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July 27, 2007

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We will not forget Alyce Omengan-Claver

We shall not forget July 31, 2006.

It was the day when death squads operating under the State policy Operational Plan Bantay Laya (Freedom Watch) staged an ambush against Dr. Constancio 'Chandu' Claver's family.

The ambush happened in a busy section of Tabuk - in front of a school, and around 200 meters away from the Provincial Headquarters of the Philippine National Police. Dr. Claver, Chairperson of Bayan Muna Kalinga was the main target of the ambush. He has been very vocal about the assassination of Cordillera Peoples Alliance leader Rafael Markus Bangit on June 8, 2006 and the killings in the province despite the threats and fear being sown by government forces in Kalinga.

Alyce Omengan-Claver was also a member of Bayan Muna-Kalinga and the Cordillera Peoples Alliance. She devoted her youth in service to the people as a staff of CPA-Manila. She and Chandu shared the same principles.

She died that day. Despite her personal struggle to survive the 26 gun shot wounds. Despite the long line of blood donors whose lives the Clavers have touched.

The assassination happened barely a week after Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo condemned the extrajudicial killings in the country but ironically praised Major General Jovito Palparan who has a bloody record of human rights violations against the people.

Then Tabuk Police Director Pedro Ramos, pinpointed as instrumental to the Claver ambush, was a follower of Palparan's style of confronting people whom the State calls "the enemy" or those critical against the government's anti-people policies. He formed and led the death squads in Tabuk. He also figured in the killing of Rafael 'Markus' Bangit'.

After the ambush, PD Ramos was transferred out of Kalinga to appease the mounting public pressure. But no progress has yet been achieved in the investigation of the case. No perpetrator has yet been punished. This was despite the formation of two task forces: first Task Force Bulanao then another Task Force headed by General Eugene Martin.

A case has been filed in court but witnesses to the incident have been threatened and the defective witness protection program of the justice system has pushed them to retract their sworn statements.

Justice has been elusive.

Alyce's case has been forwarded to the United Nations during the visit of UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston. Her story was heard during the Permanent People's Tribunal where Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was declared guilty.

We shall not forget Alyce Omengan-Claver.

She, who was a loving person to her family.

She, who was part of the people's struggle for a just and humane society.

A year has passed since her death. Victims of extrajudicial killings have reached 884 as of June 30, 2007.

In her State of the nation Address this year, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo again condemns the killings which she can no longer deny. It should be underscored that she has failed to admit that it is a State policy and that she is accountable for the killings.

In the most significant way of remembering Alyce, we continue the struggle to attain justice for her death and the more than 800 other martyrs.

We continue to rage against the extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations.

Inspired by her memory, we continue the struggle for a just social order.


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