aware of
the continuing spate of killings. E. herself could not visit her family in
the Philippines, not because of fear, but because she could not leave her
“What’s going on?”
is going on?” Maria Mercedes Estella was quoted as saying angrily in a
recent interview with the Georgia Straight, a newspaper in
Vancouver, Canada. Estella is a cousin of Dr. Chandu Claver, an official
of Bayan Muna and the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) in Kalinga who
survived an assassination attempt by suspected death squads. Dr. Claver’s
wife, Alyce Omengan-Claver, was killed.
Estella, who left the Philippines a decade ago and is now a Canadian
citizen in her early 50s told the Vancouver newspaper that it is
unacceptable that people get killed for expressing their political views.
“Everyone has the right to speak his or her mind. Wherever you
go, there is always opposition to government. When people in power are not
doing right, then somebody is bound to criticize,” Estella said.
Omengan, a 47-year-old laboratory technician in North Vancouver, is a
cousin of Alyce’s. She learned about the tragedy on the same day the
Clavers were ambushed.
“I was shocked. I feel sad. It’s becoming hard to look kindly back at the
Philippines with what is happening. Maybe it’s one of the reasons why
people are leaving,” Omengan was quoted by the Straight as saying.
grief is deep and at times unbearable. The only thing that keeps me going
is the thought of (his) bravery and commitment to continue struggling even
as he knew the danger he was in, and the thought that we are many to
continue the march toward justice,” writes Francis (not her real name), in
reaction to an article that came out in Bulatlat on Isaias Manano,
Planning for marriage
is the fiancé of Isaias. They were planning to get married when Isaias was
gunned down allegedly by soldiers as he was walking home on the evening of
April 28, 2004 in Calapan, Oriental Mindoro. Manano, who was secretary
general of Anakpawis-Mindoro Oriental (Toiling Masses), and a youth and
peasant organizer, became the 74th member of progressive
peoples’ organizations to be murdered in the Southern Tagalog region since
Jan. 27, 2001.
Francis has since
resettled in Oslo, Norway and has become active in solidarity activities
for the Philippines. Three years since the murder of Isaias, Francis still
mourns and cries, albeit defiantly.
“I love him
endlessly. And I know he loved me. And he loved the people so much he was
willing to risk his life for the rights of others. That makes me love him
even more,” she wrote.
internationally-coordinated protests against martial law and political
killings last Sept. 21, Francis did not fail to bring a large photo of
Isaias, as she and the other protest participants in Oslo, Norway called
for an end to the political killings in the Philippines.
his wife Mercy (not their real names) and their four children would have
landed in the list of victims had they not decided to escape from the
military in Mindoro island. They are now living in exile in the
Netherlands, their application for political asylum having been accepted
by the Dutch government. They are now part of the community of Filipino
exiles in Europe.
would show a photo of him and his friends in Mindoro province, and explain
sadly that those in the photo had already been killed, except him. Mercy,
a cultural activist, would tell of their harrowing escape, James
Bond-style, so to speak, when General Palparan’s hit men were already
pursuing them. They owe their successful flight from Mindoro island from
the masses there who gave them refuge and information on the location of
the hit men. Their testimony and their flight from Mindoro island clearly
point to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as responsible for the
killings in the province.
and family are not the only activists who came to Europe when the spate of
killings in 2001 began under the Arroyo regime. This writer met and
interviewed several Filipinos from the Southern Tagalog provinces
including Mindoro, who went to Italy to escape the death squads. They now
work in Italy as domestics, like other compatriots. But they continue to
organize and educate compatriots on the situation back home.
a forum in Amsterdam, The Netherlands last July to launch the Stop the
Killings campaign in the city, two courageous Filipina domestic workers
who come from the heavily-militarized province of Nueva Ecija, stood up to
share the news from their relatives back home. One tearfully recounted how
General Palparan’s soldiers prevented people from attending the funeral of
a relative, while the other shared how the town mayors have been
threatened by the military’s usurpation of civilian authority in the
province, and the forced requirement for residents to acquire a cedula
Filipino domestic workers were defiant despite learning from news accounts
that the military in Nueva Ecija has been asking residents who have
relatives working abroad if their overseas relatives are joining protest
rallies and demonstrations against the Arroyo government and the military.
Last Sept. 21, the Filipina domestic workers and several other Filipino
migrants bravely joined a protest in the center of Amsterdam against the
political killings, undaunted by the risk despite being undocumented or
the Permanent People’s Tribunal’s Second Session on the Philippines
convenes on Oct. 30, 2006 in The Hague, The Netherlands to hear the
charges and try the “US-backed Arroyo regime for human rights violation,
economic plunder and transgression of the Filipino people’s sovereignty,”
Filipino migrants and overseas workers would surely fill in the seats in
the courtroom, support the complainants, listen to the charges and wait
for a just verdict. Bulatlat
PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION ■
© 2006 Bulatlat
Alipato Media Center
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