After getting her nursing license Mae-Mae immediately volunteered for a three-month medical mission to the hinterlands of Negros. Mae-Mae barely finished her volunteer work in Negros when her dreams died with her.
Mae-Mae was killed by elements of the AFP on September 18, 2008 in an alleged encounter with New People’s Army rebels. Her face was barely recognizable; she was shot at point-blank range. Her feet and legs were black and bruised, signs of torture evident elsewhere in her beaten body.
— from the CEGP statement
Rachelle Mae Palang
September 24, 2008
Justice for Rachelle Mae Palang (1986-2008),
press freedom fighter and nurse for the people
The College Editors Guild of the Philippines, in behalf of its National Office, regional formations and chapters, all member publications and affiliate organizations nationwide and across the globe, expresses its most heartfelt condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Rachelle Mae Palang (1986-2008).
Rachelle, or Mae-Mae to her closest friends and colleagues, was beloved to the Guild for her bubbly, tongue-in-cheek demeanor. She graced the Guild’s gatherings with her easy banter and infectious smile, but was always brisk and business-like in her leadership. She has served as a valuable pillar and driving force in all of the conventions and gatherings she has attended and helped organize. To most Guilders, she was not only a colleague but a precious friend and confidante.
Shock for her untimely demise are evident in her Friendster and Multiply accounts, riddled with comments ranging from disbelief, grief, and even anger – all directed at her, as if to attest that even at the time of her death her friends and colleagues still go to her for conciliation.
Such was Mae-Mae’s legacy and brand of leadership. She has always been easy to approach, a rational adviser and generous in her time and efforts.
Mae-Mae was also an outstanding student at the Velez College in Cebu City where she took up and finished her nursing degree. She became editor-in-chief of Vital Signs, the official campus publication. As campus journalist and student leader, she exemplified deep commitment to uphold press freedom, freedom of speech and students’ democratic rights and welfare. She is respected by her fellow campus journalists nationwide for her wit, intelligence and sharp grasp of issues.
She was elected as Vice President for the Visayas during CEGP’s 67th National Student Press Convention and 33rd Biennial Student Press Congress held in Albay, Bicol in 2005. She served her term for three consecutive years before she finally relinquished her post May of this year. The CEGP will without end be honored and grateful to have had someone as dedicated as Mae-Mae as one of its leading officers.
Mae-Mae worked hard to help re-open closed campus publications, establish student papers in universities who had none, and expose and fight campus press freedom violations as well as other forms of campus repression nationwide. She led, organized and participated in countless poetry readings, cultural nights, Writers’ Trips, journalist skills workshops and protest actions and activities. Even after her stint as VP for the Visayas, she proved instrumental in gathering and collating cases of campus press freedom violations in the region for CEGP’s quarterly digest.
Mae-Mae had to cut short her attendance in CEGPs’ 68th National Student Press Convention and 34th Biennial Student Press Congress in Davao City for her scheduled nursing licensure exams in May 2008. She passed with flying colors and eventually became a registered nurse. Even before she left, she announced to the Guild her desire to pursue an alternative medical career, one that she would devote to the less-privileged. Mae-Mae also took and passed the National Medical Admission Test. She dreamt of becoming a doctor.
It therefore did not come as a surprise to the Guild to learn that upon achieving her nursing license Mae-Mae immediately volunteered for a three-month medical mission to the hinterlands of Negros. Mae-Mae barely finished her volunteer work in Negros when her dreams died with her.
Mae-Mae was killed by elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines on September 18, 2008 in an alleged encounter with New People’s Army rebels. Her face was barely recognizable; she was shot at point-blank range. Her feet and legs were black and bruised, signs of torture evident elsewhere in her beaten body.
Mae-Mae’s untimely demise reminds the Guild all too painfully of the same fate that another CEGP alumna suffered under the hands of the AFP.
