By MARIANNE LORENZO*
Following is a story from a friend of mine, which I want to share with Northern Dispatch readers. In the past several days, local newspapers carried the story of James Moy Balao, who has disappeared like a soap bubble since September 17.
My activist friend says:
“I ran as fast as I could, heeding to no specific direction – palpitating, horrified and helpless. I knew the man meters away from me was the one I saw in the market, in the park and in the jeepney terminal. I was few meters away from my house but he was still tailing me. There was nobody beside me, no other people on the road and in the dark, I pulled all my energy to open the gate and the door and immediately locked up. I was gasping and trembling. I knew he was still there across the road but I did not have the courage to look at him.”
Days before my friend was stalked, her colleague’s cellular phone was snatched, her car burglarized and even tailed by two motorcycles, whose riders were clad in dark clothes and thick helmets. The surveillance in the office intensified, a colleague was intimidated and harassed and a colleague’s house was raided.
My friend needed to go elsewhere to seek temporary sanctuary, not knowing then when she would be able to return after learning of a list in the military’s Order of Battle (OB) where her name was included.
This led us to think she was being cased, a prelude to extra-judicial killing. From the pattern of hundreds who fall victims to extra-judicial killings, such was not a baseless assumption.
Her personal recollection continued: “The following night, all four of us in the house slept in the sala, taking turns in monitoring the surroundings. One of us said if anything worse happens we must be ready to fight back. This gave me chills. We also planned our exit points once the house is raided; where to run, what to bring, how to ask for help. The images seemed so vivid. An action movie was transformed into reality, full of excitement but deep within I was very much scared.”
Days passed with no letup to the surveillance until they decided to vacate the house. At 3:00 in the morning, they had to bring important belongings out of the house, practically abandoning everything else in the meantime.
“We cared less for robbers,” she said. She knows that those behind the terror are not just robbers. They are cold-blooded murderers. They are wild animals preying on their victims, waiting for the perfect time to attack, leaving nothing but terror. They are instruments of a crumbling state, holding on to violence as a means of survival. They are heartless, barbaric, terrorists. As to those who ordered the killings, they are the clothed demons.
Activists are under siege. Who can forget the senseless killings of Romy Sanchez, Pepe Manegdeg, Rafael Markus Bangit and Jose Doton, the ambush of Dr. Chandu Claver’s family leaving Alyce Claver dead? Who can forget the enforced disappearance of James Balao?
I am also scared for their sake. I could not care less and I cannot be deaf to the cries of the many victims of state fascism. I cannot be numb to the anguish and pain that this policy has brought to our land. I cannot be silent when people’s lives and liberty are violated.
In these times, the victims of state-inflicted violence are our own friends, neighbor and kin. Victims of violence have never been as close as these fellows to us. Fascism has not stared on us right before our face, its pangs ready to prey on us.
I hope all these violence would stop. I hope we would be able to overcome this ordeal and with the people’s united and relentless action, justice would finally prevail. #
* Marianne Lorenzo is a pen name