To our generation of youth activists, those of us who associated ‘CPR’ with something harmful to the body, those of us who sought Gloria Arroyo’s arrest before Noynoy made it ‘uncool’, Arman Albarillo is a familiar name.
His sad story is a testament to the brutality of the Aquino administration. In 2002, his parents, both poor farmers and both supporters of the partylist group Bayan Muna, were brutally murdered by then-Major Jovito Palparan. The two are among the 27 victims of extra-judicial killings in the first of Palparan’s three ‘reigns of terror’ (the next two would be in Samar and the Central Luzon region).
Not content with their bloody deed, Palparan’s forces hounded ‘Ka Arman’ and his brother out of Mindoro Island, turning them into ‘refugees in their own country’.
With this swift and brutal introduction into the Philippine human rights situation, ‘Ka Arman’ became active in the progressive movement, becoming the secretary-general of the umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (New Patriotic Alliance) or Bayan (People) in the whole Southern Tagalog region.
It was during these days when Mr. Albarillo became known to us: in press conferences whenever another activist in the said region was gunned down by the military, during the violently-dispersed rallies at Mendiola Bridge where he was always at the front line, and during the Lakbayans (long protest marches) from Southern Tagalog to Metro Manila where thousands of farmers participated.
The last I heard of ‘Ka Arman’ was in 2008, when he and dozens of other Southern Tagalog activists (collectively known as the ST 72) were slapped with trumped-up criminal charges by the AFP.
Today, while the grey skies were seemingly showing their grief all over Metro Manila, I read of Ka Arman’s demise. He was slain in an encounter in Quezon Province between the New People’s Army and the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The military spokesperson has been quick to call it ‘a decisive blow’ against the longest-running insurgency in the history of Asia.
But what has been missed by the news writers and editors is a sad commentary on Philippine society: a man who had a legitimate grievance, a man whose rights (and that of his whole family) were violated, could not find any remedy from the government and the law. Those who were the supposed defenders of his rights, as well as millions of other ordinary Filipinos, were the ones who took the lead in violating them. In the end, the AFP’s accusation of ‘Ka Arman’ being ‘NPA’, which is shared by the millions of Filipinos who are part or sympathetic of the activist movement, became a self-fulfilling prophecy.
As long as the powers-that-be do not learn the important lessons from the life of ‘Ka Arman’, our nation will forever be in the quandary that it has always been.