In the Time of Cholera

Red and green are invading houses, malls, streets, churches, and stores. Along with the proliferation of Santa Claus outfits on TV ads, Christmas lights and decors adorning the campus, holiday greetings, and the chilly mornings, all these announce the start of the Yuletide season.

Perhaps most of us are already busy making Christmas wishlists. For sure, some of us are thinking what presents to give our friends and families as we return to our hometowns.

But not all are as blessed. For the past eight years, it would not be an exaggeration to say that not a day or week passes without one’s hearing or reading a news report of human rights abuses.

Be it for political killings, forced disappearances, illegal detentions, torture, massacres, harassment, abductions, and so on, the Arroyo regime has become notorious as the worst human rights violator after the Marcos dictatorship.

How lucky of them not to have been summarily executed or made to disappear by the military was the immediate response of some people when hearing the news of last semestral break’s illegal detention of three Cebu-based student leaders.

And indeed, lest we forget, UP Diliman students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan, like the three, were also working with peasants when they were abducted four years ago. The two remain missing.

The impunity with which human rights are desecrated is reflective of the kind of society we live in. It is symptomatic of the desperation of the Arroyo regime, which had to resort to physical violence against its political enemies to perpetuate itself in power.

Through Oplan Bantay Laya I and II, the armed forces, police, and other repressive state apparatuses have been mobilized in the anti-insurgency campaigns to thwart the resistance to the regime’s scandalous schemes and anti-people policies.

The human rights alliance KARAPATAN has documented at least 1000 cases of political killings and more than 200 cases of enforced disappearances. The Maguindanao Massacre added 34 journalist killings to this list.

But this is not just a matter of statistics. Some of us students, after all, are not new to infringement of rights even in the campus. The adoption of the repressive Diliman Code of Student Conduct here in UPV is like a sword that hangs over our heads.

It is often said that every Filipino has a relative or a friend or at least someone close who is working abroad. With the way things are going, it seems that the day is not far when the same can be said of victims of state terrorism.

Luisa Posa-Dominado, for instance, who was abducted along with fellow activist Nilo Arado by alleged military elements in April 12, 2007, is the mother of one UPV student. The two remain missing until now.

Wheras iskolars ng bayan demand genuine student consultations and respect for students rights in the campus, the loved ones left behind by victims of human rights violations are wishing for justice and genuine democracy this Christmas. ■

Note: Published as the editorial of the December 2009 issue of Pagbutlak, the Official Student Publication of the University of the Philippines Visayas College of Arts and Sciences.

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