(Beautiful Inside Out, a column by Lyn V. Ramo)
November 23 2009 is a day that we should never forget. We should keep telling that it was when Philippine democracy was at its worst and that we should not allow another single incident like the Ampatuan Massacre to happen again.
Let us keep retelling the story of the manslaughter that is also known as the Maguindanao Massacre, where at least 58 individuals literally walked to their common shallow grave.
It is not because there were 32 journalists among those who perished that democracy died at an instance on that day in November 2009. The journalists were in the wrong place at the wrong time, so to speak. It was not because they were there at the wrong time and they died a horrible death that democracy was dead.
Rather, it was because a powerful clan, the Ampatuans of Maguindanao in the south, overacted in the entrenchment of its greed for power. It was an election-related violence, no doubt.
When the masses of the people could not turn to suffrage nor to seek redress for their grievances through the power of the ballot, democracy is at its worst.
Most Filipinos still consider election returns as a reflection of their voice. Not so when the election process is marred with violence as the Maguindanao Massacre has encapsulated.
It is just a few months before we again turn to the ballot to get even with erring politicians who hold office or are wanting to return to office.
What is appalling now is that a lot of members of the Ampatuan clan, charged but not yet convicted, filed candidacy for many elective positions.
Some say that this is a proof that impunity reigns even after the ascendancy into the presidency of Pres. Benigno Aquino III.
While we remember the victims of the Maguindanao Massacre, let us not forget that there are more victims of human rights violations in varying degrees. There are those who have survived the atrocities of military presence in the countryside where mining operations are ongoing or are being laid out.
We must also keep in mind that indigenous peoples who are the rightful stewards of rich mineral lands usually become targets of extra-judicial killings. In the guise of pursuing rebels, military peace-keeping forces tag community leaders as supporters of the New People's Army (NPA), if not outright naming them NPA commanders. This (mis)tagging gives the military a license to kill its "enemies."
Recently in the Cordillera, the military took Grayson Naogsan at a mall in Baguio City. The men in civilian clothes introduced themselves as policemen and said they were taking Naogsan to Camp Crame on the basis of a warrant of arrest, which was later amended to change "Jason" to "Grayson."
Days of search for Grayson ended after two days when an informant relayed to Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) that he underwent a medico-legal process at the Bontoc provincial hospital. Relatives found him at the Ifugao provincial jail on trumped charges.
Incidentally, Naogsan is the eldest son of the spokesperson of the Cordillera Peoples Democratic Front (CPDF) Simon "Ka Filiw" Naogsan, who later condemned the arrest of his son who was about to attend the funeral of his grandfather.
According to Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (Kamp), there are 30 indigenous peoples of the 114 victims of extra-judicial killings since the second Aquino administration took to power.
The number includes a woman and her two children who figured in a massacre when a para-military group was pursuing the head of the family, a known anti-mining activist who leads protests against the Extrata-SMI in Tampacan valley in the south.
Mining interests in indigenous peoples' territories are clearly trampling upon the rights of indigenous peoples. Similar stories in Benguet need to be retold again and again as indigenous people rise in arms against mining giants Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company and Goldfields, which is presently seeking a free prior and informed consent to mine further Mankayan town.
In Itogon, Ibaloys keep watch over their remaining livelihood sources as Philex Mining Corp could not control the tailing spill from a pond that recently gave in, releasing more than 20 million tons of wastes into the Balog creek and the Agno River.
We shall keep telling our kin about all these so that even the oral history shall include the stories that many media outfits never dare to tell.
This way, we shall remember not only November 23, 2009 but also September 17, 2008 when people in La Trinidad last saw our own James Moy Balao. His is another story to tell. His is not just another heroism to emulate.