In April 2002, Benjaline ‘Beng’ Hernandez, former CEGP Vice-President for Mindanao and a human rights volunteer, was murdered by the military while conducting a fact-finding mission in Cotabato province. Investigations revealed that the AFP, after wounding Beng, raped and shot her at close range. The AFP later on insisted that Beng was an NPA rebel.
Beng, like Mae-Mae, was also only 22 years old when she died.
The CEGP condemns in strongest terms accusations and insinuations by the AFP that Mae-Mae was armed and a combatant. She was in Negros in her capacity as a registered nurse and circumstances surrounding her brutal killing should be independently investigated.
The CEGP, in this regard, welcomes initiatives by the Commission on Human Rights Regional Office to conduct an investigation on Mae-Mae’s case.
The CEGP is also reviled at the AFP’s gall to celebrate Mae-Mae’s death by bestowing incentives and acclaim to her killers. It is an awful and terrible reminder of the state and characteristic of our security forces. They who are supposed to protect civilians are the main enemies of human rights defenders and social workers.
The CEGP also condemns in strongest terms the AFP’s malicious attempts to malign the Guild’s name through red-tagging and nasty insinuations. It is precisely this kind of twisted mentality that gives license to the military to repress, harass, silence and kill with impunity. Journalists are easily treated and branded as rebels simply because they are exposed to the ills of society.
The CEGP calls on all its member publications and fellow journalist organizations nationwide and abroad to collectively wield their pens and raise their voices to denounce Mae-Mae’s killers.
The CEGP regards the likes of Beng and Mae-Mae as heroes of the present generation, young martyrs who have chosen to exchange their lives of comfort for their noble convictions.
Highest tribute to Rachelle Mae Palang!
Justice for Beng and Mae-Mae!
Vijae Alquisola, National President, 09162034402
Pamilya ng Desaparecidos para sa Katarungan
2/floor Erythrina bldg., #1 Maaralin cor. Matatag sts. Barangay Central, Quezon City
25 September 2008
Reference: Mary Guy Portajada,
Impunity reigns as three disappeared in six days
Suspected military men abduct 2 peasant organizers in Bataan
Suspected military men abducted two peasant organizers in two separate incidents in Bataan province on September 21 and 22, bringing to 199 the number of disappeared under the Arroyo regime.
Nelson Balmaña, 29, a resident of Area H, Sapang Palay, San Jose del Monte, Bulacan was abducted Sept. 21, while Florencia Espiritu, 46, of Brgy. Santisima Trinidad, Malolos, Bulacan was abducted Sept. 22. Both are volunteer-organizers of the Sto. Niño Lubao Farmers’ Association (SLFA). The two victims have been organizing peasants from Lubao, Pampanga an adjacent barangay to Hermosa, Bataan .
The two victims were supposed to meet on Sept. 21 at a house in Purok 2, Brgy. Daan Bago, Dinalupihan in Bataan , but Nelson texted Florencia that he could not make it and would meet her the following day instead.
On September 22, Florencia left the house at 10:30 am and was boarding a tricycle, when at least six armed men believed to be elements of the 24th IB PA took her and forced her into a white L300 FB Mitsubishi. Four of the men were armed with .45 caliber pistols, while one carried an armalite.
The abductors fled towards the direction of Pampanga-Metro-Manila. After Florencia’s abduction, several people reported that a man fitting Nelson’s description was abducted at 5 PM the day before at the same spot, and was taken by the same getaway vehicle.
On Sept. 17, another victim, James Balao, 47, of the Cordillera People’s Alliance disappeared in Baguio City . James left his home in Fairview , Baguio City to go to La Trinidad, Benguet at 7am and was not heard of since.
“In a span of six days, three victims were disappeared. The Armed Forces of the Philippines clearly shows that it is untouchable, and continues to carry out enforced disappearances, even after the Court of Appeals had ruled that it is guilty of the disappearance of Sherlyn Cadapan, Karen Empeño and Manuel Meriño,” said Mary Guy Portajada, spokesperson of the Families of Desaparecidos for Justice, or DESAPARECIDOS.
