Brussels: 1,000 Protesters, Parliamentarians Denounce Arroyo Political
Dec. 11 stopthekillings.be, a coalition of 65 trade union organizations,
NGOs and political parties, held a torch vigil in front of the Philippine
embassy in Brussels at the occasion of international human rights day.
They commemorated the victims of political assassinations since the start
of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's presidency in 2001. At the same time, the
torch vigil made a strong statement against the continuing operations of
death squads in the Philippines.
BY WIM DE CEUKELAIRE
Contributed to Bulatlat
Originally, the target was to mobilize 750 participants on Dec. 11, a day
after the International Day of Human Rights. The target number
corresponded with the number of trade union activists, peasant leaders,
members of progressive political parties, lawyers, journalists etc. -
victims of extrajudicial killings whose names were listed in the records
of Philippine human rights organizations at the time the action was
planned. However, on Dec. 11 the number had risen to 797. The idea was to
have the search for justice for each of the victims represented by one
participant. It was a huge task.
MEMORIAM: Belgian activists hang pictures of Filipino human rights
victims at the door of the Philippine Embassy in Brussels, Dec. 11
PHOTO BY IKUKO UEBA
As it turned out, the
target was even surpassed. Not only the victims of political killings were
represented but also the 200 Filipinos who disappeared for political
reasons in the same period. One thousand people from all over Belgium -
and even from France and the Netherlands - came to Brussels that day to
demand decisive action from the Philippine government.
Each participant was
carrying the name of one of the victims on his chest. Nobody was
forgotten, whether it was a well-known leader of a people's organization
or a child that was killed by a stray bullet during an attack. Besides,
the presence of Dr. Chandu Claver, who lost his wife in an attack in Tabuk,
Kalinga, northern Philippines last July, made the personal links with the
victims even more concrete.
Dr. Claver spoke to
the crowd as they assembled in the rain near the Philippine embassy. He
testified about the consequences of the attack that killed his wife last
July 31 and left him seriously injured.
“Probably I will
never be able to work as a surgeon again and I'm still hiding because of
the continuing threat to my life,” Dr. Claver said. He added that
international pressure is important to make the Arroyo regime accountable.
While the torch march
slowly started to move, a delegation went ahead for a dialogue with
Philippine Ambassador to Belgium Cristina Ortega. Bert De Belder, the
coordinator of the NGO intal, expressed the concerns of the demonstrators.
Reps. Eloi Glorieux and Jan Roegiers, from the Groen! and Sp.a-Spirit
political parties, gave the ambassador a copy of the campaign's unity
statement signed by 28 members of the Flemish parliament. Rachel Cohen of
the International Federation of Journalists and Philippe Van Muylder from
the Brussels chapter of the FGTB trade union highlighted the fate of their
colleagues who were killed.
After the dialog, the
delegation reported to the demonstrators. The ambassador could not but
admit that there is an increase of unexplained murders of progressive
personalities. She skirted the government's responsibility, however,
questioning some of the human rights organizations' data and trying to put
the blame on criminals and the CPP-NPA. Apparently, trade union organizers
and peasant leaders, who hardly have a peso in their pockets, are now
primary targets for robbers.
It even became
embarrassing when she mentioned concrete cases and provided documents
about them to the delegation. According to these documents, a certain
Edwin Mascarinas would be “very much alive”. In reality his
lifeless body was found on a rice field on April 14, 2004, one day after
he was brought to the local detachment by the military. Abe Sungit from
Palawan was the former leader of a “communist terrorist group,” she
said, while in fact he was a respected member of the UCCP. In 1999, Sungit
was mentioned in Amnesty International's annual report as a victim of
torture by the military. Bishop Ramento would have been the victim of a
robbery with homicide—even if not one single member of his church believes
demonstrators' slogans could be heard throughout the protest march and
vigil: “Stop the killings!” Toward the end of the vigil, spontaneously,
the people started to hang their placards with the names of the victims at
the gates of the embassy to underscore the responsibility of the
The torch march was
concluded with a speech by Johan Fobelets who spoke in behalf of the
stopthekillings.be coalition. He was carrying the placard with the name of
Jesus Servida, a trade union organizer who was killed only a few hours
earlier in Cavite.
“Your presence is a
strong statement against the climate of impunity in the Philippines,” Mr.
Fobelets told the protesters, “and with your support we continue to
support the Philippine people's movement in its struggle for justice.”
The Filipino migrants
who were present were moved by the massive show of solidarity. “Even
during the Marcos dictatorship we never experienced this,” one of them
quipped. “It is the biggest demonstration of solidarity with the Filipino
people ever on the European continent!” Bulatlat
PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION ■
© 2006 Bulatlat
Alipato Media Center
Permission is granted to reprint or redistribute this article, provided
its author/s and Bulatlat are properly credited and notified.