Thousands of people spanning several generations marched yesterday to Mendiola Bridge demanding justice for the victims of the Marcos dictatorship as well as the human rights victims under the current Arroyo administration. In particular, the protesters are calling for the release of 218 political prisoners.“The Arroyo regime has gained the sole distinction of being the regime closest to the Marcos dictatorship in terms of its human rights record, corruption and foreign policy. The Arroyo regime is the best argument that we should never allow a return to a fascist dictatorship, no matter what the pretext is,” said Bayan Secretary General Renato M. Reyes, Jr. Bayan played a key role in the struggle to topple the dictatorship in 1986.
I will talk about a campaign we are waging at the Centre for Philippine Concerns and in the Philippines called Free Our Sisters! Free Ourselves! and then show you a short film excerpt.
Free Our Sisters! Free Ourselves!
The first Free Our Sisters! Free Ourselves! Campaign was run by the large women's organization GABRIELA in 1989. Its goal was the release of Luisa Posa Dominado, an activist who fought against the Marcos dictatorship, and her 7-year-old daughter, Maywan. They were both detained in a provincial City jail, with Maywan as the youngest political prisoner in the whole country.
On April 12, 2007 Luisa was abducted by suspected military men and hasn't been heard of since. Luisa is one of some 200 forcefully disappeared people in the Philippines since 2001. Her daughter Maywan is heading a campaign to surface her mom.
Meanwhile, the number of political prisoners in the country has swelled, including at least 24 women political prisoners under the administration of current president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. In most cases, these women were abducted, arrested illegally and detained on trumped-up charges. In detention, they suffer inhumane treatment and prolonged incarceration due to long-drawn out legal battles.
Such is the case of Angelina "Angie" Bisuña Ipong, now 63 years old, a peace advocate who devoted her life to the cause of peace and human rights. She was arrested in March 8, 2005 and was tortured and sexually abused before she was surfaced to the media. She remains incarcerated at the Pagadian City Jail in Zamboanga del Sur, sharing a small prison cell with 21 other women prisoners accused of common crimes.
Elizabeth Principe was illegally arrested on November 28 2007, grabbed and shoved into a van in a busy shopping mall. She was kept incommunicado, tortured and illegally detained by the intelligence group of the Philippine Army until they finally presented her to the media three days later. She remains in detention at Camp Crame prison on charges of subversion and murder. She was a consultant for the National Democratic Front of the Philippines during the peace talks with the Philippine government.
Elizabeth's daughter Lorena Santos has been spearheading the campaign for her release. Lorena is a friend of ours and a spokesperson for Karapatan, a human rights organization. She is part of a new generation of activists and advocates taking the place of those who are in prison or dead. Their struggle continues.
My partner Malcolm Guy and I are connected directly or indirectly to these three women. We are making a film about Luisa, and some of the other among the hundreds of activists, workers, farmers, advocates who have been killed, disappeared, or imprisoned at part of the "War on Terror," Philippines-style. I will show you a 12 minute demo of the film.
During the commemoration of Martial Law in the Philippines yesterday, the spokesperson from Bayan said:
“The fear of a return to Martial Rule by any name is not unfounded. We see the desperation of the regime to stay in power at all costs. We see the unrestrained role of the military in government. We see the continued backing of the United States for an unpopular regime,” Reyes said.
“The only thing that stands in their way is the people. Our people have learned enough from Marcos and they will never allow such a monstrosity to return. Our people will resist,” Reyes added.
The same is true for the Iranian people.
Long Live International Solidarity!
-------------------------------------------For more information about the activity organized by our friends in the Iranian community to commemorate the terrible massacre of political prisoners in Iran two decades ago please visit: http://www.1980smassacre.com
Please visit the web sites, sign petitions, and keep informed about the situation in the Philippines. If the government, backed by full military might of the US is so intent on crushing all progressive opposition forces in the country, it is because they pose a threat to the existing power structure - they do offer an alternative, a hope for a brighter future and a truly democratic and just society. Canada has recently decided to add its military presence in the Philippines, not content to just exploit the mineral wealth of the country with Canadian mining companies. Please look out for upcoming campaigns about this. Join the campaign to Free our sisters! Free ourselves! by consulting the web site by that name in the Philippines, and by getting in touch with us, the Centre for Philippine Concerns at firstname.lastname@example.org and visiting our blog at http://cap-cpc.blogspot.com
Marie Boti is a documentary filmmaker with a dozen films documenting the people's movement in the Philippines. Kababaihan: Filipina Portraits (made with Malcolm Guy) featured the role of the women's movement in the overthrow of the Marcos dictatorship of 1986.
She is currently working on a new project with Malcolm about the political killings and disappearances in the Philippines, including that of Luisa Posa Dominado. Marie is also an active member in the Centre d’appui aux Philippines - Centre for Philippine Concerns, a solidarity group in Montreal which is celebrating its 25th anniversary.