No ‘Flores de Mayo’ but antityranny protest in UP
Instead of wearing flowers in their hair and silken gowns like those worn by beauty queens in the traditional “Flores de Mayo” (Flowers of May), the five women wore signs of injustice as they paraded around the Sunken Garden on the campus of the University of the Philippines Diliman on Saturday in what organizers called “Protesta de Mayo Laban sa Tiraniya” (May Protest Against Tyranny).
Eleanor de Guzman, daughter of detained National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultant Rafael Baylosis and partner of Tondo trade union organizer Marklen Maojo Maga, marched as “Reina de la Justicia” (Queen of Justice).
Dressed in black and gold and carrying scales, De Guzman represented the sufferings of political prisoners under the Duterte administration who, according to organizers, had been illegally and arbitrarily arrested on trumped-up charges.
Instead of flowers, she wore a headdress designed like a sunburst, representing the struggle of the oppressed, and the shackles that bound her hands stood for the persecution of those who stood for truth and justice.
“It’s different when you are an advocate for human rights and a victim yourself. I was really in shock. I broke down. I cried,” De Guzman told the Inquirer as she processed.
“But I know this is not the end, especially that I see the support of the people. This is part of a bigger fight . . . for human rights against tyranny . . . The only way to overcome this is to fight,” she said.
‘Stop the killings’
With De Guzman, a UP graduate, was her 9-year-old son Julius Raphael Li, who wore a Katipunero costume.
“We want to show the truth, to stop the killings, to [free] political prisoners . . . They are innocent. This was done to them to make their families suffer,” the boy said.
De Guzman called for the immediate release of all political prisoners, including her father and partner who were arrested earlier this year.
She denounced the filing of fake charges against activists and peace advocates to silence them, and expressed hope the resumption of peace talks between the government and the NDFP in June would deal with the roots of conflict and lead to compliance with signed agreements for the pursuit of a just and lasting peace.
Deborah Escudero marched as “Reina de los Martires” (Queen of Martyrs), wearing a blood-spattered gown with a bullet hole in the chest and a yellow sash slung over her right shoulder marked “Police Line Do Not Cross,” representing the fight for justice for the victims of alleged extrajudicial killings in President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal war on drugs, including her 18-year-old brother, Ephraim.
“It hurts up to now,” Escudero said after the procession.
She denied that her brother was into drugs. “But even people who really use drugs do not deserve to be killed. They are human beings,” she said.
‘They are human beings’
She said joining the protest at UP was her own way of pressing for justice for her brother, who left behind two children aged 3 and 2.
Miranda Dacillo marched as “Reina de Verdad” (Queen of Truth), her mouth gagged, representing slain journalists, while Maria Teresa Omano paraded as “Reina Esperanza” (Queen of Hope) on behalf of development workers, peace advocates and activists who had been listed by the government as terrorists.
Gleeza Joy Alvarez, a “lumad” teenager, marched as “Reina de la Paz” (Queen of Peace), representing the people of Mindanao and their calls for an end to martial law on their home island.
Maria Sol Taule, a lawyer for the human rights group Karapatan, designed and handpainted the gowns of Omano and Alvarez.
Omano’s gown had the image of the revolutionary leader Gabriela Silang on the skirt, intended to show that activism is not a crime, Taule said.
The gown of Alvarez had prints depicting the indigenous peoples’ struggle for peace and symbolizing their right to their ancestral land and self-determination, she said.
‘Babae Ako, Lalaban Ako’
Organized by human rights groups Karapatan and Hustisya, the protest, according to Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay, was part of “Babae Ako, Lalaban Ako” campaign against the President’s “misogyny and sexism.”
Palabay said Saturday’s event was the third Protesta de Mayo to be held since the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
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