|Rage against the killings|
|Written by Judy A. Pasimio|
|Friday, 23 June 2006 03:00|
"What will we have for dinner? Should we stop somewhere to buy something to cook?"
Mazel could be saying any of these, or something else, to George while they were on the motorbike. It was 5:15 p.m., Tuesday, June 20, and the couple was going home. She was probably telling George how her day went, or both were just quiet, when the shots came - bang! bang! Did she even hear the shot that hit her in the stomach? or the shot that hit George in the head? Probably not the last shots the two gunmen fired which pumped bullets in their heads as they already lay on the ground.
Mazel, 36 years old, was hosting a weekly radio programme every Sunday noon, at the time of the killing. Her husband George was hosting his own weekly radio programme every Monday. But I knew Mazel as a community organizer in the late '90s, when the campaign against the Mt. Apo Geothermal power plant project in Kidapawan, Mindanao, was at its peak. She was still single then. At the time of her untimely death, she was a mother of four children.
That was what they heard Elena said, as she stepped out of the hut of her friends where she and her husband shared an evening meal. Then gunshots were heard. Around 8 p.m., May 12, in Isabela, Elena Mendiola, 54 years old, was shot 14 times in her head and body. Her husband, Ricardo, who ran to their vehicle to protect their grandchildren, didn't make it to the car. He was also shot dead. Elena was the Bayan Muna secretary-general of Isabela, at the time of her death. Bayan Muna is a left-wing party-list which has three representatives at the House of Congress.
"May I help you?"
Probably, that was what Annaliza said when the two men alighted from a motorbike and entered the shop she was working at as a clerk, in the afternoon of May 18. Did the men respond? Did the men pretend to be looking for something at the Duckie Shop before they shot her five times in the body, twice in the face, and once each in the nape and thigh? Annaliza, 35 years old, was mother to two children, and a leader of a women's organisation, Kaisa Ka, an affiliate of Kilusan para sa Pambansang Demokrasya (KPD, Movement for National Democracy).
or however you would put into words how gunshots actually sound like. Those were what the farmers heard from the outside as they were having the all-farmers conference that morning of the 5th of December 2005. Kathy Alcantara, who stepped out from the conference, was shot dead by gunmen in a motorcycle. She had two gunshot wounds in her neck and 1 on her breast. Kathy, 48 years old, was a mother to two children. She was also a community organizer of peasants and was the secretary-general of the KPD-Bataan Chapter.
Were these ordinary acts of criminals, and the fact that Mazel, Elena, Annaliza and Kathy were all political activists and affiliated with progressive groups is to be ignored? The men of Arroyo government have different thoughts on this.
"There were indications that there were purging among the ranks of leftist organizations," according to the Philippine National Police (PNP) Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) Chief Superintendent Jesus Verzosa.
These killings of left-leaning militants, journalists and political figures are choreographed by former Senator Gringo Honasan to destabilize the Arroyo government was what Police Director Marcel Ele thinks. Ele is the acting chief of Task Force Usig, the special investigation unit with a specific mandate to investigate cases of killings of activists.
The most recent statement - "We can't avoid collateral damage."
This was what Philippine Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales said as he was defending the renewed anti-insurgency operations of the Arroyo Government. So Mazel, Elena, Annaliza, Kathy, and the other 600 or so activists, journalists, religious people, NGO workers who were killed under the Arroyo government were simply collateral damage. By definition, collateral damage refers to inadvertent casualties and destruction inflicted on civilians in the course of military operations. The gunmen waited for her along the highway, they walked into the store she was working at, they shot her 14 times - they were not inadvertent casualties, Mazel, Elena, Annaliza and Kathy were the primary targets.
There are killings of the left, left and right. As part of a regional women's human rights organization, I receive news and fact sheets of deaths of Philippine political activists almost on a weekly basis. Most of the victims were from Bayan Muna and Gabriela (National Alliance of Women's Organizations in the Philippines). With my typical Filipino weird humour, I once suggested that we just have a pro-forma urgent action letter, just fill in the blanks for the name, age, date of killing, as we couldn't keep up with the incoming news. With Arroyo declaring a time frame of two years to "crush the insurgency", we can only imagine how many more would fall victims into the hands of these motorcycle-rider gunmen.
"The fight against the Left remains the glue that binds," Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo told her Cabinet members recently. Spoken like a true Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Arroyo drops all pretence of democracy. It's not just against the 37-year insurgency, the Communist Party of the Philippines-New Peoples' Army (CPP-NPA), that she has declared an all-out war. It's against the Left - armed and the unarmed. It is this fight that binds them - Arroyo, Gonzales, Presidential Chief of Staff Mike Defensor, Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye and Major General Jovito Palparan - the most vocal promoters of this state-killing spree.
But this fight against the Left binds the Left - activists, journalists, church workers, NGO workers, lawyers, members of the academe - all those who are seeking fundamental changes, struggling for justice and freedom, critical of the oppressive structures; and binds even those who simply want Arroyo out. This fight against the Left binds us all even with the international solidarity communities.
At all levels - on the street, in the Parliament, in the countryside, at the United Nations Human Rights Council - everywhere, let us express our collective anger at this heartless, mindless killing machine, passing off as Philippine government.
Rage, rage against the dying of our friends, our colleagues, our comrades.... rage against the dying of democracy.
[Judy A. Pasimio is a graduate of the University of the Philippines.]