By RUTH LUMIBAO
MANILA – In 1988, two years after martial law was lifted and Filipinos felt a newfound hope for democracy under the administration led by President Corazon Aquino, 25-year-old Joseph Gile was abducted in Pasay by intelligence agents of the Pasay police.
He had been tagged as a member of the New People’s Army (NPA). In broad daylight on Feb. 18, 1988, agents of the Intelligence Service Operations Group led by Major Cordora of the Pasay Police dragged him to an owner-type jeepney at the corner of Libertad and Harrison street. Joseph’s family learned of his abduction from witnesses.
Joseph Gile had started as a member of Kabataan para sa Demokrasya at Nasyunalismo or Kadena, and was a full-time organizer of the youth and urban poor in Pasay City at the time of his abduction. His mother Bernardita described how he would go around the community with the Bible, but would also organize and educate the people about the national situation and the importance of being critical even after the Marcos dictatorship.
Over the past 29 years, Joseph never sent a letter to his parents or family. The identified policemen who abducted him have already died. His family had gone through precincts, hospitals, funeral parlors, and jails – yet, they never found their son.
Forty-five years after the end of martial law under the Marcos dictatorship, the tally of desaparecidos has not yet ended. With President Rodrigo Duterte’s threat of a “crackdown” and all-out war against the Filipino people through his counterinsurgency and anti-terrorism programs, the tally is expected, if not already currently, exponentially increasing.
On Nov. 25, survivors, families, and friends of victims of human rights violations from the Marcosian martial law period up to the present gathered at Sitio Sandugo in University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman to condemn Duterte’s fascist leadership.
As a symbolic action, they tied red headbands with the words “Resist Fascism!” as a declaration of opposition and resistance against any form of state fascism – may it be in the hands of an outright dictator or in that hiding under the vestige of democracy.
Human rights violations have increased with President Duterte’s recent declaration terminating the peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army, and the National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDFP). Worse, he called members of legitimate, progressive organizations as “legal fronts” and threatened to have them arrested and branded as “terrorists” and “conspirators” with the CPP-NPA-NDFP.
Almost everyday, Bulatlat receives reports from various organizations and human rights workers about illegal arrests, killings, and raids conducted by state forces.
“Such tagging and branding of activists, progressives and ordinary people is a serious matter. State terrorism and repression has taken our daughters and sons, our parents, our family members away from us – all because they were labeled ‘enemies of the state,’” said Evangeline Hernandez, chairperson of Hustisya, an organization of families and victims of human rights violations.
“Today, we stand in defiance as the Duterte regime tells us to back down and remain silent, even as we ourselves were threatened and harassed for continuing the fight of our loved ones. The lives of our kin who were killed or disappeared will never be in vain, and we will remain standing to always remind the government that they are accountable to us, to the people; that we are still fighting for justice,” she said.
The group also called for the resumption of the peace talks between government and the NDFP.
“We ask for the people’s support to continue for a just and lasting peace. Let us go out and show our numbers. We demand the Duterte government to go back to the peace negotiation table and heed the people’s clamor for just and lasting peace,” Hernandez said.