I am Dr. Constancio Claver, a native Filipino of the Igorot tribe, who has been working as a physician-surgeon among the people of the remote province of Kalinga located in the Cordillera Mountain Range of Northern Philippines for the past 22 years.
On July 31, 2006, after dropping off my 8-year old child at her school, we were savagely ambushed by two unidentified men while we were entering a crowded intersection in the center of town. Jumping out of a speeding van, they poured 38 deadly projectiles into us from two M16-type high powered rifles before fleeing with the same van.
As a result, my wife sustained seven gunshot wounds which resulted in her death six hours later despite heroic efforts of a skilled surgical team. I myself sustained three gunshot wounds resulting in severe damage to my left arm as well as my liver, stomach and intestines. My 11-year old daughter luckily escaped with a head scratch. No determined efforts were done by the police despite their capability to do so.
I am the chairperson of Bayan Muna – Kalinga Chapter, a party list political party pushing for basic social changes in the Philippine society through the electoral arena. In the 8-week period prior to the ambush, we were subjected to intimidation, death threat through text message, and smear campaign. I believe that this is the handiwork of still unidentified agents of government.
My case is not an isolated case. It is only one of about 800 cases of extra-judicial killings which have been happening under the regime of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo since 2001. The killings have occurred in all regions of the Philippines, especially in the priority counter-insurgency areas of Bicol, Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog. The victims come from all walks of life – mostly farmers and workers but also a very significant number from the middle class – professionals, journalists, and church workers including a bishop. But despite their diversity, they share only one thing in common – they are either members or leaders of peaceful organizations fighting for basic changes in society and for the full recognition of the rights of the Filipino people.
In the Philippines, more and more people, from the poor and the middle class, have initiated petitions and street actions to protest and condemn the systematic killings. Diplomats have stood up and have openly showed their disapproval to the killings. Several countries have come up with statements of condemnation regarding the brutal killings. Even large foreign companies in the Philippines, as well as the foreign Chambers of Commerce have publicly declared that Gloria Arroyo should step in and order a stop to the killings.
But all these have been of nought. The killings continue at a rate of 3 victims per week. That is why I have written this letter. I believe that the only way to stop the killings is through concerted information dissemination to Filipinos as well as all peoples of the world. Through this, we hope to apply pressure on the Arroyo government to truly and finally address this issue.
Its present efforts through the so-called Task Force Usig and the Melo Commission have suffered from a lack of credibility. For example, the last report of Task Force Usig dated last November 30, indicated that the authorities have arrested and formally charged a suspect named Jessie Caranto in my case, when in fact there was evidence that the suspect was just a fall guy. This has led many to believe that the other suspects also charged by Task Force Usig may be in the same circumstance.
We appeal to all, to please disseminate this information. If each of us does this to his neighbour, co-worker, friend, or relative, I believe that this will help build up a wave of public opinion enough to pressure the Philippine government to actively step in and stop the killings. With God’s guidance we will overcome.