Saturday, January 2, 2010

I chose the road to...a massacre

I have witnessed and listened to some pretty gruesome things in the four months that I’ve lived in Hong Kong, but none quite as life-changing as November 23rd... the day of the Maguindanao (Mindanao) Massacre in the Philippines.
57 innocent people were tortured and slaughtered over political gain. Of the deceased, the majority of them were women; two of which were visibly pregnant. 34 of them were journalists. 5 people were killed because they were just driving by at the wrong time and were mistaken to be a part of the convoy. The Philippines is now the second most deadliest place in the world for reporters, second only to Iraq.

The events that led to this unfortunate loss of life began with a threat by Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr, who vowed to kill Esmael Mangudadatu if he ran against him for the governor’s seat in the forthcoming Maguindanao gubernatorial election in May 2010. Mangudadatu’s wife and two sisters decided that they would file his certificate of candidacy papers to be on the safe side because surely no one would harm a group of women. They invited some human rights lawyers and reporters who had heard of the women’s plans and decided to join in the convoy. The group grew to approximately 40 something people as they went off into Ampatuan Country to file the papers.

They were ambushed. They were shot, tortured, and some were raped. The women were all shot in their genitals. The wife of Mangudadatu was slashed with a knife four times and shot in her genitals, they speared out both of her eyes, shot her breasts, cut off her feet, and fired into her mouth. All I can think of is how long did she have to endure this before she died?

All of the victims were eventually buried, cars included, by a government owned backhoe. The backhoe, emblazoned with the name of Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., was later identified to belong to the Maguindanao provincial government.

The Philippines has long been known as a place filled with corruption and exploitation, but this blatant attack on unarmed, innocent people puts evil on a whole new level for me.
After this massacre I joined an organization called HKCAHRPP (Hong Kong Campaign for the Advancement of Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines). HKCAHRPP is a loose coalition of people and migrant workers organizations interested in peacekeeping and human rights activism. Our objectives are to call for a stop to extrajudicial killings, establish solidarity between filipinos and international organizations, expose the real state of the Philippines, and to participate in fact finding missions. I hope to raise enough money to go on the next fact finding mission to the Philippines in May for the 2010 elections.
The Philippines are infamous for fraudulent elections, especially where the Macapagal-Arroyo government is concerned. Our presence there will be to support people’s efforts to protect their votes and to contextualize the electoral fraud and violence within the continuing human rights violations by giving international pressure.

Multiple migrant organizations along with the filipino congregation at St. John's held a candlelight vigil to honor the victims and grieve this incredible loss. A local Islamic leader came to speak as well and condemned the actions of the Ampatuan Family, stating that despite what some Muslims might say the Holy Koran does not endorse nor advocate murder. He went on to say that he hopes that we can come together as Christians and Muslims to seek justice for the Philippines.

It is my hope that the Philippines may one day find peace. They continue to struggle with government corruption, extreme poverty, multiple typhoons and floods this year, and now it appears a volcano is about to errupt.
Please pray for peace and comfort for the people in the Philippines.