by M. Cook – BASICS Online
The Toronto Premiere of the award-winning Filipino film “Dukot” (Desaparecidos) packed the Nat Taylor Cinema at York University on the afternoon of Saturday, May 22. The film is one of the first to focus on the political killings currently taking place in the Philippines.
“[The film] is not a collection of stories from a distant past” said Bonifacio Ilagan, the screen writer. “This is what is happening in the Philippines since 2001. When outgoing president [Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo] assumed power, extra judicial killings, abductions, illegal detentions have been increasing.”
Since 2001, over 200 cases of enforced disappearances and more than 1,000 cases of extrajudicial killings have been documented by the human rights organization Karapatan. Last November 2009, the Philippines made headlines worldwide for the Ampatuan massacre, a gruesome massacre in Mindanao that killed 57 people, including 30 journalists (see BASICS Issue # 17).
The film is based on true stories and the personal experiences of those who have been abducted and tortured as well as those who have lost loved ones. Ilagan himself was abducted and tortured twice, first in 1974 and then in 1994. His sister went missing in 1977 and has not been found to date.
Melissa Roxas, a poet, writer, and human rights activists who is accompanying the Canadian tour of “Dukot” was also abducted and tortured by agents of the Philippine military.
In 2005, Roxas led a US delegation to participate in the International Solidarity Mission in the Philippines to investigate human rights violations and she “was horrified to find out about the human rights violations going on”.
“These are people, these are workers protesting for higher wages, these are peasants who are advocating for land reform, these are women that simply want to feed their children three times a day…and because they advocate for a better world, they are being targeted by the military.”
After her initial trip to the Philippines, she returned in 2007 and 2009 to continue her community and human rights work.
“On May 19th 2009, along with two other companions, we were conducting health work in La Paz, Tarlac, and we were abducted by 15 armed military men, forced into a van and brought into secret detention” Roxas said. “I was held in solitary confinement. We were heavily tortured during those six days”.
As a result of the torture, Roxas suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress as well as physical injuries inflicted upon her.
Roxas credits the solidarity work of groups like BAYAN Canada and Migrante Canada for her release.
“I urge all of you to continue being advocates for human rights… I am living testimony that it does matter what every single person does…They [groups like BAYAN and Migrante] were the ones in the streets advocating for my release along with other human rights workers in the Philippines.”
“There is always hope. The reason why there are so many being targeted by the government is because there is a strong movement by people for change. So please, don’t ever think there isn’t hope. It will change, but it will take all of us for it to change.”
For more information visit http://bayan-canada-in-toronto.blogspot.com and http://migrante.ca.