Red candles lit to condemn political killings in Ilocos

VIGAN CITY (Sept. 21) — Activists lit red candles to symbolize condemnation on political killings, enforced disappearances and undeclared martial law on the 34th anniversary of Martial Law.

These candles, according to Albert Lagrimas, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan)-Ilocos spokesperson, represent the cry for justice of families, friends and colleagues of murdered activists under the Arroyo regime.

“We hold the Arroyo government and the military responsible for these ruthless acts. In Ilocos and Cordillera, five activists have been victimized by these killings. The worsening economic and political crisis compelled Mrs. Arroyo to use her Marcosian tendencies to instill fear among the people,” Lagrimas noted.

Three hundred peasants, workers, semi-workers, women, church people and youth marched around the main streets of Vigan City and San Fernando City and joined the Global Action Against Extrajudicial killings, Enforced Disappearances and Undeclared Martial Law by Bayan. In Laoag City, peasant and youth leaders conducted a symbolic action.

Fr. Randy Manicap of the Promotion of People’s Response (PCPR)-Ilocos Norte said, “we will continue to light our candles and be vigilant in upholding our rights and welfare.” Fr. Manicap concluded that prospects of just and lasting peace are dim as long as Mrs. Arroyo stays in power.

Earlier, United Church of Christ in the Philippines-North Central Luzon-Abra Conference (NCLAC) reported cases of harassment against Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur pastors barely a month after church workers of the Northwest Luzon Conference (NwLC).

UCCP-NCLAC report said on September 4, a van roamed around their compound at around 12:00 am. The group said the same van was used when unknown men asked for the roster of church workers in NCLAC. Also, suspicious men went to UCCP Sevilla in Sta. Cruz, Ilocos Sur asking if they could conduct their meetings at the church. On September 10, a van followed Rev. Billy Austin, chair of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN)-Ilocos on his way home.

According Ilocos Human Rights Advocates (IHRA) and Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR) statements, cases of harassment and political killings continue while perpetrators roam free despite the formation of Task Force Usig and the Melo Commission because these committees were not created to resolve these cases but rather to ‘hand washing’ Mrs. Arroyo’s accountability.

“We cannot simply let the prophets of God, who serve the interest of the people be victimized by such killings. We will not let another spate of killings occur in the region. Enough of the sacrificial lambs victimized by state terror. Enough of the undeclared martial law and reign of fascism. God never wanted violence and terror to rule His land. Unless the Arroyo government is serious in resolving, the root causes of our problems, the prospects for just and lasting peace is dim,” Austin said. # Rod Tajon for NORDIS

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