That we may not forget:
The Escalante Massacre of Sept. 20, 1985
Posted: September 20, 2010
■ Juvelyn Jarabelo: Portrait of an Escalante Martyr
■ Reenactment of the Escalante Massacre, Sept. 20, 2010
■ Tula ni Nonilon Queano: Tatlong Yugto ng Pagibg
Quick Facts on the Escalante Massacre
policemen who were put behind bars later for their role in the massacre
were released on parole last year. A ranking police officer in command of
the RSAF unit was reportedly redeployed in other provinces and was
recently promoted to the rank of senior superintendent. No local officials
and other dignitaries present in the Bloody Thursday of September 1985
were ever summoned for investigation or trial.
In 1987: the Mendiola massacre with 17 people dead, scores wounded
In 2006: the Hacineda Luisita masssacre, with 7 d ead, scores woundec
Not a single victim or relative has been given justice or indemnified in thse massacres.
extrajudicial killings continue.
|Stills from the video by MALEQC|
ON THE 32ND ANNIVERSARY OF MARTIAL RULE:
19 Years After ‘Bloody Thursday,’ Terror Still Stalks Escalante
1985 was the year before strongman Ferdinand Marcos, who had ruled the country for 19 years, was toppled in February 1986. Nineteen years later, not a single victim - or their relatives – of the Escalante Massacre, also known as “Bloody Thursday,” has been given justice or indemnified.
By Karl G. Ombion
On the mid-afternoon of Sept. 20, 1985, tensions were high at the Escalante public plaza just 50 meters across the town hall as thousands of sugar workers, farmers, fisherfolk, students, urban poor, professionals and church people, carrying placards, some bamboo sticks, and chanting anti-government slogans were staging a protest in commemoration of the 13th anniversary of martial law. The protesters were tightly encircled by some 50 combat-ready Regional Special Action Forces (RSAF), plus local policemen, members of the Civilian Home Defense Force (CHDF), and unidentified armed civilians.
Minutes after the town mayor Braulio Lumayno, with former congressman Armando Gustilo and their armed bodyguards left the town hall, a volley of gunfire from automatic rifles and a caliber .60 machinegun suddenly burst. A few minutes after, the streets were littered with blood and scores of terrified protesters were moaning as they lay on the ground.
The shooting claimed 20 lives – their bodies found sprawled at the rally site and in nearby sugarcane fields. Thirty others lay wounded. A bank, concrete walls, and some houses in front of the town hall had bullet holes.
1985 was the year before strongman Ferdinand Marcos, who had ruled the country for 19 years, was toppled in February 1986. Nineteen years later, not a single victim or the surviving kin of “Escam” (short for Escalante Massacre, also known as “Bloody Thursday”) has been indemnified.
Three low-rank policemen who were put behind bars later for their role in the massacre were released on parole last year. A ranking police officer in command of the RSAF unit was reportedly redeployed in other provinces and was recently promoted to the rank of senior superintendent. No local officials and other dignitaries present in the Bloody Thursday of September 1985 were ever summoned for investigation or trial.
Scenic and stagnant
Escalante is a small city in the northern tip of Negros, or 95 kms from Bacolod City. The town is popularly divided into the “old poblacion,” the coastal side of the city, where it used to host the seat of power. Local legend goes that the old poblacion was originally known as "Manlambus," a Visayan word meaning "to strike with a club" because its coastal waters were then teeming with fishes that catching them could be done simply by clubbing. The new poblacion, known as “Balintawak,” is the mainland side, made up mainly of sugar haciendas, and some small coconut and corn farms on the hilly portion.
Escalante became a city in February 2001, after 143 years as a town. Hosting some 80,000 Cebuano- and Ilonggo-speaking people, it faces the island province of Cebu and most parts of the Cebuano-speaking Negros Oriental.
Apart from its scenery, the other side of Escalante is a portrait of poverty and stagnant economy. Huge mansions of hacienda landowners are ringed by workers barracks and shanties. Small and decrepit makeshift huts appear like small canopies on hill farms and coastal villages.
Sugar is still the No. 1 contributor to the city’s treasury. Sixty percent of the city’s population relies on sugar farms as their source of income while the rest especially those in the old poblacion depend on fishing. A small section of the population depends on “remedyo heneral” – doing odd jobs for daily survival - and small merchant trading.
