Victims, families join SONA protests inside, outside congress

FAMILIES of political prisoners, families of victims of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and other human rights violations participated in the protests held today inside and outside Congress, as Pres. Aquino delivers his third State of the Nation Address (SONA).

“If Aquino brags in his SONA that they have done anything to achieve justice, we will be there to prove it is one big folly,”said Ernan Baldomero, vice-chairperson of Hustisya (Victims United for Justice).

Ernan is the son of Fernando Baldomero, the first victim of extrajudicial killing under the Aquino government. His father’s case was mentioned by Pres. Aquino’s SONA in 2010 as one of the cases where suspects have already been identified. However, after two years, the arrest warrant for the suspect has not been served. The case was archived at the Aklan Regional Trial Court due to lack of progress.

Victims and their families have slammed the absence of human rights and justice in Aquino’s past two SONAs. According to Hustisya, the Aquino government has denied its continuously increasing record of human rights violations.

Karapatan has documented 99 victims of extrajudicial killings under Aquino’s term.

Families of political prisoners, meanwhile, joined the protest as their kin held the last day of their hunger strike on the day of the SONA. While families joined the march in Commonwealth Avenue, a daughter of a political prisoner brought their protest inside the halls of Congress.

As guest of Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, Nikki Gamara, daughter of NDFP consultant and political prisoner Reynante Gamara, donned an orange terno made of katsa (cheesecloth), as she attended the State of the Nation Address of Pres. Noynoy Aquino in Congress. The gown with hand paintings portrays the aspirations of political prisoners and their families for freedom and justice.

Nikki said she believes that through her fashion statement, she hopes to bring to the halls of Congress the call of relatives of political prisoners for their immediate release.

“I am witness to the continuing persecution and violations against activists, as what my father has experienced. An alias warrant bearing trumped up charges against my father was used to justify his arrest despite the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) which states protection from arrests and other rights violations against peace consultants like him. I am in the SONA to call for the immediate release of all political prisoners and demand that illegal arrests and detention should stop under his term,” she said.

Reynante Gamara is a trade union leader during the Martial Law period. He was arrested for fabricated charges of murder with kidnapping in April 5, 2012.

The paintings bear some images of the 385 political prisoners in the country, 107 of them illegally arrested and detained including Gamara, chained by the persistent attacks against activists advocating for people’s rights. The “birds of freedom” at the back part of the gown depict the call for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners.

Artists Ugat Lahi chairperson Crisanto de Leon and Bobert Elyas handpainted the katsa terno, while Luz Domingo, a member of Hustisya (organization of victims of human rights violations and their families), made the beadwork and the gown itself.

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