“It is difficult to accept that they are gone. But we are not the only ones hurting. They were both a loss to the thousands of Filipinos suffering.”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – Activists from Southern Tagalog held a protest action last April 22 at Mendiola, Manila to assail the continuing injustice over the killing of two of their once prominent leaders some 12 years ago.
“Jovito Palparan may be behind bars. But he is enjoying special treatment in the military camp. Gloria Arroyo, too, is supposed to be jailed as well. But she is under hospital arrest,” Orly Marcellana, husband of Eden Marcellana, then secretary general of Karapatan – Southern Tagalog, told Bulatlat.com.
Eden and peasant leader Eddie Gumanoy led a quick reaction team to investigate the reported killings in the towns of Gloria and Pinamalayan in Mindoro Oriental. The team, however, was abducted by the so-called “bonnet gang,” allegedly under the Philippine Army’s 204th Infantry Battalion, on their way to Calapan City in April 21, 2003.
They were found dead the following day.
The two is among the victims of perhaps the bloodiest counterinsurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya, under former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. It was implemented by then Col. Jovito Palparan, dubbed as “the butcher,” who is now being tried for the disappearance of two University of the Philippines students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan.
Marcellana, who was present during the first hearing of Palparan shortly after the latter’s arrest last year, said he was very agitated with the “exaggerated security measures” provided to the retired general with at least three trucks of military and police personnel.
“Doesn’t that amount to special treatment?” he said, adding that Palparan should be sent back to a regular jail where he would experience how it is to be a “regular accused.”
Marcellana said they have strong reasons to believe that Palparan should be held responsible. He said that as a human rights defender, Eden has long exposed the general’s misdeeds in Laguna, south of Manila from 1998 to 2001.
“He warned Eden never to set foot in Mindoro. At that time, he has a pending promotion before the Commission on Appointments. The result of that fact finding team was supposed to be used against Palparan,” he added.
Arroyo, on the other hand, is in hospital arrest over corruption issues, not on the human rights violations she committed, Marcellana said.
“It is difficult to accept that they are gone. But we are not the only ones hurting. They were both a loss to the thousands of Filipinos suffering,” he added.
Marcellana added that while the pain of losing his wife has yet to be healed, they are no longer mourning but rather celebrating the kind of life the two has chosen and to make sure that they did not die in vain.
He is currently the spokesperson of the peasant group Kasama – Southern Tagalog.
Aquino is liable
Meanwhile, Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said President Aquino is liable for the non-compliance with the decision of the United Nations Human Rights Council, saying that the president has relegated the issue despite pressure from the international and diplomatic community.
The UNHRC ruled that the Philippine government “is under obligation to provide the authors with an effective remedy, including initiation and pursuit of criminal proceedings to establish responsibility for the kidnapping and death of the victims, and payment of appropriate compensation. The State party should also take measures to ensure that such violations do not recur in the future.”
And instead of providing relief to the families and colleagues that the two activists had left behind, Palabay said, Aquino “continued the same terror.”
There have been 240 extrajudicial killings under Aquino. Among those killed was William Buggati, a human rights defender based in the Cordillera region.
Palabay said, “even after 12 years, our eyes are still filled with tears and memories of Ka Eden. We owe her, and all our fallen colleagues who became victims of state repression, our courage and determination to continue to fight for justice and people’s rights. Long live Ka Eden and Ka Eddie.”