I am reposting here Kapatirang Simbahan para sa Bayan’s (KASIMBAYAN) heartrending article on why the human rights situation in the country is not at all ‘lovely’ as reported by Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita before the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the UN Council in Geneva.
Twice Orphaned: Adeliza Albarillo
The human rights situation in the country is lovely – if we are to believe in the report made by Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita.The Philippine report to the Universal Periodic (UPR) Review of the UN Council in Geneva was accorded with much applause from the audience.Granting that the audience believed him the way they believed that Gloria Arroyo did not cheat in the 2004 presidential election, the truth about extrajudical killings and the record of human rights violations in the countr y is remains horrible—far from being lovely. The governmnet of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo may submit to all international agencies a report that would send an impressive picture of human rights situation in the country, but what does the report mean to a young girl like Adeliza Albarillo?
“Masakit isipin na hanggang ngayon wala pa ring nakamit na katarungan ang mga magulang ko at ang daan-daang biktima ng extrajudicial killings.” (It is so painful to think that until now there is no justice rendered on the killings of my parents and the hundreds of victims of extra judicial killings.)
These were the words of Adel (Adeliza) Albarillo during the memorial gathering for the 6th year death anniversary of her parents Expedito and Manuela Albarillo held on April 10, 2008 at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani, Quezon City .
On April 8, 2002, Adel then only eleven years old and in her fifth grade witnessed the tragic incident in her family. It was still dark, while everyone else in the barrio (village) was asleep, and the dawn light was about to break when armed men wearing bonnets and military uniform stormed into their house. Adel was awakened when she heard a commotion . She taught her Nanay (mother) and Tatay (father) were just arguing on something. However, when she tried to see what was going on, she was shocked that her parents were being dragged outside. She neither moved nor whimpered . She did not let the armed men know that she was in the house witnessing the cruelty of her parents’ attackers. She heard her mother saying, “Why are you doing this to us? Have pity on us.” Not far away, she saw her father being tied and hit by an armalite. Adel wanted to shout but could not, she remained silent. She thought of seeking help from their neighbours and relatives so she crawled out from the back of their house and went to her grandmother’s house. Then she heard gunshots. She was crying and panting. She thought then that the gunshots must have been aimed to her Nanay and Tatay. They must have killed them.
At the break of the morning light, family members and neighbourhood saw the dead bodies of the couple. Expedito sustained multiple gunshot wounds and one of his eyes was gouged out. Manuela was shot right under her right eye with the bullet piercing through her neck.
Expedito and Manuela are both from Oriental Mindoro ( Luzon ). Expedito was an active barangay leader and a the Coordinator of Bayan Muna, a progressive party list representing the marginalized sectors of society while Manuela was a member of GABRIELA, a national women’s organization with wide membership among grassroots women. The community members could only testify to the goodness and kindness of
Adel was only twelve years old when we first met her with some of the internal refugees who stayed at the United Church of Christ in the Philippines chapel in Quezon City , and who later camped at the Union Theological Seminary in Cavite . At such a tender age, we have witnessed how she led the other children who were also emotionally, psychologically and physically injured by militarization in the countrysides. She was like a big sister to them. One time, when she joined the team who picked up the relief goods we solicited for the internal refugees, she politely told us, “There’s a new born baby in the camp.” She was staring at the disposable diapers piled at the corner when she was telling this. We just laughed and handed to her a pack.
After her parents’ death, Adel stayed with her older siblings and on some occasions, with the human rights group. Eden Marcellana, General Secretary of KARAPATAN -Southern Tagalog , a human rights organization and Eddie Gumanoy, a peasant leader in the region, became Adel’s immediate parents. She called them Nanay Eden and Tatay Eddie. However, on April 21 , 2003, both leaders were also summarily executed on their way home after conducting a human rights fact-finding mission in Mindoro . The Human Rights group KARAPATAN believed that the military was responsible for the killings.
Adel was so depressed and the wound from her recent parents murder was reopened with greater pain and anguish. I remember her speaking in an indignation rally on the killings of Eden Marcella and Eddie Gumanoy held in front of the Department of National Defense. Adel courageously faced the policemen and soldiers and tearfully said,
“Don’t you know how difficult it was to be an orphan? When my parents were killed, Nanay Eden and Tatay Eddie became my immediate parents. But they too were killed. You also have children. Would you like them to be orphans too?”
Tears began rolling from her eyes as she cried. Everyone knew how difficult it was for a child like her to be orphaned twice. More painful was the fact that both her biological and community parents were killed when they were humbly and simply obeying God’s greatest commandment of loving your neighbour.
Adel is now seventeen years old. Before we started the Catholic mass for her parents and for the more than 900 victims of extrajudicial killings, I saw her alone staring at the trees. I approached her and asked, “Kumusta ka na,” (how are you?). She was quiet and with teary eyes, she said, “Ok naman po.”
“I still remember my parents. There were nights when I dreamed about them. One time, when I was so lonely and missing them, they appeared in my dreams. They were asking me if I wanted to go with them. I wanted to reach out for their hands because when they were still alive, I felt so secured by their embrace and presence. Yes, I wanted to go with them in my dream….but my brother woke me up and told me that I was raising my hand and crying. Today, as I remember them, I always long for their embrace, but I know it will never happen again because they were gone six years ago ….” She started to shed tears like a fresh stream of waters flowing through her young face. But it was a short weeping episode. She easily dried her tears away as we went back to the mass.
During the mass, she said, “While there are many of us who have been orphaned and lost their loved ones, we are proud of the decision they chose to serve the people. We must continue the work that they have done. We become lonely because we missed them and sometimes, we even feel discouraged because until now, not a single case of killing involving our parents and loved ones has been resolved, but still we must pursue seeking justice.”
Adel was just a child when she witnessed the meaning of persecution of those who serve the people. Her parents were violently taken away from her. She was still a child, but t she already learned to value a life offered for others. That in the midst of repression there are those who are willing to lay down their lives for the sake of others. She has seen this in her parents, She has seen this in Nanay Eden and Tatay Eddie who took care of her and loved her. She has seen this with her brothers, sisters , friends and members of people’s organizations who keep on believing , struggling and hoping that a brighter tomorrow is possible. And yes, she learned this life’s truth and value before she reached the age of seventeen.
Norma P. Dollaga
KAPATIRANG SIMABAHAN PARA SA BAYAN
3/F NCCP 879 Edsa Quezon City