Armed conflict, Human Rights

Pahimakas ni Rambo

Rei Mon Guran (Larawan mula sa Facebook page para kay Rei Mon)

Kaarawan ni Rei Mon “Rambo” Guran ngayon. Araw ng pagkamatay niya bukas. Si Rambo ay isang lider-estudyante at mahal na anak. Isa rin siyang iskolar ng bayan. Naging aktibo siya sa League of Filipino Students. Noong Hulyo 31, 2006, walang awang pinagbabaril si Rambo, habang nakasakay sa bus, papuntang eskuwela. Isa siya sa mga biktima ng ekstrahudisyal na pamamaslang noong panahon ni Pang. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Hanggang ngayon, hustisya pa rin ang hangad ng mga kaanak ni Rambo, hindi lamang sa mismong kumalabit sa gatilyo ng baril na kumitil sa buhay niya, kundi sa mga arkitekto ng mapaniil na mga polisiyang kontra-insurhensiya na pinupuruha’y mga sibilyang tulad ni Rambo.

Narito ang kuwento ng pagpaslang kay Rambo, unang nailathala sa Pinoy Weekly noong Nobyembre 2006.

Pahimakas ni Rambo

Bakit pinapaslang ang kabataang tulad ni Rei Mon Guran?

Kenneth Roland A. Guda
Pinoy Weekly, Nobyembre 22-28, 2006

Kahit napuyat sa salu-salo noong nakaraang gabi, pinilit pa ni Rei Mon Guran – kilala rin bilang “Rambo” o “Ambo” — na gumising nang maaga para makapasok sa eskuwela noong umaga ng Hulyo 31. Tatlong oras ang biyahe mula sa Bulan, Sorsogon patungong Legazpi City.  Kaya alas singko pa lamang, nagpahatid na si Rambo sa amang si Mang Arnel sa terminal ng bus.

Noong nakaraang gabi, lubos ang saya ni Rambo sa pagdiriwang ng 21-taong kaarawan. Ilang buwan matapos mapaslang ang kaibigan at kasamahan sa LFS (League of Filipino Students) na si Cris Hugo sa Legazpi, maraming kaibigan at kamag-anak ang nagpayo sa kanya na maghinay-hinay na muna sa aktibismo.

Ito mismo ang payo ni Mang Arnel sa anak. Bilang lider ng LFS sa Aquinas University sa Legazpi, may kutob si Mang Arnel na isa ang anak niya sa maaaring sumunod na target. Alam ng ama kung paano mag-isip ang militar, dahil minsan na siyang naging sundalo.

“Pero naging matigas si nonoy (tawag sa anak na lalaki sa Bikol). Sabi niya sa text: ‘Kung pagkamatay ko ang ikaliligaya ng mga kaaway, bahala na sila sa akin.’ Sabi ko sa kanya, ‘Huwag naman ganyan, anak.’ Marami ka pang magagawa,” kuwento ni Mang Arnel.

Maraming plano sa buhay si Rambo, at handang isakripisyo ni Mang Arnel ang lahat para matupad ang mga iyon. “Gusto kong maging abogado,” wika minsan ni Rambo sa ama.

“Sige, anak. Pagretiro ko, may makukuha akong pera. Puwede mong gamitin.”

“Pero,” pahabol ni Rambo, “huwag niyong asahang yayaman tayo, dahil walang human rights lawyer na umaangat ang kabuhayan.”

Sa ika-21-taong kaarawan ni Rambo, ibinalato ni Mang Arnel ang traysikel sa anak. “Gamitin mo na ito. Kung wala kang masyadong ginagawa, puwede kang mamasada dito sa atin. Dagdag sa allowance mo,” sabi ng ama.

Si Rei Mon, mukhang pagtapos niya sa elementarya. (Larawan mula sa Facebook page alay kay Rei Mon)

Matalino at madiskarte si Rambo.  Nag-aral siya sa Unibersidad ng Pilipinas sa Los Baños, Laguna, ngunit napilitang bumalik sa Bikol dahil nagkaproblema sa karelasyon. Pero kahit noong nasa UPLB, aktibista na siya. Mahilig din siyang magsulat. Katunayan, nang makialam ang administrasyon ng UPLB sa pagpapatakbo ng Perspective, publikasyon ng mga estudyante,  isa si Rambo sa mga nagtaguyod sa paglalabas ng alternatibong pahayagang Rebel Perspective.

