‘Silence is no longer an option’

Published March 13, 2021, 12:07 AM

by Tonyo Cruz


Tonyo Cruz
Tonyo Cruz

Nimfa Lanzanas is a model mother. Eversince the government imprisoned her son Edward, she attended court proceedings and also joined relatives of other political prisoners in a common cause.

Exactly what crime Nanay Nimfa has committed, only the government knows.  But on what is now infamously known as Bloody Sunday, the government had her arrested and turned Nanay Nimfa into a political prisoner herself.

What made Bloody Sunday bloody was that nine other advocates were killed across CALABARZON, never to be heard or seen again by their family, neighbors and communities. Tragically, the fallen won’t be able to challenge the crimes they supposedly committed. Their fate deprived them of the right to due process (and presumption of innocence) and also obviously the very life needed to enjoy that right. Authorities saved themselves the trouble of proving their “charges” in court.

In a tweet, former Vice President Jejomar Binay laid bare the inconvenient truth about Bloody Sunday: “Activists are not armed combatants. There is a very big difference. And when officials encourage, condone, and even defend the killing of unarmed civilians, there is a clear breakdown in civil governance. We have become a lawless State.”

Like other officials, Binay knows many activists, and that it is downright stupid for any activist to even possess a gun or an explosive. Indeed, why would activists even consider carrying weapons when they and everyone knows that it would negate the legality of their actions, and open them to attacks? What people’s organization or workers’ assistance center would willingly or consciously build an armory in its office?

Governors and mayors of Batangas, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal know their activists. They are also their people, their most committed constituents. They’ve had many encounters at picketlines, consultations, negotiations, relief operations, and political campaigns. They might sometimes disagree, but I seriously doubt that they believe the black propaganda that these decent, honorable and conscientious people are armed, and would engage law enforcers in a firefight in the dead of the night.

Local governments should seriously consider passing provincial, city and municipal resolutions to denounce the killings of all their citizens (including activists or advocates), reaffirm their commitment to uphold and enforce the Bill of Rights in their localities, and to call for the resumption of peace negotiations between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

Cavite should honor the memory of Fr. Joe Dizon, the founder of the Workers Assistance Center and who preached Catholic social teaching on empowering workers in Cavite so that they could attain a decent way of life. There’s nothing wrong with what Fr. Joe stood and fought for, which WAC continues in his passing. Cavite is a better province, thanks to the service of Fr. Joe and WAC.

The Bloody Sunday arrests and killings give rise to questions begging to be answered: Who will advocate now for Nanay Nimfa and for advocates who have been killed? Who will champion and protect WAC and people’s organizations in CALABARZON? Who will carry on the campaigns they have pursued amid the pandemic and the reign of error and terror?

Further away from Manila, and days earlier, a lawyer was stabbed in the head right in the middle of his hometown of Iloilo.

In a widely-shared Facebook post, Jose Edmund Guillen wrote lovingly about his nephew and fellow lawyer AK Guillen, the Ilonggo human rights lawyer who’s now recuperating from a violent incident that befell him.

The elder Guillen wrote: “When I saw my nephew AK at the emergency room that night, with the screwdriver still embedded in his head and blood slipping through his wounds, I was so angry and yet fearful that the attack will not be the last one. I could not believe  that AK, a simple, unassuming, mild-mannered and respectful person would be a victim of a vicious, pre-meditated, and cowardly assassination attempt.”

“I was told that many are trying so hard to make it appear that what happened to AK is an isolated case of robbery. In my 27 years as a lawyer, I have not encountered a case of robbery in the street wherein the suspects mauled the victim first, stabbed him on the head, neck and back shoulder, then one of them shouted to his fellow assailant to get the bag only after their two get away motorcycles arrived to pick them up. AK’s wallet and cellphone were not even taken. The CCTV footage speaks for itself,” the elder Guillen said.

The elder Guillen sums it up succinctly: Silence is no longer an option.

For Nanay Nimfa, for Atty. AK, for those who have perished, and for us for whom they devote their energies and their very lives, let’s stand up and speak out. ###