DAVAO CITY– “They did not only kill my father, they brutally murdered him,” student Cristony Monzon, 17, addressed more than 7,000 activists during the 61st international human rights day rally here on December 10.
It was Cristony’s first time onstage. It used to be his father’s mettle, facing thousands to protest the deteriorating state of human rights in the country.
Cristony’s father, Ludenio, was a militant Lumad leader in Boston town in Davao Oriental, killed on April 29 this year while organizing a workers’ march in May. Assailants wearing ski masks onboard a motorcycle pumped bullets on his body.
“Why are they killing civilians?” asked Evangeline Pitao who lost her daughter Rebelyn in a violent death in March this year. “They said they are going after the NPA (New People’s Army) but they are venting their ire on us. They target civilians,” said Pitao, who, like Monzon, accused President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s state agents as the murderers.
Both joined progressive groups to demand justice for the victims and press Arroyo’s accountability over the human rights violations.
The protesters called for an end to the climate of impunity that blanket Arroyo’s reign.
Protesters also demanded for Arroyo’s ouster and registered strong opposition against the December 4 Martial Law declaration in Maguindanao following the November 23 massacre of 57 persons in the town of Ampatuan.
‘Up against the powerful’
“There is no rebellion in Maguindanao,” said lawyer Carlos Isagani Zarate, secretary general of the Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM) in a speech during the rally.
“The truth in Maguindanao is that Arroyo has hard core allies and henchmen there. She let them build their arsenal, amass wealth and use them to go after, sow terror and intimidate the Filipino people, particularly our Muslim brothers,” said Zarate.
The Martial Law declaration in Maguindanao, according to Zarate, is “another sinister plot of Arroyo to remain in power beyond 2010,” a “smokescreen to systematically muddle and bungle” the massacre case and the 2010 Presidential elections.
National Union of Journalists of the Philippines Davao City secretary general Jeffrey Tupas challenged the people to be more vigilant, and vigorously seek justice for the massacre victims.
“We are up against the powerful,” Tupas said during the rally, “how do we seek justice when the masterminds are being coddled by the powers-that-be?” He called on the people not to put their guards down as “we seek justice for our colleagues.”