Nang malipat sa Aquinas University sa Legazpi, ipinagpatuloy ni Rambo ang pagiging aktibo sa LFS. Kahit delingkuwente sa eskuwela, naging paborito siya ng mga propesor at kaklase dahil kenkoy at mapagkaibigan. Nitong unang semestre ng 2006, pinasok ulit ni Rambo ang peryodismo. Nag-aplay siyang correspondent ng pahayagang pangkampus, ang Pegasus. Madaling nakapasa si Rambo. Kahit bago pa lang, marami siyang naisulat  – kadalasa’y pampulitikang analisis sa mga isyung pambayan. Dahil dito at sa kanyang pagiging tagapagsalita ng LFS, tumanyag nang husto si Rambo.

Noong gabi ng kanyang kaarawan, bago siya bumalik patungong Aquinas, pansin na ng mga kaibigan ni Rambo ang matitikas na lalaking umaali-aligid sa labas ng bahay. Katunayan, nang dumaan sila pauwi, binati pa sila. “Naki-bertdey kayo kay Ambo?” Kumaripas sa takot ang mga kaibigan ni Rambo.

Kinaumagahan nga, nagpahatid si Rambo sa ama sa terminal. Naghihintay ang eskuwela, ang mga aralin, ang mga gawain sa LFS: Dapat na maagang masimulan ang linggo.

Sa pinakadulo ng bus, iniupo ni Mang Arnel ang anak. “Low profile ka lang sa biyahe,” tagubilin ng ama kay Rambo. Iniwan ni Mang Arnel si Rambo na nagbabasa ng librong Harry Potter at nakikinig ng musika sa kanyang I-Pod habang naghihintay na pag-alis ng bus.

Kararating pa lamang sa bahay ni Mang Arnel nang ibalita sa kanya ng mga kapitbahay: Pinagtatadtad ng bala si Rambo sa loob ng bus! Takbo siya pabalik ng terminal, kasama ang dalawa pang anak. Inabutan ni Mang Arnel ang duguang si Rambo, lupaypay sa upuan.

“Ano ang ginawa ninyo sa anak ko?” tanong niya sa isang pulis na nagbabantay. Gusto pa ng mga kapatid na itakbo si Rambo sa ospital, ngunit nang makita ni Mang Arnel ang dalawang tama sa dibdib, sa panga at sa likod, alam niyang wala na ang panganay na anak.

Sa pakikipag-usap sa mga saksi, napag-alaman ni Mang Arnel ang mga pangyayari: Isang matikas na lalaki ang umakyat sa bus, tumungo sa kinauupuan ni Rambo, tumango sa matikas ding lalaking katabi ng anak, at saka tinadtad ng bala ang aktibista. Pagkatapos, tahimik na bumaba ang lalaki, pati ang tinanguang lalaki, habang nagsisigawang pababa ang mga pasahero.

“Nakapanghihinayang ang buhay ni Rambo,” ani Mang Arnel. “Pero ipinagmamalaki naming nagkaroon kami ng anak na tulad niya. Masaya kaming nagkaroon ng anak na di namin ikinahihiya, na itinuturing ng marami na bayani at huwarang kabataan.”

Note: Matapos lumabas ang artikulong ito, lumabas din ang artikulo ko sa PW hinggil sa paggawad diumano ng “rebolusyonaryong hustisya” sa isang yunit ng Army na diumano’y may kinalaman sa pagpaslang kay Rambo.

Kuha ang mga larawan sa itaas mula sa Facebook page na alay kay Rei Mon.

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Armed conflict, Culture, History, Human Rights

A dad’s day offering

Special father’s day offering: You can watch the entire film by Costa-Gavras, titled “Missing”. The film is about a father’s search for his missing son, one of many who disappeared after the right-wing coup in Chile in September 11, 1973. This film stars Jack Lemmon, who starred in another father’s day film, “Dad.” I like this Costa-Gavras film more, though. Happy dads’ day to all dads. [To watch the rest of the film, you can go to the part 2 of this film: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wmNKBhvcn0Y&feature=related, then search for the rest in YouTube.]

