Monthly Archives: August 2013

Desaparecidos

This is an excerpt of what I wrote in People’s Tonight about desaparecidos in December 2005.

Ayroso familyFormer activist Dee Ayroso is one of the many families of desap victims who still mourns for the loss of a loved one.

Dee’s husband Honor, a former member of the League of Filipino Students (LFS) during his younger years was abducted with his friend Johnny Orcino by suspected members of military or police in Sto. Nino III, San Jose City, Nueva Ejica on Feb. 9, 2001.

Dee said both victims are affiliated with Bayan Muna, with Honor as member and Johnny as coordinator of the party list organization.

Bayan Muna is headed by Congressman Satur Ocampo, who was a former member of the National Democratic Front (NDF). BM is a consistent number one party list organization since it joined the electoral process in 2001.

According to Girlie Padilla, acting Secretary General of the Ecumenical Movement for Justice and Peace (EMJP), almost all cases disappearances reported to human rights organizations are political in nature.

Many are activists, human rights workers, church people, local government officials, lawyers and even journalists who were critical of the Arroyo government.

Of late, Padilla said there is an increasing violation of human rights among peasants and workers who are implicated and accused of being members or supporters of the NPA.

Disappearances are reported in areas of Southern Tagalog – Mindoro, Quezon and Batangas for the last four years.

Recently, cases are reported in Eastern Visayas – Leyte and Samar.

Dee, a former correspondent of the defunct Manila Chronicle and Daily Globe, said that she was used to Honor’s ways of leaving home for a few days without any communication at all.

“Sanay akong umalis siya at hindi makontak. After one week (since his disappearance) hinahanap na siya sa akin ng mga kasama niya…,” said Dee in the verge of tears.

She relates: “Sa desap kasi crucial ‘yung 24 hours…After a month sinikap namin na mai-prop up sa media ‘yung issue para ma-pressure ang authorities…Gumawa pa ako ng media petition at nakakalap ng 200 signatures from journalists and authors para ibigay kay GMA. Pinasa ko kay Perez…pero pagbigay ko pa lang alam kong wala ng mangyayari (sa kaso).

“After several months, kailangan mo na ring mag-give up…,” she said in between tears.

“Ang masakit ‘di mawala ‘yung guilt kasi hindi mo siya nakita…hindi mo nakita ang kahit ano sa kanya…Hindi mo alam ‘yung hirap na dinanas niya…Kung patay na nga ba siya.”

The mother of two young children, along with friends and relatives has searched every places and institutions where Honor and Johnny could possibly be found, the morque, police detachments, precincts, military camps, from San Jose City to San Fernando, Pampanga, but to no avail.

One of Dee’s friends who helped her locate Honor was Danny Macapagal, the secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) Nueva Ejica Chapter for 17 years.

Macapagal or DM to his friends was himself abducted last March and never been found since.

Dee said there were two other Bayan Muna supporters in Aurora Province who were abducted a week before her husband and Johnny were taken by men in civilian clothes.

Dee and Johnny’s family were able to file a petition of habeas corpus before a local court but were dismissed for lack of enough evidence.

“Sa kwento ng asawa ko na may nauna ng karanasan sa pagdukot ng mga military noong 1989, sa torture na inabot niya wala na siyang pagasa na bubuhayin pa. Ano pa ‘yung second time?”

Honor was able to publish a novelette that accounts the physical and mental torture he suffered in the hands of his abductors for one week.

Dee would read a portion of the novelette in every forum that she was invited to speak to and for each time she would shed tears. “Naiisip ko kung dinanas pa rin niya ang ganoong klase ng pagpapahirap.”

“Naiinggit ako sa iba (human rights victims), dahil nailabas ang bangkay ng ibang napatay. Nailibing sila…naisara nila…kami hindi. Hanggang last year, umaasa ka na buhay.

“Pero habang tumatagal narerealize ko na hindi na talaga siya lalabas na buhay…pero minsan umaasa ako na uuwi pa rin siya.”

Dee reportedly keeps her old cell phone number just in case her husband would call her one day. – MVT

LGBT asks for higher AIDS budget

The Progressive Organization of Gays in the Philippines (ProGay) criticized yesterday’s supposed abolition of the scandal-plagued Priority Development Assistance Fund, insisting that President Aquino in fact took control over the congressional pork barrel and intends to hide earmarks inside the National Budget itself to escape auditing. The gay advocacy group demanded an authentic total deletion of all pork barrels including much larger discretionary sums controlled by the palace, and pressed its own calls for health-oriented budget reform.

Netizens had a field day making BADAF (short for Benigno Aquino Development Assistance Fund, a coined word) go viral hours after the President’s speech. Badaf is a queer Filipino autonym popularized in a 1980s disco song “Badaf Forever” (forever gay).

“The Philippines has a rising HIV crisis where one person gets infected every two hours, yet the allocation for prevention and treatment is so paltry, just a mere P120 million of the national budget. We are so scandalized to learn that 10 billion pesos have been squandered by corruption, and that one trillion pesos more is controlled by the President for purposes that is so hard to monitor and audit” said Clyde Pumihic, ProGay spokesperson.

The group said that Congress is deaf and blind to demands to fund the conservative estimated 2.2 billion pesos annual shortfall, the amount needed to provide adequate antiretroviral drugs to the existing populations living with HIV, clean up the blood supply, hire aid workers, and provide most at-risk groups with preventive education.

“The reported pork barrel take of 10 billion siphoned off by political dynasties and scammers like Janet Napoles could have funded five years of anti-HIV efforts. We demand the government to scrap the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), allot the necessary funds for comprehensive health care, and force these plunderers to return all the money they stole,” Pumihic said.

ProGay also pushed the government to halt its ongoing privatization programs to sell off 26 government hospitals, 36 inch drawer runners, and force many other public health facilities to remove free health care for indigents. The gay rights alliance said this move makes diagnostics for sexually transmitted infections acutely unaffordable among young and unemployed transgenders and gay men, which further fuels explosive rates of transmission among vulnerable groups.

“It’s important to demand for us to keep pressing for abolishing the Palace pork, like the Malampaya fund, which by law was supposed to develop energy industry but ended up as Napoles’ chi-chi condos. The same thing might happen to the sin tax law on tobacco supposedly for health spending, that is why we need safeguards to make sure our taxes are spent on health.”

ProGay said its chapters are ready to support the different sectoral One Million March mobilizations on Monday calling for the scrapping of the pork barrel.

The Department of Health reported that 431 new HIV cases in June brought the total number of cases in the first half of 2013 to 2,323. The DOH said this was the highest incidence rate for any month, with 88 percent of the new infections attributed to sex between males.The World Health Organization tagged the Philippines as one of nine countries where reported HIV infections are increasing by more than 25 percent.