Only a few families control most of the sugar farms, other rich agricultural lands and the scenic beaches of the city. Leading them are the Barcelonas, one of whose members – Santiago Barcelona - is now the city’s mayor; the Ballesteros, Javelosa, Yanson, Flores, Ponsica, Yap, Tolentino, Osmeńa, Lizares, Montalvo, Alimani, Consing, Carol, Zamora, Lumayno, Benignos and Tan. These names have also dominated the city’s politics for decades.
In the 1960s-1970s, widespread labor problems, landgrabbings and killings forced sugar workers to organize. Backed by progressive diocesan clerics and a group of foreign missionaries assigned in Escalante inspired then by the opening of the church after Vatican II, organizations of sugar workers emerged rapidly, networks and groups from other sectors sprouted and lent support to the poor. The social protest movement – a by-product of the First Quarter Storm – took shape to challenge the landlords’ rule.
Inevitably in the late 1970s – or the early part of martial rule - until “Escam,” Escalante was one of the heavily-militarized towns in the Negros region, with a regular army battalion and company-size RSAF based around the city, and reinforced by the several hundreds CHDFs (now known as the Citizens Armed Force Geographical Unit or Cafgu) and private armed goons.
“Virtually, every barangay (village) had a detachment,” said a farmer in the old poblacion.
Sugar workers and church activists narrated to Bulatlat that in countless occasions prior to and after the “Escam,” private armed goons, accompanied by regular army and CHDFs, “roamed the haciendas and barangays in full battle gear in broad day light.” It was like “wild, wild west,” said one.
Escalante then was always on the news headline - of children dying of acute malnutrition, cases of rampant landgrabbing, landlords’ armed goons killing farmers, burning of villages, summary executions, rapes, and many other cases of serious human rights violations.
Still in a climate of terror
One of the massacre survivors, Toto Patuigas, now 57, who is also currently secretary general of the Northern Negros Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (NNAHRA), an affiliate of Karapatan, told Bulatlat that Escalante is the same Escalante he saw 19 years ago. The vast tracts of lands, beaches and sugar farms, he said, are still in the hands of the same old families. The same people enjoy the spoils of patronage political governance.
Although roads are better now, more beaches have mushroomed, new ports are being built, new businesses have opened, these have benefited only the landed elite and a few segments of the middle class, Patuigas said. In fact, most of these projects that the government of Mayor Santiago Barcelona touts, have been built at the expense of the poor people.
Patuigas mentioned how the Yansons, transportation giant owners of the Vallacar bus transit – which plies Visayas and Mindanao - opened a 14-hectare port in Barangay Washington, Old Poblacion, The port now threatens to dislocate more than 2,000 fishing and farming households.
He also slammed the Habitat housing projects in several barangays in the city, because “they result in land use conversion, and raises the price of lands.” “Worse, those who cannot afford its higher costs, are ultimately dislocated,” he added.
Pablito Plaza, a Pamalakaya leader-organizer in northern Negros, also hit the “destructive development programs” of the city, because, so he said, they both terrorize and dislocate the poor fisherfolk and peasants.
He cited the case of Jomabo island beach resort, some 10 kms off old poblacion, owned by a certain Jose Montalvo from Bacolod. He said, the city mayor granted Montalvo a permit to operate without any environmental clearance from the DENR and public hearings. Now, he added, the resort is practically privatized, and the fishing families can no longer fish around the island resort, or could seek refuge whenever they are caught by bad weather at sea.
Patuigas said that there are less army and RMG detachments in the city, but this did not diminish the climate of terror. More visible today, he said, are members of the paramilitary Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPA-ABB), CAFGUs, and several armed citizens groups like the Guardians, GUTS and the Bantay Escalante Movement for Peace and Development.
The groups, he said, operate with orders from the city mayor to conduct surveillance and peace keeping operations in the barangays.
In 2000, Tay Pedro Trabajador, a local NFSW leader was shot allegedly by members of the RPA-ABB. Patuigas and Pablito themselves together with several other members and organizers of NFSW, Pamalakaya, and even local church workers, have experienced cases of harassment and intimidation from these groups.
Will another “Escam” happen in Negros? Patuigas said that the “Escam” - whether big or small - is bound to occur in Escalante because “the socio-economic conditions and the political structures remain the same.”
