Pinoys join Hong Kong people in vigil

“THIS is the first Sunday we’ve been out after the August 23 bloodbath. We dedicate this day to show our sympathy to the victims of the tragedy, to reflect on how and why such happens in Philippine society, and to show our solidarity with the people of Hong Kong in calling for justice.”

This was expressed today by Eman Villanueva of the Filipino Migrant Workers’ Union (FMWU), as the group took the occasion of its 12th anniversary program to hold a public program dedicated to the victims of the tragic Manila hostage-taking and to condemn what they call as a “state of disrespect to life and human rights” by the Philippine government and its armed forces.

The peak of the whole day event was the People’s Vigil for Solidarity and Justice attended by OFWs and local HK people including legislators, employers, students, workers and the religious. Earlier in the day, an All-Filipino Interfaith Prayer Offering that gathered church leaders in an hour of prayers and a Public Speakout and Forum, where OFWs were able to express their views on the tragedy, were also held.

The two-hour vigil and candle-lighting was jointly organized with local groups including the Justice and Peace Commission of the HK Catholic Diocese (HKJP), HK Catholic Commission for Labour Affairs (HKCCLA), Hong Kong Christian Council (HKCC), Association for the Advancement of Feminism (AAF), Asia-Pacific Students and Youth Association (ASA) and World Student Christian Federation – Asia Pacific (WSCF-AP). Filipino groups like BAYAN-HK and GABRIELA-HK also led the event.

Protesters from the rally organized by Hong Kong political parties earlier in the day also joined in the vigil. The vigil culminated in a symbolic signing of messages of those who attended in a giant tarpaulin bearing the call for justice.

“It is our condolence and sympathy that we want to convey. It is the deeper and systemic problems within the police and the government in the Philippines that we want to expose. It is our solidarity that we want to show and the call for justice we share with the Hong Kong people that we want to echo,” said Villanueva.

Dolores Balladares, chairperson of the United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-HK), said that the botched rescue that saw eight people dead and scores more gravely injured, showed a clear disregard to making the lives of the hostages a topmost priority. She said that “the low regard for life and the safety and protection of civilians is a mark of the armed institutions of the government.”

According to her, such conduct is deeply ingrained in the orientation, training and operation of the police and the whole armed forces. “They are not based or directed by respect to human rights such as the right to life or due process and so wantonly conduct actions without any consideration to its outcome. Thus, an operation that should have saved lives ended up in the killing of almost half of the innocent hostages,” she stated.

Balladares said that “the competence of the police and the Philippine armed forces is not on saving and protecting people’s lives and rights but on ending and violating them.” This she said is shown by the spotty human rights record of the Philippine police and armed forces that is mired with cases of corruption, involvement in organized crimes, torture of suspected criminals as well as extrajudicial killing, illegal arrest and enforced disappearance of activists and human rights defenders.

This sentiment was also echoed by Axel Pinpin, secretary-general of the peasant group KASAMA-TK in Southern  Tagalog who was in Hong Kong for a visit and who also offered poems for the victims of the tragedy and human rights abuses in the Philippines.

“The same police unit – the Manila Police District – who conducted the whole rescue operation was also the same unit who violently dispersed the peaceful action of farmers in July 3 this year for genuine agrarian reform. It just showed that when it comes to saving lives and respecting human rights, they are incompetent. But when it is about fascism and repression, they can do it with flying colors and even with eyes closed,” Pinpin stated.

Finally, Balladares said that the show of solidarity between OFW groups and the HK people on the day’s events will continue as they monitor the investigations being conducted on the tragic hostage-taking as well as the reported backlash on Filipino migrants in Hong Kong.

“There have been reports of unfortunate reactions by a few Hong Kong people against Filipino migrants such as arbitrary termination of contracts and some cases of verbal harassment. We shall together stand guard against these.

But we do believe that the concern of the overwhelming majority of HK people is more on making sure that the Philippine government and officials take responsibility and accountability to what happened to their compatriots. Our call is the same for Filipinos who have also been victimized by the human rights violations stemming from the very policies of the government. The culture of impunity in the Philippines must end,” Balladares concluded. D’Jay Lazaro

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