Open Letter to Mayor Glenda L. Villahermosa of Monreal, Masbate and all local government officials in Bikol
We are writing to you as your fellow Filipinos extremely concerned with your stand as leader of Monreal regarding the issue of militarization and the state’s act of terrorism against your constituents.
Last August, 9[th] IDPA and your office released a video attempting to explain the massacre that occurred in San Jacinto wherein the three female victims Jelyn Guis Matimtim (56 years old), Sheryl Salazar Dejomo (29 years old) and Divina Lubiano Ajitan (60 years old) were your constituents.
We watched the said video in abject grief and distress for although its intentions were to give credence to what the military did, your words themselves betrayed your cause and showed that the victims were indeed civilians and what happened to them was a clear crime of brutality. This is what you said in the video in verbatim, “pinakiusapan na matagal na panahon pinuntahan sila sa mga bahay nila kung saan sila andun…” Because they are waging a protracted people’s war, NPA combatants do not maintain permanent residences. They have no addresses where they can be visited and `talked to’. If you say that you have visited these victims in their own homes and have done these repeatedly over a long period of time, then your words only mean one thing: Jelyn, Sheril and Divina were indeed civilians who had repeatedly suffered from intimidation, threats and harassments before they were finally massacred. They had no fighting chance against the armed units of 2[nd] IBPA who hounded them. This is a gross violation not only of international humanitarian laws but of the rule of morality and conscience of a human being.
As legal bases, the documents Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War and Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts (Protocol II) comprehensively define and discuss civilian rights in times of war. We encourage you and all other local government officials to read and study these agreements carefully to deepen your understanding of your constituents’ rights of whom you the mandate of always protecting.
We wrote to you because we believe that deep in your heart, you know the truth. Most local government officials, like you, are coerced into `cooperation’ with the military and police because of fear. They recognize no law aside from the rule of fascism and terrorism. They have no respect for your civilian authority over your constituents. These mercenaries only treat you as their mouthpiece and apologists.
We understand your delicate situation but we also want to clarify that your cooperation is tantamount to abandoning and feeding the people you promised to serve to the wolves. While you let the military and police use you to sanitize their image and cover up the bloody stench of their incessant killings and massacres, the masses of Monreal, the entire Masbate and the whole Filipino nation find their lives in great danger. Because of these butchers’ desperation, they blur and erase the line between a combatant and a civilian. Their attacks spare no one – women, children, the elderly, the disabled, civilians.
How many tens of thousands of Masbatenyo masses have had their lives, livelihood and future destroyed by the military and police who constantly persecute them? How many thousands of cases of human rights violations perpetrated by the military and police whitewashed and hidden from the public are there? How many families have been deprived of justice? You are right, the deaths of these three mothers are really a tragedy. But what’s even more tragic and leaves an ever-deeper wound is divesting their families of justice and for them to know that the government officials they hoped would stay true to the mandate of defending their rights, lay subservient to the military and police’s fascist agenda. It hurts the families even more that the enemy have the audacity to use these brutal and merciless killings of the former’s loved ones as dirty propaganda to further the latter’s anti-people’s war.
The masses of Monreal as well as the vast numbers of the oppressed and exploited have one question – how many more of these human rights abuses, killings and massacres will the military and police be allowed to wreak with impunity?
As the Filipino people’s movement for justice and against the state’s fascist terrorism heightens, we appeal to your humanity and nationalism. Public servants such as you have an important role in defending the rights of the civilian population against military and police attacks and in achieving justice.
We implore you and all LGU officials to stand with the people, especially the downtrodden masses, in their fight against the trampling of their dignities and rights by this fascist state. Although you are obliged to submit to the militaristic EO 70, it is only judicious for you to take a stand and move for its termination. It is only just for you to refuse to become part of the abuse against the people – the masses you have vowed to serve.
History does not forget. Regimes and their armed forces come and wither as they go but the people do not. The struggle for genuine justice and peace will continue unsevered generation after generation. The question is how you want history to judge you – as public servants who remained true to their mandate to the people or as cohorts of the oppressed and exploited masses’ enemies?