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Armed conflict, Culture, Human Rights, journalism

Photographing defiance against impunity

No single image or photo can adequately capture the phenomenon of “impunity” in the country, much less the efforts to curb or stop it. But that was exactly the challenge that the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL)’s photo contest posed to photographers: Present a single image that visually captures our fight against impunity. I entered the contest with the idea of submitting some of my photos that invoked resistance or struggle against state-sponsored violence, either in the provinces where the various armed conflicts are most vividly experienced, or in the metropolitan streets, where the protests are most frequently expressed. I am thankful that the NUPL’s judges, Attys. Charlie Yu and Greg Fabros, as well as Edith Burgos and (legendary) Associated Press chief photographer Bullit Marquez, chose two of my entries in the top ten, and chose one of my submissions as the first prize. The latter photo, which I clumsily titled “Act of Defiance,” shows an urban poor activist braving the water canons employed by anti-riot policemen during a protest rally against repressive policies of then President Arroyo’s regime, in 2006. (Trivia: I used a FILM SLR Nikon camera for this photo. Yes, I was still using film as late as 2006. Hehe.)

While I am proud of this photo (if I remember correctly, this was one of my “Hail Mary” photos), some of the other submissions — the ones that I did see, because I arrived, uhm, late during the awarding program last January 27 — are quite compelling. I wish NUPL would publish the submissions, or at least the ten finalists, in their website, blog or Facebook account.

Here is one of my submissions; one of the ten finalists: a photo of a Muslim man and his child awkwardly sitting between two paramilitary armed men in Munai, Lanao del Norte on October 2008. The paramilitary soldiers were a constant presence in refugee camps like the one that the man and his child sought refuge in, after government troops attacked Muslim communities with supposed Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) presence in Lanao del Sur. These refugees fled their communities for fear of their lives.

 

Here is the so-called “winning” photo.

News of the contest in alternative newsmagazines Pinoy Weekly and Bulatlat.

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Human Rights

Kung ano ang sinasabi ng mga puno ng Kananga sa pagpatay kina Leonardo Co

Nakatingala sila sa isang puno, pinagmamasdan ang mga dahon, tanghaling tapat ng Nobyembre 15.

Nasa isang masukal na gubat sa Kananga, Leyte ang field work team ni Leonardo Co. Isang tanyag na taxonomist – o siyentistang nagkaklasipika ng mga tanim at puno – si Leonard. Nangongolekta sila ng seedlings ng mga puno sa lugar. Pangkaraniwang gawain na ito ng mga siyentistang tulad niya.

Kasama niya ang kanyang mga guide at katuwang sa pananaliksik na sina Sofronio “Ponyong” Cortez, Julius “Oyong” Borromeo, Policarpio “Carping” Balute, at Ronino “Niño” Gibe. Nasa gitna sila ng munting palaisipan: Tanguile ba o isang specie ng Shorea ang punong tinitingala? Nalito sila, dahil may nakitang terminal bud ng Shorea sa ibaba ng puno. Pero mukha namang Tanguile, isang tanyag na hardwood, ang puno.

Nakatingala sila sa isang puno, pinagmamasdan ang mga dahon, nang magsimula ang pamamaril.

Interogasyon habang agaw-buhay

Nang matapos ang pamamaril, natagpuang patay ang tanyag na taxonomist na si Leonard. Gayundin sina Ponyong at Oyong. Nakatakas, pero may malalim na sugat sa kalooban, sina Carping at Niño.

Mula sa mga pahayag ni Carping sa midya, sinumpaang salaysay ni Niño na sinumite sa Commission on Human Rights, gayundin sa pag-aaral ng isang independiyenteng fact-finding team na pinamunuan ng grupong Agham (Science and Technology for the People), maaaring mabuo ang mga sirkumstansiya ng pamamaril.

Tatlong araw na silang nasa field work noong Nobyembre 15. Sakop ng operasyon ng isang geothermal plant ng Energy Development Corporation o EDC sa Kananga ang lugar ng pag-aaral nina Leonard. Dating pinatatakbo ng Philippine National Oil Company na pag-aari ng gobyerno, ngayo’y isang pribadong kompanyang pag-aari ng pamilyang Lopez ang EDC.

Tamang tama, konsultant ng EDC sa biodiversity si Leonard, kung kaya may akses siya sa kagubatang kinasasakupan ng operasyon ng planta. Nandoon siya para mangolekta ng seedlings ng mga matatayog na puno sa bahaging ito ng bansa.

Nakatingala sila sa isang puno, inaaral ang mga dahon, nang may magpaputok sa likod ng grupo. Agad na nakatago si Niño. Sa lumabas na mga pahayag niya sa midya, sinabi naman ni Policarpio na nakatakbo siya. Pero sina Leonard, Sofronio at Julius ang tinamaan. Mula sa mga pahayag nina Niño at Policarpio, mistulang pinaulanan sila ng bala. Parang umaangat ang lupa, anila, sa pagtalop ng bala sa lupa. Tumatalsik ang balat ng puno. Habang nakadapa, hindi maiangat ni Niño ang kanyang ulo sa takot na madaplisan ng bala.

