Rage against TerrorJune 24, 2007 marks the 19th death anniversary of Atty. Alfonso Surigao–-a people’s lawyer, human rights advocate and victim of the system of injustice he fought against and paid dearly for with his life.
Atty. Surigao’s life exemplifies the triumph of tireless devotion for the downtrodden and oppressed. Amidst the lure of fame and prestige, he took the road less traveled by that brings one to the grim reality that grips us by the throat – in slums and communities threatened by demolitions, in far-flung mountain barangays and peasant homes threatened by militarization- in the very embrace of the oppressed and exploited Filipino masses, among the nameless and countless victims of human rights violations.
He chose to take this road and met his end with a brutality that doesn’t befit the nobility of his work. He was shot repeatedly in front of his child in his own home in Minglanilla by military assets and members of the Kadre vigilante group.
Nineteen years hence, such dastardly attacks continue to haunt the people. In fact, there is an escalation of attacks which only underscores the state of an undeclared martial law over the country. This is akin to the wave of attacks in the 1980s when more than 12 human rights lawyers fighting the dictatorship were killed.
In the Visayas alone, 4 lawyers have been killed in cold blood since 2005, among them is Atty. Felidito Dacut of Bayan Muna-Eastern Visayas who was gunned down by motorcycle-riding army assets in Tacloban City on March 14, 2005. In the same fashion, Mahaplag clerk of court Alfredo Davis of Bayan Muna-Leyte was killed while traveling with his wife on 14 April 2005. These murders were part of the 17 recorded cases of political killings in Eastern Visayas since the notorious B/Gen. Jovito Palaparan was assigned in that region on February, 2005.
Prior to these, Atty. Romeo Capulong, UN Judge ad litem and Karapatan legal adviser, survived an assassination attempt in Bulacan. And just recently, the law office of Atty. Tonyboy Azarcon, spokesperson of Karapatan-Surigao Sur, was ransacked by soldiers in May 31, 2005.
Activist lawyers have also been the subject of overt surveillance, threats and harassment while attending to their clients involved in land and labor disputes. Their offices and homes are visited by unidentified armed men suspected to be from the military.
Added to the persecution of progressive and pro-people lawyers are the countless numbers of priests, ministers, political leaders, youth leaders, peasant-folk, among others, who comprise a rising death toll. As if these are not enough, the illegitimate government of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is institutionalizing these attacks thru the passage of a terror law euphemistically called Human Security Act of 1997.
The time is but fitting and right that the people should clamor once more for the swift hand of justice to vindicate the victims of repression and human rights violations. The scandal-wracked Arroyo government should address this problem and accord justice where it is due. Or face the ire of the people betrayed.