Another victim, Elmer dela Cruz was reported missing on August 23 in Hermosa, Bataan . He is still missing as of this writing.
“We call on the people to be vigilant because this government does not sleep as it commits human rights violations. Impunity reigns as Gloria Arroyo and her military remain unpunished for its crimes,” said Portajada. ###
Rachelle was an intelligent student. She graduated Valedictorian at Mandaue Science High School. While a student she was active in rallies
Photo, rights, shows Rachelle Mae raising her clenched fist at the May 2007 miting de avance of the Kabataan Partylist, Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, and Gabriela in Cebu City
“Fil-Am Youths Pay Tribute to Fellow Youth/Fallen Nurse”
Jersey City, NJ – Last September 18, 2008, Anakbayan NY/NJ, LA and Seattle led Fil-Am and Filipino immigrant youths from coast to coast in the making of a protest video against the ongoing and escalating political repression in the Philippines, particularly those violations against the youth. Members from HabiArts, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE), Sandiwa, Kappa Pi and Pugadlawin, and several supporters including some nurses, and nursing students all coordinated with Anakbayan to make a tribute video for Rachelle Mae Palang who is the most recent victim of the military’s aggressive persecution of student activists and progressive youths in the country.
Rachelle, or Mae-Mae as her friends call her, recently finished her Nursing studies at the Velez College in Cebu and successfully passed the Nursing Licensure Exam in June 2008. Her passion, however, was to become a physician so she can better serve the poor and the oppressed. In pursuit of this dream, she took and successfully passed the National Medical Admissions Test. Sadly, the world will never see a Dr. Rachelle Palang; the Philippines lost one more vessel of hope and righteousness.
In July of this year, Mae-Mae asked her parents’ permission to go to Negros Oriental for a three-month medical mission. Her goal while in the hinterlands was to promote health, treat the sick and to investigate the causes of the people’s demise. Unfortunately, In September 18, 2008 at Dauin town, Negros Oriental, that mission was cut-short. Mae-Mae was shot and killed by elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines during an encounter with the New Peoples Army. She was shot at the back of her head at point-blank range; her face was barely recognizable, the rest of her body bruised as evidence of torture. According to the AFP, Mae-Mae was a member of the NPA, and was said to be carrying and using an M-16 during the fight. This claim however, came as a shock to those who are very close to Mae-Mae.
Her friends unanimously expressed disbelief in the AFP’s report. They said Mae-Mae was outspoken but she would never have thought of using a gun. Her weapon of choice was the pen as evidenced by her commitment as the editor of their school paper in Velez College. In 2005, she was elected as Vice President for the Visayas during the College Editors Guild of the Philippines’ (CEGP) 67th National Student Press Convention and 33rd Biennial Student Press Congress held in Albay, Bicol. She relinquished her position last May after three consecutive years of faithful service. Accordingly, she endeavored to reopen closed college publications and established student publications in schools that have none. Her work focused on student rights violations in campus. Her knowledge of the society was further honed when she participated in a Basic Mass Integration (BMI) program of the CEGP where she experienced the forms of oppression endured by the masses.
“What was once called youth activism and nationalism is now labeled as threat to national security by the government. When a young person like Rachelle wishes to genuinely contribute in uplifting the downtrodden and the oppressed, the fascist government led by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo deal with it as if idealism is a menace,patriotism is a plague and serving the people a high crime,” said Kathleen Dy, member of Anakbayan NY/NJ.
In conformity with this recent surge of repression and oppression, the military has invaded the campuses of politically-involved universities. Military personnels are now a common sight in the country’s most prominent colleges and universities particularly in the University of the Philippines, Diliman (UPD) and Polytechnic University of the Philippines, Sta. Mesa (PUP).
