A million cranes for peace in QuezonBy Maricar Cinco
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Inspired by the thousand paper cranes of Sadako Sasaki, the Japanese girl who became a symbol of war victims, peace and human rights advocates are expecting to fold a million of the origami figures before the country celebrates International Human Rights Day this December.
A campaign, dubbed “Piso for Peace (Peso for Peace): 1 Million Peace Cranes,” was launched by the Save Bondoc Peninsula Movement (SBPM), an alliance of militant groups, at the University of the Philippines Diliman in Quezon City on July 2 as a way to urge the national government to pull out military forces from southern Quezon province.
The SBPM has accused the military of perpetrating human rights abuses in communities there. The spokesperson of the military’s Southern Luzon Command, Col. Generoso Bolina, has dismissed the accusation as baseless.
Among the SBPM members are Karapatan and the nongovernment Children’s Rehabilitation Center.
The campaign was also started on Wednesday at UP Los Baños in Laguna. Earlier, a weeklong “peace caravan,” a medical and relief mission of the SBPM, was held in Lucena City, and San Andres and Lopez towns in Quezon.
Erica Mae Chiong, SBPM media liaison, said the group was going around schools and universities in the Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) and Metro Manila, teaching students how to fold the origami crane. Instead of new colored paper as material, they distributed used paper from notebooks and old newspapers.
“Each student is encouraged to donate at least P1 together with the peace crane,” Chiong said. The money to be raised would be donated to the victims of human rights abuses in the countryside, she said.
The SBPM has about 100 origami cranes made by children in the remote communities that the group visited during the caravan. While the delegation conducted basic medical services, the children were huddled on one side for the origami lessons, Chiong said.
‘Wishes and Dreams’
“The activity was called ‘Wishes and Dreams’ because some wrote down their wishes on the paper before they folded it into a crane. It was also a psychosocial therapy to the children who showed trauma due to military presence,” she said.
Most of the children innocently played with the cranes after the activity, said Karmela Lagang, a volunteer of the SBPM. “But when we asked them what they thought the crane symbolized, one mother stood up and said that like a bird that freely flies away, they too wanted to live freely,” she said.
In an earlier statement, Karapatan said that during the first half of the year it received 129 complaints of human rights violations, mostly pertaining to abduction, torture, illegal arrest and detention, illegal search and seizure, and involving soldiers in Quezon.
But Bolina said that “every time something happens, they blame it on the military. Every time there’s an encounter (with the rebels), they (militants) say they (armed men) are civilians even if we have evidence that proves otherwise. They have now sounded like a broken record.”
If there are cases of abuses, the people should immediately report these to their barangay or municipal leaders, he said.
Karapatan secretary general Glenn Malabanan said eight military battalions had been deployed in 22 towns in the province, which, he said, was so far “the largest concentration of military forces in a relatively small area in the history of counterinsurgency operations in Southern Tagalog.”
Bolina said only four battalions were in Quezon.
Asked if the SBPM invited Army soldiers to join the peace campaign, Chiong said, “I don’t think so.”
“They’re the ones we wanted out of Quezon (in order) to bring back peace in the province.” she said.
More from this Column:
- No ‘better alternatives’ for unopposed bets?
- Governor cites inheritance for rise in net worth
- In Sorsogon, political clan patriarch takes on ‘Justin Bieber’
- Name-calling gets nastier in Laguna
- Villafuertes’ fight baffles voters in Camarines Sur