Nang matapos ang pagpapaputok – 20 minutos iyon, bagamat ayon sa militar ay 10 hanggang 12 minuto lamang – lumapit ang mga sundalo. Kinuwestiyon si Niño: Nasaan na ang mga kasamahan n’yong armado? Bakit nandito kayo? Bakit may drowing kayo ng lugar? Bakit may GPS kayo? Lumalabas na tumagal mahigit isang oras ang pagtatanong.

Ibinaba sila, alas-dos na ng hapon. Binitbit sila ng mga sundalo, at ibinaba sa nalalapit na pad (isang sementadong clearing na dinebelop ng EDC), tinatawag na “Pad 403,” at doon naghihintay na ang mga tauhan at sasakyan ng EDC.

Pumanaw na sina Leonard noon. Patay na rin si Ponyong. Ngunit sugatan pa si Oyong, ayon mismo sa militar. Dumadaing pa umano si Oyong, matapos ang putukan. Posibleng dahil isang oras pa ang lumipas, isang oras pang nagsagawa ng interogasyon ang militar, pumanaw din malaon si Oyong.

Mula sa Pad 403, sa pagitan ng alas-dos at 4:30 ng hapon, dinala ng sasakyan ng EDC at ilang sundalo ang tatlong bangkay sa himpilan ng pulisya para ipa-blotter ang kaganapan. Mula sa himpilan, dinala sa ospital para ideklarang patay, at saka dinala sa punerarya.

Di agad nakapag-imbestiga ang pulis at Leyte SOCO sa lugar ng insidente. Ayon kay Senior Insp. Joel Camacho, hepe ng PNP sa Kananga, kinabukasan ng alas-11 ng umaga na unang naimbestigahan ang lugar at nakapagsagawa ng forensic examination sa lugar ang SOCO. Dahil umano ito sa “hot pursuit operations” na ginagawa pa ng militar noong hapon ng Nobyembre 15, matapos mabaril sina Leonard.

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Human Rights

Land and freedom in Luisita

I was supposed to post last month these other photos that I took in Hacienda Luisita last year. But a deluge of work washed it away from my consciousness. After posting the photos in San Roque, I remembered Luisita. A lot of people, in fact, remembered Luisita when the resistance of the people of Sitio San Roque happened last September 23. More specifically, it recalled those images before the massacre of November 16, 2004: the barricades, water cannons, people’s arms linked in defiance of the violence before them. Both the people of San Roque and Luisita fought, not just for a place in this world, but for control over their own lives. They cannot just be washed away by the water cannons, and their houses and lives destroyed by the demolishers. They stood their ground, united, and they triumphed. However limited, however momentary. It was a triumph, a powerful statement for the power of unity and militance, a testament to the true strength of the people.

Anyway, here are some of the photos that I was supposed to post last month.

One of the many hectares of Luisita land now planted with rice by the farmers who went on strike against the sugar plantation and refinery in 2004.

One of the many hectares of Luisita land now planted with rice by the farmers who went on strike against the sugar plantation and refinery in 2004.

A Luisita resident and farmer inadvertently flashes the "L" sign that is the trademark of Luisita part-owner and President Noynoy Aquino.

A Luisita resident and farmer inadvertently flashes the "L" sign that is the trademark of Luisita part-owner and President Noynoy Aquino.

The union flag displayed in front of a farmer's house.

The union flag displayed in front of a farmer's house.

A child wonders outside the house.

A child wonders outside the house.

A child presses his palm against a tarpaulin displayed during one union activity. On the tarp were pictures of the farmers' and farm workers' campaign in Luisita to till the land.

A child presses his palm against a tarpaulin displayed during one union activity. On the tarp were pictures of the farmers' and farm workers' campaign in Luisita to till the land.

Gossip among friends.

Gossip among friends.

On their way to school, via bicycles.

On their way to school, via bicycles.

One of only a small number of tractors employed for tilling the land in the hacienda.

One of only a small number of tractors employed for tilling the land in the hacienda.

There are those who criticize the farmers who ask that the land of Luisita be given them, saying that the hacenderos deserve to be compensated. But the farmers have toiled the land and created the wealth off the land for decades, for little or no pay. Was that, they ask, not enough?

