THE AWAKENING OF MELISSA R.
PUBLISHED ON May 26, 2009 AT 7:41 AM
Roxas, the Filipino-American activist who was abducted along with two others on May 19, purportedly wrote this undated email message. Bulatlat.com is reposting it because it provides a glimpse into her character and might help explain why an American like her would be spending time in the remote villages of the Philippines, trying to help the poor.
I want to share a story that particularly moved me about 14-year-old Adel. Adel was ten years old when her parents, were abducted and murdered by Philippine military soldiers. Her father, Expedito Albarillo was an active coordinator of Bayan Muna (a progressive political party list) in the town of San Teodoro, Mindoro Oriental. Her mother, Manuela, was an active member of Gabriela (a progressive women’s organization) in the same town. Adel told the story of how her mother hid her so the military would not know she was in the house. She heard her mother tell the military soldier to wait until she can get changed but the soldier told her not to bother because she would be killed. She peeked from where she was hidden and saw a soldier hit her father on the leg with a gun because he refused to come with them. Adel said she watched the military drag her parents outside the house and to the nearby hills. She said she felt very afraid, terrified. Later she heard successive gunshots from the direction where her parents were brought and she went outside to go find other family members in the town. They sent a team to look for her parents and when they later found them, she said they were shocked to find the bodies in the state they were in. Her father’s left eye was gouged out with a knife and gunshot wounds were found on his armpit and side. Her mother’s neck was shattered due to a gunshot below her left eye and she had other gunshot wounds in her armpit.
After the incident Adel had to go through therapy because of the trauma. She is only one of the many children that lost their parents due to military aggression. Eden Marcellana, then secretary general of Karapatan became her second mother, as Eden was to many families who became victims of human rights violations. But because Eden was outspokenly critical of the string of human rights violations cases committed against hapless peasants, Mangyan families and leaders and members of progressive groups in Mindoro, she too became a victim of kidnapping and murder. Adel and other children lost their second mother and the area lost another dedicated human rights worker.
We visited the sites where some of the victim’s bodies were found and also saw photographs of the scene. All the delegates professed their determination to tell the whole world about what they saw because these crimes against humanity have to stop. Adel and her older brother continue the work that their parents had begun and continue to condemn the militarization of countrysides and expose the crimes of the military and Arroyo administration. Even after having lost her parents, and her friends to these heinous crimes, Adel continues to work for change in the country, continues to defend the working poor, peasants, and those who the government have let down. All of the delegates, including myself, drew so much inspiration from this 14 year old girl and we asked ourselves, for us who do not live under direct repression, what can we do? And all vowed to remain dedicated to telling these stories and put pressure on our own governments to stop support of the Arroyo regime.
Unfortunately, this story is only one of many from the island of Mindoro and throughout the Philippines. Even the ISM team from Mindoro experienced different forms of harassment from local police and military as we traveled through the area. We experienced harassment at checkpoints and were followed—we got a taste of what locals must go through everyday. Many testimonies were heard by the other four teams who visited Hacienda Luisita, Central Luzon, Samar Island in Eastern Visayas, and Surigao del Sur in Mindanao.
Throughout this trip I cried many times and was deeply affected by such injustice. Also outraged that here in America, our taxpayer dollars are going to support repressive regimes like Arroyo’s. The U.S. provides financial support and training for Philippine troops. I am outraged that instead of using our hard earned tax dollars on helping the survivors of Hurricane Katrina, it goes abroad to fund wars of aggression in Iraq and the Philippines.
After this experience I began to really understand why people say that Philippines is in a current state of undeclared martial law. The Arroyo administration and the military act under a culture of impunity – immune from any punishment and immune from the rule of law that they say they are defending. Like the Marcos years (Philippine dictator until 1986), people’s civil rights are compromised and any opposition to the government is crushed – except that Arroyo is using the pretext of the “war on terror” to suppress legitimate dissent. Like what happened in Hacienda Luisita, where striking sugarcane workers and peasants were asking for better wages and benefits, were massacred by the military and local police. What justice is there for the victims? Until now they are still fighting for those benefits and until now there has been no punishment for the military and police.
Thank you for listening. At this point, I feel my responsibility is to tell as many people as possible about what I’ve seen, and as a writer write as much as I can about what I’ve seen. And most importantly take action.
I remain profoundly changed by this experienced and hope that even with these poor poets words, I can help spread awareness about these issues and tell the stories that were entrusted to me, that literally was paid for by the victims with sweat and blood.
Thank you fellow poets. Please keep in touch. I miss you all.