What the massacre survivors want, he said, is not only indemnification, but genuine social justice, lands, jobs, wages, housing, services, not only for the victims of the massacre but all those who have been victimized by state policies and programs.
On Sept. 20, NNAHRA, Karapatan and their allied organizations will commemorate the 19th “Escam” and martial law declaration by staging a cultural reenactment of the massacre in Escalante. Coordinated protest actions will be held on Sept. 21 in Escalante, Bacolod City, Guihulngan and Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental. Bulatlat
|▲ The dead ▼|
Negros Daily Bulletin
Negros Daily Bulletin
Negros Daily Bulletin
2 suspects in Escalante massacre nabbed. By Nancy C. Carvajal Philippine Daily Inquirer First Posted 09:30:00 11/08/2008 ...
Published on April 13, 2010
Protesters commemorated the massacre of 20 activists and wounding of tens of others in Escalate town during Martial Law. Twenty-one years after the massacre, the military perpetrators in the killing remain unpunished, while the massacre survivors and the families of those killed are yet to be indemnified.
BY KARL G. OMBION
BACOLOD City – While Sept. 21 was marked by protests in different parts of the country and of the world to commemorate the declaration of Martial Law, in Escalante City, the protest was particularly significant as it also commemorated the killing of 20 activists in what was called “Escalante massacre” 21 years ago.
Escalante City, some 96 kms. north of this city, was where around 1,000 massacre survivors, victims’ families, friends and activists gathered to remember those who fell in the carnage, also called “Bloody Thursday.”
In mid-afternoon on Sept. 20, 1985, tensions were high at the Escalante public plaza just 50 meters across the town hall as thousands of sugar workers, farmers, fisherfolk, students, urban poor, professionals and church people, carrying placards, some bamboo sticks, and chanting anti-government slogans were staging a protest in commemoration of the 13th anniversary of martial law.
The protesters were tightly encircled by some 50 combat-ready Regional Special Action Forces (RSAF), plus local policemen, members of the Civilian Home Defense Force (CHDF), and unidentified armed civilians.
Minutes after town mayor Braulio Lumayno, with former congressman Armando Gustilo and their armed bodyguards left the town hall, a volley of gunfire from automatic rifles and a caliber .60 machine gun suddenly burst. A few minutes after, the streets were littered with blood and scores of terrified protesters were moaning as they lay on the ground.
The shooting claimed 20 lives – their bodies found sprawled at the rally site and in nearby sugarcane fields. Thirty others lay wounded. A bank, concrete walls, and some houses in front of the town hall were peppered with bullet holes.
Three low-ranking policemen were later jailed for their role in the massacre, but were released on parole in 2002. A ranking police officer in command of the RSAF unit was reportedly redeployed in other provinces and was recently promoted to the rank of senior superintendent.
No local officials and other dignitaries present in the “Bloody Thursday” of September 1985 were ever summoned for investigation or trial.
Cana, National Council member of Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement
of People’s Rights), said that 21 years after, not a single victim – nor
any of their relatives – of the Escalante Massacre, also known as “Bloody
Thursday,” has been given justice or indemnified.
Cana said that their commemorative protest action aimed not only to draw the public attention to the continuing cry for justice of the victims’ families, but above all, to warn them that the conditions that led to the tragedy remain basically unchanged, if not worse.
Twenty one years after, there have been more political killings, massacres, salvaging, mass dislocations caused by the state’s oppressive and repressive policies and programs, said Cana.
that the worse turn came from the time Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was
catapulted by people power to the presidential post, to the present. “She
is not only an embodiment of Marcosism without Marcos, but a worst
reincarnation of Marcos open fascist rule,” he added.
At the Sept. 21 protest rally at the Bacolod public plaza, Felipe Gelle, secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance)-Negros said, “We are under a de facto martial rule even if government insists that democracy reigns in this country.”
Gelle told Bulatlat that this is shown by the widespread extra-judicial killings of left activists, the stifling of the voice of dissent of the critics of administration, the accommodation of retired generals in key civilian posts, the strengthening of GMA’s cronies and their control of economies, the stepped up militarization in the rural areas, the intensification of assaults on the economic rights of workers and farmers.
