Charito was in her early twenties and three month pregnant. She was a Tumandok, the largest indigenous tribe of Panay Island. On May 6, Charito and her husband were strafed in their house by a group of 3rd Infantry Batallion ( IB) Philippine Army soldiers (sponsored by the US War on Terror program) being suspected as members of the revolutionary groups operating in the area.
Testimony of her husband expressed that during the incident, Charito already waved her hands to the military, a sign of surrendering and declaring themselves a civilians. Yet without mercy, the mercenaries of the 3rd IB PA, the US backed - Arm Forces of the Philippines went near to her and fired their high powered guns hitting the young pregnant woman. Charito and her husband were brought by the military in their camp for questioning and it was only after two days (May 8) that Charito was brought to the hospital for medical care. Military declared that it was an encounter between their troops and the New People’s Army (NPA) the military wing of the Communist Party in the Philippines operating in the area. However, the couple and their parents insisted they are civilians.
On May 14, Charito an innocent woman with an innocent child inside her womb died in the Intensive Care Unit of a hospital in Roxas City. The military claimed that pneumonia was the cause of her death. However, the Tumandok and the people believed Charito and the child inside her were murdered and killed by the bullets of the United States of America and the Philippine governments both trumpheting as protectors of human rights and democracy. Charito’s death came on the eve of the recent 7th Tumandok Assembly held in Tapaz, Capiz. Almost thousand of Tumandok leaders community members, friends, neighbors, international solidarity groups, human rights activists, lawyers and media attended the assembly affirming their struggle in defending and reclaiming their ancestral lands.
The 33, 310 hectares ancestral land of the Tumandok was declared military reservation by the previous President Diosdado Macapagal (the father of current president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo) in 1962. A military camp was constructed in one of the communities and since then on, the once peaceful and flourishing land became a “no man’s/woman’s land” due to military atrocities and terror. Tumandoks were forced to pay land rent to the military, hundreds of Tumandoks became internal refugees as they fled military operations and bombardment of there communities. Women were raped and abused, tribal leaders were murdered and some are beheaded and their heads displayed in the town center of Tapaz, children were accused as child combatants, houses were burned down, military detachments were put up in the communities for the simple reason that they resisted military presence in their land.
The death of Charito and the child inside her is the recent human rights violation committed by the fascist, dictator Arroyo government among indigenous peoples of Panay. I wondered how many more innocent women, children and men will be butchered in the name of global war on terror. How many more mothers and fathers will mourn for the loss of their sons and daughters in this brutal war of defending elite democracy, perpetuating Arroyo’s power and her US puppetry? How many more wives and husbands will be widowed and children will be orphaned in the name of imperialist globalization?
For as long as the US government keep on backing-up Arroyo government puppet regime, for as long as the majority of the Filipino people and the people of the world will not resist US War Against Terror there will be more innocent lives loss, properties damaged, displaced communities and terror not only in the Philippines but all over the world especially in the developing countries.
But, I believe the Filipino people have fight and will continue to fight. When women and children will die brutally and helplessly in the hands of the ruthless US backed Arroyo government, there will be more women and children who will stand up and resist state violence and terrorism. When there will be more mothers and fathers together with their daughters and sons who will give the best years of their lives for the Filipino women, children and men to live freely, peacefully and abundantly, there will be no more Charitos and unborn children killed in a kind of war that sees no justice and mercy, the war of the oppressors and exploiters of the world.