Saturday , May 26, 2018

Velez: When ‘Never Again’ happens again

IT WAS a hot mid-afternoon when Amelia, a community schoolteacher in Mindanao, boarded a taxi after attending a two-day national gathering of religious and lay people working in missions for the poor.

No sooner did she leave when her taxi was blocked by a vehicle, and two officers came down from it, knocked on her window and forced her out of her taxi.

Her companions on board clung to her as she was taken. Later ,the authorities claimed she is another person who is facing a murder charge.

This could be a Martial Law story, where illegal arrests and trumped-up charges on people authorities suspect for helping the poor are common.

Only that, this incident happened this year, on August 19 in Cebu City.

Sixty-four-year-old Amelia Pond, teacher and curriculum developer of Salugpongan Community Learning Center was arrested after attending the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines Assembly by the Crime investigation and Detection Group (CIDG).

The CIDG put her as the accused in a 15-year-old murder case. But her name doesn’t appear on the warrant, nor the charge sheet. But to the RMP members’ surprise, the CIDG showed two IDs that bore Amelia’s face but bore a different name that of Adelfa Toledo, a name that is included in the murder charges.

Her lawyer, Ateneo Free Legal Aid’s Manny Quibod, said this is a violation of her rights as she is accused as someone else and arrested and detained in a questionable way.

A hearing to grant her freedom was ruled against her favor late last month. Now a motion of reconsideration is underway. This is not a Martial Law story, but then it seems it is still a Martial Law story.

Human rights activists and organizations will say that yes we ousted Marcos from power, but the vestiges of the militarist rule still remain.

We see that in the illegal arrest and trumped-up charges such as that of Amelia Pond, and along with it the suspicion of her school as a “school of the NPAs” as the military keep branding it, never mind that Salugpongan and other similar schools in Mindanao have been recognized by the DepEd as part of the Indigenous Peoples’ Education Office. We also see the vestiges when hungry farmers get shot by police, lumad teachers getting killed, and lumads staying in evacuation centers til God knows when. Then we ask what have the administrations past and present done to eliminate this kind of impunity?

Today we commemorate Martial Law with survivors saying never again, and never forget those dark days of repression. But for Amelia Pond who was among those detained during those years, she is seeing déjà vu.

And there’s this Marcos family that keeps harping that the late strongman must be buried a hero, as they try to paint his presidency with rainbow colors to cover the red stains.

His daughter said we should forgive and move on, but have they asked for forgiveness? Have they totally let go of their ill-gotten wealth that is still locked in a legal battle?

We should repeat those lines and mean it. Never again. To fascism. To greed. To repression. To twisting histories and wiping memories of a despotic time. Never ever again.