There are those who criticize the farmers who ask that the land of Luisita be given them, saying that the hacenderos deserve to be compensated. But the farmers have toiled the land and created the wealth off the land for decades, for little or no pay. Was that, they ask, not enough?

A farmer rests and surveys the land that they have planted on so far.

A farmer rests and surveys the land that they have planted on so far.

Irrigation for the rice paddies, made by the farmers.

Irrigation for the rice paddies, made by the farmers.

Part of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway that intruded into the Luisita land.

Part of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway that intruded into the Luisita land.

Before the massacre in 2004, carabaos were banned in Luisita.

Before the massacre in 2004, carabaos were banned in Luisita.

I was there in Luisita courtesy of Salinlahi Alliance for Childen’s Concerns, who had a photography workshop program for children. The subject of these prospective child photographers were fellow children who worked in the fields.

A child photographs a fellow child who works the field.

A child photographs a fellow child who works the field.

Three of the child photographers who participated in the Salinlahi workshop.

Three of the child photographers who participated in the Salinlahi workshop.

We visited the site of the 2004 massacre. In order for us not to be whisked away by the Hacienda security, we had to pretend to be ordinary tourists (ha, tourists in Luisita) having our pictures taken there. We also were there a month after Cory Aquino's death.

We visited the site of the 2004 massacre. In order for us not to be whisked away by the Hacienda security, we had to pretend to be ordinary tourists (ha, tourists in Luisita) having our pictures taken there. We also were there a month after Cory Aquino's death.

I had to get my feet dirty.

My feet and Luisita.

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Human Rights

Land marked

If the Ayalas and the local officials and, yes, Noynoy Aquino himself, are to have their way, thousands of families in Quezon City will again be subject to forced relocation very soon. These are the people of North Triangle, whose homes perched on public land (the National Housing Authority’s, to boot) stand in the way of a “business district” catering to multinational corporations and commercial establishments. These people, many of them already former relocatees from demolished communities during past administrations, are again to become refugees in their own country. On September 23, attempts at demolishing Sitio San Roque were repulsed by barricades, stones and defense on the people’s houses with their own bodies. They temporarily succeeded, but the demolishers are determined to have their way.

A woman and a child stand in front of a huge fence separating a privately owned land (which used to be an urban poor community, too), guarded by armed security personnel, like the man behind the fence.

A woman and a child stand in front of a huge fence separating a privately owned land (which used to be an urban poor community, too), guarded by armed security personnel, like the man behind the fence.

    Sitio San Roque is a community of more than 8,000 families, before the "voluntary relocation."

Sitio San Roque is a community of more than 8,000 families, before the "voluntary relocation."

Goats for sale. Before the demolition, San Roque was humming with economic activity.

Goats for sale. Before the demolition, San Roque was humming with economic activity.

An elderly woman smiles while passing through a sari-sari store in San Roque.

An elderly woman smiles while passing through a sari-sari store in San Roque.

A basketball game to break the daily grind. Despite the cramped houses, there are many basketball courts within San Roque.

A basketball game to break the daily grind. Despite the cramped houses, there are many basketball courts within San Roque.

The divide between the plush Landmark shopping center in Trinoma Mall and the impoverished San Roque community.

The divide between the plush Landmark shopping center in Trinoma Mall and the impoverished San Roque community.

A backhoe truck seemingly stands guard between the mall and the urban poor community, the night before the start of the September 23 demolition attempt.

A backhoe truck seemingly stands guard between the mall and the urban poor community, the night before the start of the September 23 demolition attempt.

On the 23rd, the assault began in earnest. As residents, mostly youths, battled the police for control of EDSA, a demolition team went about its business of destroying homes.

On the 23rd, the assault began in earnest. As residents, mostly youths, battled the police for control of EDSA, a demolition team went about its business of destroying homes.

Many temporarily sought shelter beneath the train rails.

Many temporarily sought shelter beneath the train rails.

The houses of these children were among the first to be demolished.

The houses of these children were among the first to be demolished.

Demolilshers fling rocks, bottles and other materials at the barricaders.

Demolilshers fling rocks, bottles and other materials at the barricaders.

A cop, bearing a tear gas gun, surveys the street after the residents momentarily retreated before a hail of rocks and bottles from the demolishers.

A cop, bearing a tear gas gun, surveys the street after the residents momentarily retreated before a hail of rocks and bottles from the demolishers.

But the barricaders fight back and won EDSA -- this time.

But the barricaders fight back and won EDSA -- this time.

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