ILOILO CITY, Philippines – The daughter of slain activist Jory Porquia has joined calls to reject the anti-terror bill, warning that once it is passed into law, incidents like her father’s death would be part of the new normal under the Duterte government.
Jory Porquia – Bayan Muna’s Iloilo coordinator – was shot dead by unidentified armed men in his rented home in Arevalo in Iloilo City on April 30. More than a month since the incident, liittle progress has been made in investigating her father’s death. (READ: ‘They shot my tatay 9 times’)
Activist Krisma Niña “Tsinkay” Porquia said that before her father’s death, he became the target of police harassment after he led humanitarian and relief operations, and established community kitchens in urban poor communities severely affected by COVID-19 in the city.
Tsinkay described her father, who had fought Marcos’ Martial Law, as a personification of the dictum “serve the people.”
Tsinkay had written open letters opposing the anti-terrorism bill in the hope that what happened to her father will not happen to anyone else.
She addressed her letters to loilo City Lone District Representative Julienne “Jamjam” Baronda, Iloilo 2nd District Representative Michael Gorriceta, and Iloilo 5th District Raul “Boboy” Tupas – all co-authors of the controversial House Bill No. 6875 of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
“They killed my father because he was conducting relief and feeding operations for the urban poor in our city. With the anti-terror bill, they want to normalize what they have done to my father. Have mercy on your constituents. Please withdraw your support for ATB. Please. There is no place for martial rule and violence in Iloilo,” she said in Hilgaynon.
Through the anti-terrorism bill, a council of top Cabinet officials will be able to do functions usually reserved for the courts, such as warrantless arrests and detention of people and groups perceived to be terrorists.
Human rights groups and concerned citizens also noted that the bill would institutionalize President Rodrigo Duterte’s abuse of power. ([EXPLAINER] Proposed Anti-Terror Act of 2020 a devil’s playground in the hands of a despot)
Holding officials accountable
On the same day Tsinkay posted her open letters, Baronda asked that her name be omitted as one of the co-authors of the bill.
Baronda then told a local paper that she had never expressed interest in sponsoring this particular piece of legislation. “I was surprised that I was being asked about this because I didn’t remember signing my intention to co-author this bill,” the congresswoman told the Daily Guardian.
Baronda went on to say that she was looking into co-authoring a House resolution condemning the killing of Jory Porquia.
Gorriceta followed suit, asking House Secretary General Jose Luis Montelas to strike his name from the list of principal authors of the bill.
For Tsinkay, the response of local officials proved the power of people when they unite and speak up.
“I called on our Ilonggo representatives because I wanted them to genuinely represent the people, their constituents, and protect our human rights and our constitutional rights,” she said in her open letters that gained traction online.
Close to home
The issue hit close to home for Tsinkay.
She recalled that in December 2018, Tsinkay, her father, and a handful of other Ilonggo critics of the Duterte administration were red-tagged and labeled as “terrorists” in posters anonymously circulated and posted around the city.
In another incident that happened on May 1, Tsinkay and 41 civic group leaders and friends of her father, were arrested for planning to hold a caravan to pay their respects for Jory.
Bayan Panay said in a statement that they decided to ask permission from the authorities to proceed to where Jory was killed in Arevalo district, to offer flowers and light candles.
The group gathered at Jaro Plaza in front of the Jaro Cathedral, their designated pickup point where the cars intended for the caravan had been parked.
They then decided to disperse after 3 rounds of negotiations with the local police. However, the group was barred from leaving and was apprehended by authorities, citing violations of the strict enhanced community quarantine rules implemented to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
They were released after a day, when they each posted P12,000-bail. More than half a million bail in total was collected through the crowdsourcing efforts of the National Union of Peoples Lawyers and its allied multi-sectoral groups.
Concern for the future
The young activist said no one should ever be afraid to speak up.
“Waking up to the news of my father’s untimely death, I was filled with a mixture of shock, sadness, and anger. Now more than ever, I don’t want my fear and trepidation to get in the way of speaking up,” Tsinkay told Rappler in Hiligaynon.
“Even without the anti-terror bill, we have seen a prevalence of an abuse of power and human rights violations. How much more if this bill becomes a law?” she added, citing the deaths of 17-year-old Kian delos Santos and Delfin Britanico. In both cases, policemen were confirmed as their killers.
Tsinkay said the measure can be used to tag critics of the administration as “terrorists.”
“Once you’re labeled a terrorist, the authorities can justify whatever they may do to you. Whether you will be arrested, you will be abducted, or you will be killed, they will have the means to justify their unconstitutional actions,” she said.
Tsinkay said her vocal dissent against the anti-terror bill is her way of paying tribute to her father. She said that the last time she had a conversation with her father was during a relief operation led by the group Tulong Kabataan in San Juan, Molo, Iloilo City, in mid-April since they were able to see each other regularly because of the quarantine.
“He never stopped serving the people,” she recalled. – Rappler.com
Rhick Lars Vladimer Albay is a Rappler Mover based in Iloilo. He reports mostly on the local cultural community and art scene.