No more democracy


(Speech of Joni Balao-Strugar at the Holy Mass on the 60th Anniversary of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights Cathedral of our Lady of Atonement on December 9 and at the picket at the Camp Allen gate on December 10.)

I am Joni Balao-Strugar, the youngest sister of James.

My other two siblings are in Manila on December 9 and had a meeting with our comrade Igorots and friends. They have gathered there as we gather here today for the same purpose to tell the whole world that there is no safety anymore in the Philippines. It is all about money and greed. The abduction of James is no doubt connected to money. Money shared with the surveillance team, the abductors and whoever is connected.

The Oplan Bantay Laya is a democracy with a death list. They have an order of battle list, wanted list, classified list and highly classified list of heads they want to abduct. There is no more democracy, that is called fascism. Soon intellectuals, media, journalists, organizers disappear. There is no more democracy. The state has to be open to constructive criticism – to be democratic, to learn from these criticisms, to know the needs the people demand. Without freedom of speech and of opinion, the Philippines turns into a country of fascistic rule.

My family was in Europe for a few years. We came back to the Philippines to have our young children learn about our ancestry and culture. And what do i show them? Aside from a smoke-polluted city? Atrocity? Fear? My brother, their uncle James they played and discussed with, was abducted. Where is the safety that my children can have? Their right to life and protection are in jeopardy in this democratic country. Can I have my family’s safety guaranteed for my parents, my siblings, my friends? The military, the police – meaning peace officer, peace-maker, are there to supposedly keep us safe, but they cannot guaranty our safety from enforced disappearances. Or any connections to such. Are they also safe? One wrong move and they are also dead. Where is democracy in this country?

James is not a terrorist. Why is one already a terrorist when one criticizes State politics.

Should we not be happy he is an organizer of the indigenous peoples in this unorganized country? We should be happy to have him here with us as he is a peace-maker in this discomposed and perturbed country. He devoted his knowledge to protect the indigenous peoples. And to protect the indigenous means to fight for the rights of everybody even that of the military and the police. They too are our comrades, our kailians.

I want to make it clear there are bad military men and good military men. You know who you are, and we too know who you are. Some are our friends and some are extremely evil they do not deserve to walk the earth. Jesus said, “Dear God, please forgive them for they know not what they are doing.” The Tibetans say, “What you do unto others will be done back unto you.” I say, “karma strikes back and when it strikes, you will not even see it. It will just strike so fast.” That is a divine rule too. So, to those bad guys there: Release my brother now!

I quote from Honorable Teodoro Baguilat Jr., provincial governor of Ifugao, “True, we live in a world of conflict, a war of attrition, but Cordillerans have for centuries resolved their conflicts respecting the rule of traditional law and human rights. The casualties of our wars were slain in acts of honor, not with treachery. The battles waged by our forefathers were for freedom, not for fascism.”

Losing my brother is my pain. Equally, it is all our pain. We have done all we could and we will continue to do even more until we see James again. Losing our friend is our pain, we don’t want to feel this pain. We will do whatever we can to embrace our friend, again. Losing our clan president is our pain, James is not yet finished with the Ngalatan and Calis clan family tree books. Our love for him is never ending. We defend him from any harm done towards him. We direly need him back in our lives as soon as possible. Losing our kailian is our pain. Cordillera is demanding the immediate release of James. Isakit mi ti kailian mi nga Igorot. We still have many things to do together so release James now in the name of the Cordillerans. #

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