1st of a five-part series
About eight years ago, on an almost singeing mid-morning in March 2007, the remains of Siche Bautista Gandinao, 54, was buried. Gandinao was a human rights defenderamong farmers in Salay, Misamis Oriental on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines.
Nine days before her burial, she was felled by bullets from a revolver as she was walking home from her farm, a basket of newly harvested sweet yams slung on her shoulders, her husband would tell this again and again to those, who like me, came to the wake.
Before the coffin containing her mother's remains was brought to the church for a memorial service, Siche's daughter began to distribute the flowers among the grandchildren and instructed them to bring the vases to church.
“These flowers are for your grandma and she will be happy to bless you if you bring these for her,” she told Siche's grandchildren. How Maria eagerly volunteered to bring a bunch of orange gladiola for her lola, I still remember. She looked directly at the camera, flowers in hand, with a toothy smile.
From the early years of the new millennium until now, the Philippines has been plagued by a series of unsolved killings of activists and leaders of the progressive movements. Primary suspects are men in uniform, mostly the military. Priests, doctors, students, either disappeared or were killed even in broad daylight. Such a phenomenon is known to have also visited many dictatorial regimes in Latin America, parts of Africa and the Middle East. But the grave irony is that these extra-judicial killings has been happening during the period when this countryis supposed to haveregained its democratic character,upholding the primacy of civilian rule.
Karapatan, a group advocating for human rights of the grassroots, noted that more than 1,200 people have been killed in the past four years previous to Gandinao's killing.
In July 2007, the lawyer Philip Alston, then appointed as UN Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, had come to the Philippines to investigate into the roots of these senseless deaths.
A month before she was killed, Siche has testified before the UN Rapporteur on the killing of her uncle in-law, Dalmacio Gandinao, a highly respected champion of agrarian reforms and environmental justice. She has told Mr. Alston that elements of the military has killed her uncle. Gandinao herself was killed near a military detachment and the suspects were also soldiers.
As we commemorate another Women's Month, I remember Siche and her granddaughter who wore red on her grandma's funeral.
************** Part 2 is found here: https://www.worldpulse.com/en/community/users/libudsuroy/posts/36198
Part 3 is found here: https://www.worldpulse.com/en/community/users/libudsuroy/posts/36224
Part 4 is found here: https://www.worldpulse.com/en/community/users/libudsuroy/posts/36225
Part 5 is found here: https://www.worldpulse.com/en/community/users/libudsuroy/posts/36226