Amidst threat of typhoon Pablo, marchers all set for a weeklong Lakbayan

LUCENA CITY – The weeklong Lakbayan ng Mamamayan ng Timog Katagalugan Para sa Karapatang Pantao (Southern Tagalog People’s March for Human Rights) lead by Karapatan or Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights in Southern Tagalog kicks-off today from this city.

“We are braving the storm, come hell or high water,” said Mylene Zantua, a coconut farmer from San Narciso, Quezon. She said they have been preparing for the march for more than a month now and not a super-typhoon can stop them.

“Intensified militarization in our area is far more frightening than any storm or natural calamity,” added Zantua who came from the Bondoc Peninsula area of the province.

Zantua’s group is calling for the immediate pull-out of the Philippine Army in their province. In her testimony during a rally in front of Camp General Nakar, she mentioned that since last year Karapatan already documented at least 200-individual victims of human rights violations in the province and they believe that these incidents were perpetrated by the state armed elements.

“Militarization under the government’s counterinsurgency policy called Oplan Bayanihan is one of the primary issues we are bringing to the attention of Aquino’s administration,” declared Karapatan in their statement.

Karapatan already accounted 114 cases of extrajudicial killings, 12 enforced disappearances, 70 cases of torture and 224 individuals under illegal arrest and detention in the Philippines.

The group said that their long and painstaking march from local provinces to the government’s seat of power in Manila would be a symbol of their immeasurable condemnation of the Aquino’s bloodied Daang Matuwid.

At one point, the marchers walked barefooted and dipped their feet on red paint leaving a bloody footprints.

“This is the blood trail of the AFP!” one of the marchers shouted.

The group will be traveling at least 130-kilometers from Lucena City to the National Capital Region.

The start of Lakbayan coincides with the International Day of Solidarity with Political Prisoners.

Former political detainee, Axel Pinpin, initiated a simultaneous poetry reading around the globe. Pinpin, who is also a poet, said that one of his prison poems “Political Prisoner’s Song” will be simultaneously read today in different jails in the country.

Pinpin added that they are also expecting high-profile political prisoners in other countries to join the poetry reading. Among them, journalist Mumia Ali-Jamal, The Cuban 5, punk band Pussy Riot and Kurdistan revolutionary leader Abdullah Öcalan. A group of young activist from Germany was also expected to hold a poetry reading event.

The marchers from Quezon are expected to be joined by other marchers from CALABARZON and MIMAROPA provinces in the succeeding days. The march will culminate on December 10 – the 64th year of Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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