In many ways, Gelle said, GMA is worse than Marcos. “What Marcos did in terms of political killings and dictatorial rule in more than 20 years, GMA achieved only in four to five years, and her crimes against the Filipino people continue,” he said.
Gelle said that the democracy that government claims is nominal and bogus; it is “a mere cover up for its puppetry, dictatorship and fascism.”
“This government has not only failed in heeding the lessons of the past, but trampled the rights of the people, and bungled most opportunities along the way for our people and nation to grow and develop,” he added.
Gelle however stressed that the people are not cowed, and instead will continue to muster the necessary strength despite all the hardships and repression, to put an end to this hated regime ruling by the sword of terror.
“Certainly, GMA and her fascist clique will suffer the same fate that befell Marcos,” he concluded. (Bulatlat.com)
|▼ Injured and wounded ▼|
Message of Solidarity to the Kilusang Magbubukid ng
Pilipinas on the occasion of its 25thfounding
By Prof. Jose Maria Sison
Wholeheartedly I am in solidarity with the leadership, membership and the supporters of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Peasant Movement of the Philippines-KMP) in celebrating its 25th founding anniversary. It is important for the entire nation that we celebrate the continuous struggle of the peasant movement for genuine land reform, to honor the peasant martyrs who have sacrificed their lives and to strengthen the spirit and movement of the leaders and members for justice and freedom through land reform against the semicolonial and semifeudal ruling system.I consider as a great honor that in July 1985 I was able to give a message of solidarity to the first national congress of the KMP despite the fact that I was still detained in Fort Bonifacio. I am even more greatly honored by giving again a message of solidarity now because of the many victories that you have harvested in the last 25 years of struggle and sacrifices for advancing the peasant movement and land reform and the general struggle of the people for national liberation and democracy against imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism.
It is commendable that KMP has a high level of political consciousness and has won significant victories, mainly in asserting the rights of the peasants over the land that they till. I salute you for the continuous expansion and consolidation of your organization at various levels. I admire the KMP for having 65 provincial chapters and 15 regional chapters in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
Your struggle against the policies dictated by US imperialism and carried out by the Arroyo puppet regime is astounding. You have opposed the policy of neoliberal globalization, especially its laying aside of land reform, destruction of food production for the people and the bargaining away of land and natural resources to foreign corporations. You condemned the policy of imperialist aggression and state terrorism masquerading as war against terrorism. And you have vigorously opposed the real terrorism of Oplan Bantay Laya and the intervention of US military forces under the Visiting Forces Agreement.
KMP has courageously fought the laws, policies and programs that aggravate the exploitation and oppression perpetrated by the by the landlord class and foreign corporations. You have intensified your resistance in response to the assassinations, massacres, torture, unwarranted arrests and detention and the displacement of the peasants from their homes and land. You have effectively fought not only the barefaced enemy but also the special agents who sneaked into the KMP and whipped up factionalism.
It is gratifying that the Alyansa ng Magbubukid ng Gitnang Luson (AGML) and the Asembliya ng mga Manggagawang Bukid have prepared your gathering inside Hacienda Luisita. Several times I stayed in some barrios there in the years of 1968 to 1972. This was the period of building the new Communist Part of the Philippines and the New People’s Army in the province of Tarlac. This was also the period of organizing the Pagkakaisa ng mga Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (PMP).
It is meaningful that a thousand representatives of the regional and provincial chapters of KMP are now gathered inside Hacienda Luisita in order to hold a celebration with the theme: Twenty Five Years of Persevering Struggle for Land, Justice and Freedom. You are proving that the peasant movement is firm and militant and is advancing despite cruel acts of suppression by the landlords.
In this hacienda, in 2004 and 2005 events burst out to call the attention of the people in our country and in the whole world about the exploitation and swindling of the peasants by the landlord class, the just and courageous struggle of the peasants and the massacre and subsequent killings that were the collaborative work of the Cojuangco-Aquino family and the Arroyo regime.
Now that Noynoy Cojuangco-Aquino is the president of the reactionary government, the power of the state and the instruments of violence and deception are now directly in his hands. During the electoral campaign, Aquino said that he would continue the stock distribution option swindle under the CARPer. His family continues to frustrate land reform through corporate tricks and other cruel and deceptive tactics.
