Bruised but still fighting for human rights

Human rights defender Jimmylisa Badayos

For someone who lost a father and a mother, and whose husband has been detained, Jimmylisa admits there were times she wallowed in depression. She said her very name, taken from her parents, reminds her to be strong. “How could I not live up to their legacy?” she said.

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – At the age of 14, Jimmylisa Badayos recalled going to Camp Sotero Cabahug, headquarters of the Cebu City Police Office on Oct. 4, 1990. Her father Jimmy Badayos, a labor leader and community organizer, was brought to that camp a day before.

Armed men in civilian clothes barged into their house, Jimmylisa recounted. Jimmy went peacefully with the police, knowing he did nothing wrong. At the police headquarters, Jimmy was dragged to the second floor. “My siblings clutched at his feet but to no avail,” Jimmylisa told Bulatlat in an interview

The following day, police claimed Jimmy escaped from detention. “They went to the house, accusing us of hiding our father,” she said. From then on, Jimmy has never been found.

The enforced disappearance of Jimmy has compelled the family to be involved in human rights work, first as relatives of a victim and later on as human rights advocates. Jimmylisa’s mother Elisa became active with Desaparecidos while Jimmylisa and her three siblings also joined protest actions and other activities.

Twenty-two years later, Jimmylisa found herself again inside Camp Cabahug. On Oct. 5, 2012, she and her husband Calixto Vistal had just finished their shift at a factory in Mandaue City, Cebu when armed men in civilian clothes seized them and forced them inside a van. They were brought to the camp and charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

“Police planted evidence against us,” Jimmylisa said.

Jimmylisa was released after a week due to the relentless campaign led by her mother and their colleagues in Karapatan-Central Visayas. Her husband Calixto, however, was convicted and sentenced to reclusion perpetua.

At that time, Jimmylisa’s mother Elisa has been active in Karapatan-Central Visayas. Elisa has been campaigning for the release of political prisoners, accompanying relatives in prison visits and working as paralegal for their cases.

Elisa would go with Jimmylisa whenever she visited her husband at the Negros Oriental Provincial Jail. On October 24, 2013, Calixto has been transferred to the New Bilibid Prison, following his conviction.

Eventually, Jimmylisa was convinced by her mother to work full time as a human rights worker. As wife of a political prisoner and daughter of a desaparecido, Jimmylisa responded to the challenge and left her work in a non-government organization to join Karapatan-Cebu. “It was she who trained me in this type of work,” she said.

It was not long before the next tragedy happened.

On Nov. 28, 2017, Elisa, Jimmylisa and 30 others held a fact-finding mission to investigate reports of military atrocities in Bayawan and Sta. Catalina towns, Negros Oriental.

The mission split into two teams. At around 2:40 p.m., Elisa and two companions were in San Ramon village, Bayawan and were headed to the barangay hall of barangay Nangka when armed men opened fire. Elisa and Elioterio Moises, a member of the local peasant organization, were pronounced dead on arrival at a hospital in Bayawan.

The other team, where Jimmylisa belonged, received a text message. “I knew then my mother was killed,” Jimmylisa said.

Jimmylisa immediately went to the hospital. “I was so angry I could not cry,” she said.

Jimmylisa said her mother knew the dangers. Elisa had been charged with murder, rebellion, illegal possession of firearms, among others, but all these were dismissed due to lack of evidence, she said. “They killed her because they could neither detain nor stop her from what she was doing,” she said.

Jimmylisa realized the impact of losing her mother when she talked with the farmers whom Elisa had helped. “’We lost our lawyer,’ they told me. They said my mother patiently worked on their cases.”

For someone who lost a father and a mother, and whose husband has been detained, Jimmylisa admits there were times she wallowed in depression. She said her very name, taken from her parents, reminds her to be strong. “How could I not live up to their legacy?” she said.

Jimmylisa would receive text messages from farmers in highly militarized areas, asking for help. “How could I say no? I have chosen this [advocacy] because I see the need for it.”

Even as she faces her own trauma, Jimmylisa could not see herself doing something else. Whenever she could not contain her pain when hearing accounts of other victims, she would pause and process her thoughts and emotions. “I often see myself in them, especially the children who lost their fathers or mothers,” she said.

Debriefings after difficult missions help her cope with the trauma and stress, she said. Her co-workers who understand her situation also provide the necessary support.

“Someday, I would die too and I would like my life to be meaningful just like my parents,” the 43-year-old human rights defender said. ()

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