Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Vol. VI, No. 38      Oct. 29 -Nov. 4, 2006      Quezon City, Philippines








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Political Killings 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.”


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.

Magkahalong galit 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 assassination.

Handa kaming 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 work.

“What’s going on?”

“What 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.

Loraine 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.

“My 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, Jr.

Planning for marriage

Francis 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.

During the 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.

Mack, 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.

Mack 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.


Mack 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.

During 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 (residence certificate).

The 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 “illegal.”

When 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


© 2006 Bulatlat  Alipato Media Center

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