By SHERWIN DE VERA
“Neutrality in times of injustice is taking the side of the oppressor.” — Archbishop Desmond Tutu
I am devoting my column for this issue to express my deepest appreciation and thanks to all those who, in one way or another, stood against injustice by providing their support for my safety and temporary release.
To those who missed the news, I was arrested last 12 December 2017 by a combined maneuver and intelligence units of the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines while on a bus heading home. The government slapped me with a rebellion charge. The case stemmed from a fabricated case of attempted murder in an alleged involvement in a firefight between the New People’s Army and the 41st IB in Lagangilang, Abra on 30 January 2013. I am currently now out on bail.
Note that I am accused of an incident in the same period when the campaign against black sand mining operations in Ilocos was at its height and while I was taking my post-graduate studies in a state university in the province. A Preposterous charge as it is but not remote and isolated under the current social order. The legal battle, and the threat to my liberty and safety is far from over. More cases are expected to be filed against me in the coming days.
No one who has been incarcerated, whether imprisoned for a day or two will claim that life behind bars is fine and easy. The ordeal is much harder when you are denied of your freedom for something you did not commit. The overwhelming support of different groups and individuals made my month long detention endurable and a learning process.
To my coworkers and our allies in the peoples’ movement for social justice and genuine change, hat’s off for the sustained and successful campaign for my release. Your quick and appropriate actions greatly contributed to my well-being during the critical period after my arrest. The support from the different organizations, non-government institutions, local government officials and communities accorded to me and to my family throughout my unjust detention gave us strength and determination we needed to get through all the troubles and distress. I am deeply touched by your tireless work to expose the unmerited deprivation of my liberty, gather support for my needs and freedom, visit me in jail and continue with your other tasks. The broad support you gathered for the Free Sherwin De Vera campaign affirmed the uprightness of our choice of serving the people. As I have implored after my arrest, let not this display of fascism dampen our resolve, we must rise up and resist the rising dictatorial regime.
To my family, thank you for treading with me through this life’s challenge. Your immediate presence after my arrest was comforting. It is reassuring to know that you expended all your available means to guarantee my safety, instantly upon learning my situation. The regular visits and messages while detained is heartening and brought me great relief. I apologize for dragging you into such predicament and for the stress that you had to endure. But I remain positive that this event has opened an opportunity for you to further understand this rotten social system and people’s wide support for activists like me. I could not ask for more than the patience and understanding you have shown throughout the period. Beyond this difficulty, I am hopeful that you will continue to give your trust and faith in me.
To my Kappatids, our ideals never fail us, it has kept me strong and resolute during my incarceration. Thank you for imparting to me the value of knowledge and using it to best serve our fellowmen. The strong statements released by our UP Chapters (Los Baños, Baguio and Mindanao) reflect our common value for political tolerance and healthy practice of democracy. Their pronouncements and indignation on my arrest further strengthened my resolve. I am grateful to everyone for setting aside political differences and working to raise support – morale, material and funds for my needs. Some of our Kappatids went beyond their duties to ensure that my rights are observed and accorded, while others traveled far to visit to reassure me of our family’s support. For all of these, my profoundest thanks. I hope to attend our 50th Anniversary activities to personally express my deepest appreciation to all. Proud to be a Kappa Epsilonian, Kill!
To my friends and acquaintances, despite the distance and lengthy period of not seeing each other, the warm care and concern contained in your messages lessened my hardship inside the prison. To those who dared to openly express their concern and resentment on my arrest and imprisonment, salute for your courage and adherence to healthy political discourse.
To the state agents who a accorded me my rights and privileges, your actions are much appreciated. May you continue to dispense your duties in conformity with international and duly-constituted human rights instruments, and may your kind increase. Keep in mind that your sworn duty is to “serve and protect” the people and their freedom, and not the interest of those who are in power.
To all the officials and inmates of Abra Provincial Jail, thank you for your efforts to make my stay in the facility comfortable and worthwhile. Thank you for allowing me to continue whatever help I can offer, especially to my fellow inmates – from simple health care services and tips, to legal insights and human rights principles, and discussions on pressing issues like the recent tax reform law and federalism. While I am innocent of the charge lodged against me, our interaction gave me a deeper insight of your high regard to the revolution and the people’s army. I deeply appreciate your stories on how the revolutionary movement changed the political and economic landscape of Abra for the better. I look forward to the day that your provincial government’s hashtag- #justicethatheals will become a reality.
It might not be the best means, call it a blessing in disguise, but my incarceration exposed opportunists among acquaintances and false friends. Some have even taken the opportunity to malign my family, my organization and my integrity. The government and those who benefit from this corrupt system can say all they want regarding the incident but the truth remains that my arrest and detention is an effort to intimidate those who seek genuine social change.
I enjoin everyone who assisted me, my family and colleagues during this trying period to also support the release of all political prisoners and the peace negotiations. Let us strive and work hard to build a peaceful society that respects human rights, upholds justice and ensures the equitable access to our resources. To borrow Bishop Vermilion Tagalog’s statement – this is a challenge that we must face collectively, with utmost fervor and without fear.
Again, to everyone who were involved directly and indirectly, and those who I failed to mention, my sincerest thanks. May God always bless you for your kindness and faithfulness to justice! # nordis.net