May 5, 2011
H.E. Jejomar Binay
Republic of the Philippines
Dear Vice President Jejomar Binay,
Greetings from Tanggol Bayi, an organization of women human rights defenders in the Philippines!
I wrote to express our organization’s strong and vehement opposition to the dangerous proposal of our legislators from the House of Representatives to allow the burial of former President Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
Mr. Vice President, we believe that the Marcos military dictatorship has brought horrific suffering, terror, and violence against Filipino women, most of them at the prime of their youth. Many were summarily executed, disappeared, tortured, brutally maimed, raped, sexually molested, humiliated, persecuted, and silenced.
But we will never forget Liliosa Hilao, the first woman and first detainee murdered during Martial Law, who was a 23-year old journalism student at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila and the editor-in-chief of Hasik, the university’s official student publication which has staunchly criticized the Marcos government. According to witnesses and medical reports, Hilao was arrested by members of the Philippine Constabulary, heavily tortured, raped, and was forced to drink muriatic acid which led to her death. Her death was said to have inspired the filing of the class suit against the late dictator.
Purificacion Pedro, one of the topnotchers in the National Board Exam for Social Workers, was a devoted social worker of the Immaculate Conception Parish in Quezon City and had served in the slums of Tondo and the indigenous communities of Bontoc, Mountain Province. While she was on a visit in a rural community in Bataan, the military conducted an assault on the barrio, wounding Pedro. She was brought to the Bataan Provincial Hospital where she was interrogated by intelligence men until she was found dead in the bathroom of her hospital room, with a wire wound around her neck and tied to the towel rack.
Neither will we forget Lisa Balando, an icon of the trade union movement in the country, who headed the union of Rossini’s Knitwear and Winter Garments in Caloocan. Balando led the union in organizing its first strike for living wages and against inhumane working conditions. It was May 1, the International Workers’ Day, in 1971 when Balando was killed by a bullet from Marcos’s police who violently dispersed the peacefully rally of the workers.
They are among the women and men who defended human rights — the people’s right to land, decent jobs, housing and social services, national sovereignty, the right to speak, to assemble, to organize, among other democratic rights — even under the cloak of militarism and vast plunder of the nation’s wealth. They are among the women and men who have fearlessly offered their intellect, energies, potentials, their lives even, in support of the aspirations for a genuinely free, just and democratic society. They are among the real heroes of the first People Power which toppled the Marcos dictatorship.
Mr. Vice President, the proposal of some quarters for the burial of Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani is, by itself, a form of desecration of the memory, of the heroism of these people’s martyrs. We dare say it is not an indication of historical amnesia, especially by those powers-that-be who sit in Congress right now, among them a person who benefitted immensely and conjugally from that kind of dictatorship. Neither will it be a “magnanimous act of reconciliation which will strengthen the bonds of solidarity among the Filipino people.” It is a shameless, arrogant and deliberate distortion of history.
We fervently hope, that as a victim under Marcos’s Martial Law yourself, you will decide on the side of Filipino people on this issue as well as on the other human rights issues prevailing in the country today.
(sgd) Cristina Palabay
Convenor, Tanggol Bayi
Tanggol Bayi is an association of women human rights defenders in the Philippines to advance women’s rights as human rights. Tanggol Bai is formed to further develop the capability of women human rights defenders to protect and advance women’s, human and peoples’ rights while giving special attention to the rights of WHRDs; to provide a venue by which WHRDs can give mutual assistance to one another especially to those who are facing immediate threats; provide information and facilitate HR education to WHRDs to even better sensitize them to violations of political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights; through common effort, enable WHRDs to effectively forward policies and legislations, fight for their rights and generate resources for the needs of their human rights advocacy; and network with other human rights organizations in the country and abroad.