Junio 11, 2007

Phl - "Let Us Keep Vigil and Tear the Curtain of Darkness"

June 9, 2007

This statement is the unity statement of writers, artists and journalists regarding Jonas Joseph Burgos' (son of the late freedom fighter Jose Burgos) disappearance.

Let Us Keep Vigil and Tear the Curtain of Darkness
Quezon City, 09 June 2007

We are writers, artists and journalists. Our work thrives on the freedom of expression and of the press – which is among the foundations of any democracy.

History shows that the curtailment of freedom of expression and of the press is among the first steps taken by would-be dictators. It is no small wonder then that writers, artists and journalists have historically been among the fiercest opponents of authoritarianism.

On Feb. 25, 1986, the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos was ousted after three days of what has come to be known as the EDSA I uprising.

The struggle against the dictatorship, however, was not just three days. EDSA I was the culmination of more than a decade of anti-dictatorship struggle by the Filipino people, which took several forms at various times.

Among the key figures in the fight against the Marcos dictatorship were many of our fellow writers, artists and journalists – the likes of Romulo “Mulong” Sandoval, Lino Brocka, and Armando Malay to name just a few.

At this point in our country’s often-turbulent history, we are compelled to revisit the struggle for democracy waged by those who came before us, because the gains of that battle – which greatly benefited us – are now under attack.

This manifests, among other things, in the April 28, 2007 abduction of Jonas Joseph Burgos – son of the late press freedom hero Jose “Joe” Burgos, Jr. – in Quezon City by armed men. He was snatched while having lunch at Hapag Kainan Restaurant at Ever Gotesco-Commonwealth and dragged into a van with plate number TAB 194. He has not been seen since then.

Jonas is an agriculturist who teaches organic farming methods to peasants in Bulacan. The van with plate number TAB 194 had been impounded for some time at the headquarters of the Philippine Army’s 56th Infantry Battalion – which is based in Norzagaray, Bulacan – after being confiscated by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in anti-logging operations.

Jonas is not the first to fall victim to enforced disappearances. With 199 victims having been documented since 2001, he is the 16th victim this year alone.

The enforced disappearances are taking place alongside extra-judicial killings, now numbering more than 800 since 2001.

The victims were known in their communities as government critics. A good number were confirmed to have been active in cause-oriented groups, while the rest were not affiliated with any political organization. In several of the cases, state forces have been identified as the perpetrators.

The recent passage of an Anti-Terrorism Bill that defines terrorism so vaguely that even publishing or producing works with the slightest criticism of the government may be construed as a “terorristic” act should concern all who value the freedom of expression and of the press.

We are indeed at a dark chapter in our country’s history. We urge our fellow writers, artists and journalists to join us in keeping vigil and tearing the curtain of darkness in this night of our people.

Posted by marga at Junio 11, 2007 3:36 PM | TrackBack
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