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Sorsogon HR Stories
by Reynaldo T. Jamoralin
Sentro Sorsogon/Kaiba News and Features

"Hindi ko po alam kung saan hihingi ng tulong . . . "

One by one, they stood up - some of them actual victims, but mostly
either wives or mothers of victims of alleged human rights violations whose
husbands or sons could no longer appear to testify because they were
already six feet under the ground - hesitantly at first, almost fearfully, as
they were called to the stand by Congressman Loretta Ann Rosales, chair of
the House Committee on Civil, Political and Human Rights, during a public
hearing, April 1, held at the Vicenta Hall of the Fernandos Hotel,
Sorsogon City, to look into reports of human rights violations committed
allegedly by mostly elements of the Philippine Army operating in the Province of Sorsogon.

A one-armed Nicanor Discaya, of Bacon District, Sorsogon City, stood
up, together with his mother, and testified how they were simply resting
in front of their house when shots rang out. Nicanor instantly fell to
the ground seriously wounded. His left arm was so mangled that doctors
had to chop off his arm at the elbow. The investigation showed that he was
merely caught in the crossfire. But, inexplicably, instead of at least
apologizing to the victim and his family for the accidental shooting, Nicanor,
his father, Teodoro, and two house guests were hauled off by the military
to their camp and charged with subversion. Mercifully, they were soon
released because of lack of evidence, but Nicanor could no longer recover half
of his arm.

In Barangay Marinas, also in Sorsogon City, early morning of February
15, six friends were still asleep after a long night of watching video
movies in the house of Alvin Hubilla, a high school student at the St. Louise
de Marillac College, when a group of military men barged in and started
hitting them with rifle butts and stomping their heavy boots on the prone
bodies of the youths. Investigation showed that the military were then in "hot
pursuit" of suspected rebels in the killing the day before of some
policemen in nearby Gubat town, when the soldiers chanced upon the house of
Alvin and his friends. The rebels supposedly ran in the direction of the house.
All six youths are still detained at the Bureau of Jail Management and
Penology in Balogo, Sorsogon City, facing charges of multiple murder. Most of
them are still minors.

One by one, the victims, and witnesses, testified in eight documented
cases during the hearing - they all had almost the same sad and sometimes
horrifying stories to tell about abuse, torture and unfounded
accusations.

But the most telling was that of a mother who testified in behalf of
her son who was shot dead "for no reason at all", according to her.

When asked by Congressman Rosales why she did not immediately report
the incident to the local authorities, all she could say, tearfully,
was, "Hindi ko po alam kung saan hihingi ng tulong. Hindi po ako nakatapos ng pag-aaral. Hindi ko po alam kung paano gumawa ng report."

For the hapless mother, the government, the police, the military, the
local officials might as well be invisible. They were simply not there for
her who needed help, as well as the many other similarly situated ordinary
people in the barangays.

This prompted Congressman Jose Solis (1st dist., Sorsogon) to ask a
rhetorical question, "How do people perceive the police, the
military, the local officials? Are they friends, ready to help, or are they the
enemy?"

Gauging from the testimonies of the victims and relatives of victims,
they all had this overwhelming feeling of helplessness. Many of them
confessed that they were actually even afraid to approach the police, the
military or even the local officials for help.

Although the local officials who were present during the one-day
hearing asserted that they were always there to help, if only the people who
needed help would approach them, there is no denying the reality of
intimidation, helplessness, hesitance and fear that pervades the Philippine
countryside today (Sentro Sorsogon/Kaiba News and Features-www.kaiba.cjb.net)
 

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KAIBA News & Features, P.O. Box 6126, Naga City 4400.  email: alcalara@edsamail.com.ph  Tel No. 0917 8122107 Copyright 1999  KAIBA News & Features. All rights reserved.  Revised: May 16, 2003