The online news portal of TV5
MANILA, Philippines -- The widow of a journalist slain in the November 23, 2009 Ampatuan massacre has sought political asylum, saying she did so because the Philippine government has failed to protect “people like me, who are seeking remedies and redress in our system of justice.”
Speaking recently before the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Hong Kong, Myrna Reblando claimed a P3-million bounty had been put up for her, making her “a person who is being hunted for what I have spoken and without protection even from my own Philippine government. I did not feel protected, even with my own security escorts.”
Reblando, widow of Manila Bulletin reporter Alejandro “Bong” Reblando, is the former vice chair and spokesperson of Justice Now!, the organization set up by the families of the 32 media workers who were among the 58 persons killed in the massacre.
Her June 25 talk before the Hong Kong-based journalists was her second after receiving a posthumous human rights award on behalf of the murdered media workers two years ago.
A copy of her talk was emailed by the Asian Human Rights Commission, which helped organize the talk and disclosed Reblando's asylum bid.
“At that time,” she said, “I was not prepared. I was not able to explain clearly about what happened to my husband and others.”
Reblando said she had been in hiding for over a year before deciding to flee the country.
During this time, she said, “My life was empty.”
“I felt that my person is useless,” she said. “I felt that those who had threatened me had achieved what they wanted: to silence me, to push me back.”
“When I took the responsibility of being the vice chairperson and spokesperson for Justice Now! Movement, a group of families of the massacre victims, I know that it (was) a tough job. To speak on behalf of those who are frightened and those who could not -- because of oppression, fear and absence of protection -- is a position that is alarming and dangerous.”
During this time, Reblando had disclosed that she and other relatives of the massacre victims had been receiving bribe offers and death threats, while a number of them had reported being under surveillance.
But she said the cost of speaking out had entailed a “very, very heavy” cost on her and her family.
“I lost my livelihood, I cannot go home and the people whom I know could not provide me shelter when I needed the most,” she said, adding that even her relatives and friends feared getting involved.
Reblando said others who had chosen to speak out on behalf of the massacre victims had been killed while “others are struggling to stay alive.”
She cited the murder of Jessie Upham, one of the witnesses in the trial of the massacre suspects, who was killed before he could testify in court.
Recently, authorities confirmed that two other witnesses, including a member of the Ampatuan clan, key members of whom are accused of planning and leading the massacre, had been murdered.
However, Reblando said, “I have also realize(d) that not to speak the truth threatens our aspirations to obtain justice.”
She stressed that, for justice to be achieved for the victims, people, including journalists reporting on the progress of the trial, “must never forget; we should not and must not forget.”
She also thanked the Hong Kong government “for giving me protection, food and providing me shelter.”
Reblando said she was “said that our government cannot protect (its) own citizens, especially those people living in rural and depressed areas. But I still hope that someday we will have a government that is able to lead and serve its own people better, to make us proud and for us to have peace in our country.”