Flash points for protest
Amid the natural and human induced crises we’ve been confronted with the past few days — torrential rains and their consequences like floods and monumental traffic, the brief to-do over lotto and other gambling operations, the continuing policy and diplomatic imbroglio over Chinese incursions — life moves on, even as our attention needs to turn to more fundamental and basic concerns.
One of these is the continuing assault on our basic rights, in particular the attacks being launched against prominent figures in the political opposition, either in or out of government. We’re talking, for one, about the inciting to sedition charges being arrayed against 36 personalities, most prominently Vice President Leni Robredo and former and current senators, opposition candidates in the last elections, Catholic bishops and priests, and individuals — though supporters prefer to call them “citizens” — all indicted through guilt-by-association by so-called “whistleblower” Peter Joemel Advincula, aka “Bikoy.”
Several groups, including Catholic bishops and clergy, women’s organizations and political and civil society organizations, have issued statements condemning the hurried and sweeping filing of charges even as police are still scrambling to collect enough evidence against the accused.
Another flash point is the unjust, illegal and continuing punishment meted on Sen. Leila de Lima. She has been detained since 2017 in Camp Crame on charges stemming from the dubious testimony of drug lords she had caused to be incarcerated. But, really, her ordeal is traceable to her staunch stance against the drug war and support for human rights.
De Lima is today petitioning the court that sentenced her to allow her to visit her ailing mother who is 86. In her motion for furlough, De Lima appealed to the court to be allowed to visit her mother Norma in Iriga City, where Norma has been confined and is reportedly in critical condition.
In view of the senator’s upcoming birthday on Aug. 27, women supporters are preparing a statement calling on the Duterte government to release De Lima “based on internationally recognized legal and humanitarian principles that are also enshrined in our culture and laws.” The statement declares that the senator “is a mother, a daughter and a sister who has been the bedrock of wisdom and support for her family,” and her absence “is an indictment of the mean-spirited and hard-hearted nature of the (Duterte) regime.”
The “immediate and unconditional release” of De Lima, they say, “will correct a grave injustice and recover some of the reputation and dignity of a country whose image has been badly damaged by her continuing arbitrary detention.”
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Remember “Salamat Pho,” the fund-raising held last month to raise funds for the #RectoBank22? The group of fishermen and their families lost their livelihood (with their integrity impugned) after they testified that their boat was rammed by a Chinese vessel and were then abandoned in the high seas.
Well, just last week, Ronald Cabalu and his wife Yen, volunteers with Team Pilipinas which organized “Salamat Pho,” traveled 10 hours to San Jose, Occidental Mindoro, to meet with the fishermen and their families and listen to their stories. The Cabalu couple turned over P100,000 that the fishers could use to repair their craft and for their daily expenses, the amount raised through “Sagwan ng Pag-asa,” another fund-raising effort for the fisherfolk, and “Salamat Pho.”
Team Pilipinas will not stop with the Mindoro fishermen, said Cabalu. One of its ongoing activities is the campaign to “Protect Vice President Leni Robredo” which will, among other objectives, “fight against any attempt to unduly impeach and remove” the Vice President. Another activity is to help bring supplies to public school teachers “who often have to use their own money just to be able to buy necessary teaching materials for their classes and (for use by) their students.”
Volunteers and supporters are invited to take part in the Team Pilipinas General Assembly on Aug. 17 at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani in Quezon City.