At any rate, you are prepared to fight for land reform, justice and freedom. In the face of so great a challenge, it is necessary for you to raise the level of your political consciousness, accelerate the strengthening of your organisation and engage in mobilization to advance the cause for land reform and use the campaigns to raise fighting consciousness and organizational capability.
Like the Arroyo regime, the Aquino regime is a running dog of US imperialism. Aquino is now the chief representative of the pro-imperialist classes of big compradors and landlords. He is continuing the evil policies dictated by the US and carried out by Arroyo. Rabid implementers of the policies of neoliberalism and terrorism who were previous adjutants of Arroyo are now the adjutants of Aquino in betraying the Filipino people and violating national and democratic rights and interests.
During the Aquino regime, the problems of landlessness, poverty and hunger will become graver. Aquino has no interest in land reform and national industrialization. The bloody suppression of the people will escalate. Even as the economic crisis is grave, the reactionary government bankrupt and resources for social services scarce, Aquino stated in his inaugural address that he would give the military and police what they ask for. He indicated that he would double the strength of the military and police because the population had doubled since the time of Marcos.
In his first military command conference, he ordered the military to give priority to so-called counterinsurgency or in fact state terrorism. Thus, the criminal officers and armed personnel of the state continue to engage in gross and systematic human rights violations with impunity. The Aquino regime is subservient to the US-dictated policy of counter-insurgency or terrorism. Most important in this policy is the strengthening of the reactionary military and the pretenses of the reactionary government at clean and efficient governance, delivery of social services, wishes for economic development and other types and methods of deception.
The pretended wish of the counterrevolutionary state for peace negotiations is supposed to be a mere minor thing. Aquino has already declared that the priority of the military is counterinsurgency so-called. Defense secretary Gazmin has said that the revolutionary forces must surrender and thus peace negotiations are not needed. Chief of staff General David has also said without qualifications that the plan of the military and government is to decimate the revolutionary forces in three years’ time. The warning and challenge to the Filipino people and revolutionary forces are extremely emphatic.
It is clear that like the Arroyo regime the Aquino regime wants to destroy the revolutionary movement of the Filipino people and perpetuate the rotten ruling system of the big compradors and landlords under US imperialism. On the other hand, we see that the people and the revolutionary forces are well-prepared to fight the escalation of exploitation and oppression as a result of the worsening of the crisis of the domestic ruling system and the world capitalist system. The revolutionary forces have declared their resolve to raise the people’s war along the line of new democratic revolution from the strategic defensive to the strategic stalemate in the next five years.
As a legal mass organization with its integrity, the KMP must raise the national and democratic consciousness of the peasant masses and must promptly and earnestly face up to the many issues churned out by the crisis at the global, national and local levels. The recruitment of members must be accelerated and brought to the level of millions. The members must be recruited and local chapters must be formed (where there are yet none) through meetings to explain the constitution and program of KMP. The campaigns should be availed of by the organized masses to persuade the unorganized masses to become members of the KMP and become a firm part of the peasant movement.
I am certain that through the simultaneous celebrations of the 25th founding anniversary of the KMP at the national, regional, provincial and barangay levels you will be able to raise further the fighting consciousness for the rights and interests of the peasants, you will be able to put forward proposals and plans regarding education, organization and mobilization and you will be able to expand support from various sectors in the countryside, in the entire country and the world.#
According to Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, the venue for the gathering of 1000 representatives of its regional and provincial chapters on July 24 has been transfered from Barangay Balite of Hacienda Luisita to another venue because of the objection of the barrio captain and the threatening presence of the military. Indeed, Noynoy Aquino looks after the self-interest of his family in Hacienda Luisita.
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|Rally before the shooting|
POLITICS OF REPRESSION IN THE PHILIPPINES
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O PAANO BA MAGMAHAL NANG WAGAS
September 28, 2010
(Sa alaala ni Kasamang Aileen)
Una, kailangang ikampay ang isip nating
Kahit malinaw na ang Diyos ay negosyanteng
Sept. 20, 2010
Photos courtesy of PCPR/LitoS
THE STRUCTURE OF REACTIONARY VIOLENCE AND HUMAN RIGHTS
VIOLATIONS IN THE PHILIPPINES
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|Candle-lighting at the marker monument|