BAGUIO CITY (July 27) — Medical Doctor Constancio Claver’s memory of the carnage on July 31, 2006 where his wife, Alyce Omengan-Claver sacrificed her life to save him and their daughter who was wounded and traumatized.
“I am forced to recall a painful memory that happened a year ago. On that fateful moment when she first became aware of the shooters, she instinctively threw her body to cover mine. As a result, she caught seven of the deadly projectiles intended for me,” Claver said in his statement from Vancouver, Canada where he and his three daughters now live.
Claver and his wife, both active civic leaders and members of Bayan Muna Kalinga chapter were en route to take their children to school at around 7:00 AM on July 31, 2006 in Tabuk, Kalinga when armed men believed to be members of the military death squad peppered them with bullets.
Alyce died while Dr. Claver and their daughter survived to tell the horrible story.
A mass and program to commemorate Alice’s life was held in Tabuk, Kalinga yesterday, Saturday. Led by the prominent Omengan and Claver families together with different cause-oriented groups.
On the same day, a gathering was also held in the Kalayaan Centre, 451 Powell St. in Vancouver, Canada which was attended by Dr. Claver, their three children, their relatives, friends and supporters. The British Columbia Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (BCCHRP), Member of the Philippines-Canada Task Force for Human Rights (PCTFHR) were the main organizers of the memorial.
“My three children and I have been forced to leave the country because of the continuing and the escalating threats,” Claver said. He continued, “our three children, despite the wrenching trauma of being forcibly made motherless, have admirably been able to cope – another legacy of strength from Alice, I believe.”
Dr. Claver, nephew of former Kalinga congressman and indigenous peoples rights fighter Billy Claver, said he is not cowed. He said he and his children were forced to leave home due to the continuing and escalating threats on his life. “We have decided to continue the fight somewhere else,” he added.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) had successively sent in two task forces to investigate the ambush. Claver, however, lamented that after 12 months of work, the task forces still have not come up with a prosecutable case, lamented Dr. Claver. He vowed not to stop from getting to the truth.
“The heavy-handed actions of certain elements within the PNP doomed the investigations, creating a climate of fear, and discouraging the witnesses from openly speaking up,” he said.
Claver further criticized the counter-insurgency program that is accordingly led to the deaths and disappearances of unarmed civilian activists. “We now know that Alice is only one of those who have been killed in the name of the war against terrorism,” he said.
Human rights groups in the country report more than 800 men and women murdered, and 200 others abducted and remain missing since 2001 due to the Arroyo administration’ implementation of Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL).
Claver said, “we cry for justice, as do the families of the countless other victims.” He is optimistic that even if the odds are against them (victims), “justice will prevail in the end.”
Alice’s and other activists’ death, Claver said, drew the attention of the European Union, as well as some other nations, to the situation in the Philippines.
After conducting its local investigation, the United Nation Special Rapporteur Philip Alston laid the responsibility for the killings on the Philippine military, which the latter denied.
Likewise, Amnesty International, the Asian Human Rights Commission, and the Washington-based Human Rights Commissions have all attributed the atrocities to State security forces.
The Permanent People’s Tribunal in Europe, an international independent tribunal, even ruled Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and US Pres. George Bush guilty of crimes against humanity, said Claver. Recently, 13 Members of the Canadian Parliament simultaneously moved for the tabling of a petition for the conduct of a parliamentary hearing on the extra judicial killings in the Philippines, he added.
“In all of these instances, the active presentation of the case of Alice, the circumstances of her death, as well as the results of our own investigation all played very significantly roles,” he said. # Ace Alegre for NORDIS