In the year 2000, my brother age 23 years old was killed by a taxi driver employed by a police officer. In 2001 three months after, another brother age 15 was killed by a group of vindictive young men in a mining community. The cases took four years of litigation. The assailants were convicted but the penalty was never implemented.
In the same period, the president of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her generals and super cops came out on national newspapers and television smiling proud with the background of bullet-riddled and bloodied bodies of so-called criminals, kidnappers, robbers who had no chance to plead. It was very much criticized, but the message was delivered to the public. A culture of impunity was endorsed.
Then the Human Security Act was passed in line with the anti-terrorism campaign. From an article in the TIME magazine, the president was quoted saying, *“I pledge to torture, kill, maim every terrorist that comes to our shore”*. And the bloodthirsty dogs of war were released against the very people the State is meant to protect. On the other hand, the president was also portrayed as very saintly. Praying and accepting the will of God, with blessings of the bishops, the cardinals and even the Pope of Rome.
Pepe, my friend, husband, colleague and father of my children was among those placed in the dreadful list for *“order-of-battle”*. Indeed, he was harassed, hunted, demonized and executed with 22 gunshot wounds.
So instead of Pepe meeting me with a smile arriving from Hongkong as an overseas Filipino worker or what our government calls the *“living hero”* in its modern day slave trading called labor export, I came home to a cold dead body and a shattered family.
Pepe was 37 years old. Unassuming yet effective and charismatic human rights defender working for peace, liberty, social justice, good governance like everyone of us here.
Case was filed, witness backed off, identified assailant was promoted in rank from Captain to Major in the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
They were not satisfied. They announced they will kill all his brothers including his wife. His colleagues, his family, my family of course were terrified.
I picked up my flute… wrote letters and appeals, sought dialogues and resolved to learn the art of peacemaking… to redeem sanity, serenity and clarity amidst worsening chaos. Hell broke loose. They could not understand why I do not come out raging. A poor widow turned crazy writing, singing, dancing, smiling and crying. I was monitored, harassed and followed by masked men on motorcycles.
When I go back to the Philippines, I need to move to another home I still do not know where. I also need to reconsider my occupation as café waitress.
One time, I met the former general (Jovito Palparan) who led the killings in what was called Oplan Bantay Laya (operation guard freedom). He is now a congressman and is running for senator in the May 2010 national elections. The president accused of cheating last elections is also running this time as congresswoman. There are scenarios there would be no elections. Or that Gloria Arroyo will move to shift government to parliamentary system and become the prime minister. They believe what they do is right and even spiritually sanctioned.
With hundreds of activists, church people, lawyers, students, media people, grassroots leaders killed, tortured, imprisoned while the scars of the Marcosian Martial Law continues to haunt, the progressive civil society groups are weakened and fragmented.
Indeed, it is a challenge to move on… in a dance, in a song… with art to keep the flow of sacred life flowing… for the children and their children’s children…
Today, I feel as a bamboo nose flute player and a widow who faces a risk of loosing her life or liberty.