A Year Ago
A year ago, a hail of bullets snuffed out the life
of my wife, Alice, and left me and my children permanently scarred.
The flash of a van and the assassins shooting off deadly high-powered
rifles - the images remain as vivid today as they were a year ago.
On July 31 last year, Alice Omengan-Claver was savagely killed in
a brazen daylight ambush in the middle of the busy town of Tabuk,
Kalinga, Philippines. Though wounded, my second child and I were
able to get out of the carnage alive.
Alice - a wife, a mother and a comrade. She was always there for
me - unwavering in her support. She was a practical companion, a
de facto secretary, a mentor, and a social event adviser all rolled
into one. She was invaluable, and I couldn't have made it in my
career without her constant guidance.
She was the "hands-on" mother who was always there when
the children needed her - at home, in the playground, and even in
the school. She poured so much attention and love on our children.
No wonder our children kept romping off with the Most Neat Awards
at each school year's end. She was so involved with the children
that she was a perennially elected as an officer of the Parent-Teachers-Community
Association of all the schools our kids attended.
But above all, she was a good comrade. Though apprehensive of the
turbulent times that characterized the last 20 years, she remained
a pillar of strength in our common struggle to seek a better path
for our countrymen. Whether the issue at hand was indigenous peoples'
rights, or women's rights, or alternative politics, Alice was always
there. In a seemingly endless and seemingly unfruitful political
struggle, she did more than her share to keep us both going.
And so today, we remember Alice. And in doing so, I am forced to
recall a painful memory that happened a year ago. I recall to you
her final acts of heroism. At that fateful 2 moment when she first
became aware of the shooters, she instinctively threw her body to
cover mine. As a result, she caught seven of the deadly projectiles
intended for me. Her selfless sacrifice did not stop there. At the
hospital Emergency Room where we were rushed to, she insisted that
I be attended to first. Because of such unselfish acts, I am still
alive today. I owe my life to her heroism and sacrifice - such a
Owing to the prominence of the case, the Philippine National Police
successively sent in two task forces to make an investigation. But
after 12 months of work, the task forces still have not come up
with a prosecutable case. The heavy-handed actions of certain elements
within the Philippine National Police doomed the investigations,
creating a climate of fear, and discouraging the witnesses from
openly speaking up.
This has not stopped us however, from getting to the truth. I now
have come to believe that I was targeted for assassination because
of my political beliefs. We now know that Alice is only one of those
who have been killed in the name of the Philippine government's
insane war against imagined terrorists. We now know that the Philippine
State, led by Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, has undertaken a counter-insurgency
program that is now leading to the deaths and disappearances of
unarmed civilian activists. To date more than 800 men and women
have been killed, and another 200 abducted and remain missing since
2001. We lay the blame for these wanton killings and disappearances
directly on the shoulders of Commander-in-Chief Gloria Macapagal
Arroyo, and her crazed minions in the Cabinet Security Cluster and
the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
The protests against these extra-judicial killings and abductions
by forces of the State have slowly mounted from the different sectors
of Philippine society. HUSTISYA!, the organization of the family
members of the victims of human rights violations under the Arroyo
Regime, has been at the forefront of this protest movement. But
this rising tide of
disapproval and dissent has been met with brute force from the State's
military and police apparatus. And with the Bush-inspired Republic
Act 9372 or the Human Security Act in place, a vital ingredient
for de facto martial rule in the Philippines has been made available.
Yes, there also has been a growing realization that such tragic
events in the Philippines are closely related with geo-politics
of other nations, particularly that of the United States. The launching
of the U.S. so-called "War on Terror" in an international
scale, together with the countless billions of dollars poured into
the effort, served as a cue for the Philippine State to escalate
its war on insurgents - and on anyone and any group that disagreed
with its policies. It is for this reason that we have had to carry
the campaign on the extra-judicial killings beyond Philippine shores.
To date, the campaign has been able to draw the attention of the
European Union, as well as some other nations, to the situation
in the Philippines. After conducting its local investigation, the
United Nation Special Rapporteur Philip Alston has squarely laid
the responsibility for the killings on the Philippine military.
Likewise, Amnesty International,
the Asian Human Rights Commission, and the Washington-based Human
Rights Commissions have all attributed the atrocities to State security
forces. The Permanent People's Tribunal in Europe, an international
independent tribunal, , went a step further and ruled Arroyo and
George Bush guilty of crimes against humanity. And just recently,
13 Members of the Canadian Parliament simultaneously moved for the
tabling of a petition 3 for the conduct of a parliamentary hearing
on the extra judicial killings in the Philippines. In all of these
instances, the active presentation of the case of Alice the circumstances
of her death, as well as the results of our own investigation all
played very significantly roles.
This brings us to the here and now. My three children and I have
been forced to leave the country because of the continuing and the
escalating threats. Our three children, despite the wrenching trauma
of being forcibly made motherless, have admirably been able to cope
- another legacy of strength from Alice, I believe. And we have
decided to continue the fight somewhere else.
And this month marks the anniversary of the death of Alice. We
cry for justice, as do the families of the countless other victims.
We know that today, the odds are against us, but that will change.
The death of Alice, and so many others, cannot be allowed to be
forgotten and to be of naught. We believe that justice will prevail
in the end - but this cannot be attained without a struggle - a
struggle for true freedom and liberation. We therefore call on all
freedom-loving Filipinos and people of the world to join hands with
us to work together for meaningful social change in the Philippines.
Only through this will we be able to find the true justice and peace
that we all seek.
Statement presented by Dr. Constancio Claver, husband of the
late Alice Omengan-Claver on the occasion of the First Anniversary
of her Killing.
28 July 2007