By KATHLEEN T. OKUBO
LAST OF TWO PARTS
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People free themselves from poverty and develop their full potential
I have heard how they started calling out for actions against their community adversaries by participating in mass actions in the streets, the town centers, and up to the country’s capital to oppose government policies that allow corporate and foreign powers to control and plunder our nation’s resources, and take away lands from the farmers who feed the country’s population;
But this whole system would not allow its people to be free from poverty and develop their full potential. It would rather silence dissent among the people who exactly put those government officials in their posts. It (the present government) would rather use its security forces to further violate the people’s rights. I am a witness to this horrible situation.
I participated in numerous fact-finding missions to many communities of Northern Luzon that were attacked in military operations that disregarded the lives of the community people. Restricting people in hamlets, encamping in their residences and schools, harassment and sowing terror among the people were the cases that we would document each time. Red-tagging, illegal arrests and fake or forcible surrender would also follow.
These on top of the reality that communities are suffering from hunger, poverty and a long history of government neglect. The government would only lay eyes on these communities when big and foreign corporations have economic interests in their area like mining, dams or energy projects, or corporate plantations. The government’s security forces clearly are not sent to these communities to protect the people.
I have witnessed how once fertile valleys and roaring rivers were dammed in the Cordillera, open pit mines leveling mountains in Nueva Vizcaya, coastal areas mined for black sand and so on. People and communities have become collateral damage in the grab for their common resources they had once protected and made fertile, for private or corporate profit. And the military might of the state is sent to protect the interests of these big businesses, and suppress any opposition that could only come from the people who nurture the land, forest, rivers and their home.
Many colleagues and even friends closest to me have become victims of this state fascism sponsored by the past and present regimes. Many peasants, indigenous peoples’, youth and women leaders who stood their ground against the aggressors were illegally arrested, incarcerated on fabricated charges against them, enforcedly disappeared or extra-judicially killed.
I would never forget what they did to Delle Salvador, an engineer by profession who dedicated her life to (non-government) development work. She was dear to me, not only as a friend but as a sister. She was in the community to monitor socio-economic projects she had helped implement when the military operations happened.
I would never forget that scene when I first saw her lifeless body. Her face showed traces of torture. The pain she suffered was painted on her creased forehead and streak of tears could not be covered by the amount of cosmetics the funeral parlor had put on her. Until now, I could still feel her hollow skull in my hands and every broken bone in different parts of her body that I had touched. I could only imagine the agony she went through in the hands of her murderers.
The facts could never deny that she was lifted in a military chopper and stayed in the army camp for hours before her already dead body was delivered to the morgue. Post-mortem investigation told us that she was alive at the time she was taken to that military camp. It was cruel and unforgiveable. Delle’s story is just one among the many.
Do I not fear for my life and my family’s? I definitely do. Just as I fear for the many lives of the people being violated every single day when they do not have food to put on their tables, or no health facilities, medicine or doctors whenever someone gets sick, or no accessible schools they can send their children to.
I am an activist. A human rights defender. I am very well aware of the risks that I face and the sacrifices I and my family have yet to endure because of this. But I choose to carry on. Because I have already witnessed so much injustice in the system, and I only want to contribute to changing that. I can not simply turn my back from the facts that many have already sacrificed ahead of us for this cause. Like them, I only wanted to serve the masses and give the future generation the life that they deserve, my young children included.
Those fabricated cases filed against me and my fellow activists enrage me. This desperate act to stop us is way too low. This is not only an attack against us, but also an attack against the communities we serve and the cause that we believe in.
The military apparatus of the state had not been successful in the past to silence and cow the people to submission. The past struggles are milestones we celebrate with our fellow activists as we face yet another case of trumped up charges, vilification and harassment from state forces.
We salute the people who have campaigned with us, marched with us and lifted us up in times of fear and anxiety.
In the midst of this state violence and tyranny, we pledge to uphold our commitment. For the sake of our children. It is the only inheritance we can bequeath and values we can impart. We also appeal for your solidarity and support. # nordis.net
(This is the second part Sherry Mae Soledad’s article, a first person account of the widespread reality under the 16 month old dispensation of the present president of the Philippines.)