Bea Sabino of Anakbayan NY/NJ and a nursing student expressed her concern as well, “We observed an increase of political harassment lately and one would think that this was a consequence of the newest impeachment complaint filed versus Gloria Arroyo after the one-year ban.” This latest impeachment complaint which was submitted in October 13, 2008 is already the fourth for GMA. Keen observation supports the hypothesis that the increased militarization right before the endorsement of impeachment was not a coincidence but a calculated move by the administration to scare off the opposition. Regrettably, they did not just scare off Rachelle, they killed her.
In their press release, the CEGP asserts that “the act of the military in linking Rachelle with the New Peoples’ Army is a desperate attempt to shadow the real reason why she went to Negros, that is to help the oppressed farmers. We are deeply insulted when the military praised and showered Mae-Mae’s killers with gifts and recognitions. The CEGP admonishes these inhumane and insulting actions of the military, as well as the brutal treatment of her body. We condemn the malicious attempt of the military to mislead the people from the real issue.”
Rachelle was an ordinary person who chose the road less travelled. Yes, she could have chosen a different path and lived to be a hundred but she did not. She chose to become an epitome of a student leader who struggles for genuine freedom and democracy for the people and for that, she will always be remembered.
“In memory of Mae-mae and countless other victims of state terrorism, we, the youth, reaffirm our commitment in the struggle against Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s tyranny and against the oppressive system that continue to burden our people. As long as our brothers and sisters in the Philippines are harassed, repressed, disappeared and killed the powers that be can expect more militant actions from the youth to come,” said Yves Nibungco, deputy secretary general of Anakbayan NY/NJ.
tioInstead of a Eulogy
Posted by: karlo mikhail on: September 24, 2008
One of the things I do very early in the morning when I wake up is to read the local news posted in the Internet. I don’t read everything and most of the times I just end up skimming through the mass of headlines lined up on my screen.
Like any other morning, I also went over all the headlines last Monday morning. One item that caught my attention was the news of an armed encounter between the military and alleged communist insurgents. It was titled “3 killed in Negros Oriental clash.”
Not that I felt it was something special, I am after all, like most people in this information-saturated society, desensitized to most accounts of violence. It was the proximity of the said event, the conflict occurring only an island away from Cebu, that “seduced” me to read the article anyway.
When I read the news item, I was surprised. I was shocked for I personally knew one of the names listed as casualties in the encounter.
Happier times: Rachelle Mae Palang in the May 2007 electoral campaign.
The front page of the local paper’s hard copy version even carried a different headline of the same story, “Cebu student killed in clash.” I knew Rachelle Mae Palang from two years ago when I was still chairman of the UP Cebu Student Council and later on with the Kabataan Partylist for the 2007 Elections.
Rachelle Mae was a stout, bubbly, but outspoken nursing student who was editor of Velez College’s school publication, Vital Signs. She was also an officer of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) – a national organization of campus journalists.
Needless to say, reading the news was depressing. After all, we were together in several causes – especially those related to students’ rights and the educational system.
The last time we saw each other was during the opening of the school year in 2007 at the Arts and Sciences Lobby of the UP Cebu College. She was returning the book about how to write press releases that I lent her.
I cannot say that the military’s insistence on Rachelle’s brandishing of long arms in Negros is true. After all, it is characteristic for contenders of any armed conflict to ornament the truth for their own ends. The news of her unexpected death makes me sad. She was only twenty one.
[Photo] Rachelle Mae raising her fist during the May 2007 multiparty miting de avance of the Kabataan Partylist, Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, and Gabriela at Colon St. That’s me in the extreme left.
But what if the military is right: what if Rachelle really carried an M-16 rifle? This hypothesis leads us to question what made her forgo a successful career ahead of her to go to the countryside and take up arms against the State. What made some of today’s youth give up on peaceful means for the attainment of social change?
The lamentable state of the nation is such that our youth either, like most, join the diaspora to other lands or, like a few, are led to believe that the only solution is heading for the hills.