The International Women’s Alliance expresses our deep grief and rage over the brutal massacre of Philippine land defenders, Elgyn Balonga, Chad Booc, and Gelejurain Ngujo II, and their drivers Robert Aragon and Tirso Añar - known globally as the New Bataan 5. On Februrary 23, in the municipality of New Bataan in a region in the Cagayan de Oro Province in Mindanao, volunteer teachers Chad Booc and Gelejurain Ngujo II, community health worker Elgyn Balonga and two accompanying drivers were on their way back to Davao City when they were tortured and shot dead. The 5 individuals were on their way to conduct community visits for their research work with the Save Our Schools Network (SOS), when they were arbitrarily arrested and brutally murdered by the 10th Infantry Division of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) under the false accusation that the five were members of the New Peoples Army (NPA).
Recently released autopsy results have displayed significant signs of over-kill and torture on each of the martyrs but, especially for Elgyn. Elgyn’s left leg had been cut off a few inches below the knee while her right foot was cut off near the ankle. The dismembered limbs were wrapped and re-attached using packaging tape. “Blood clots had also formed on Elgyn’s fingertips. Based on the visible marks on her body, she was also shot on her right knee and below the right elbow. Her jaw was also visibly torn off and her nose bridge was bruised.”
The New Bataan 5 and all community members engaged in the struggle for land are intrinsic threats to the imperialist forces. State forces are hell bent on stealing the ancestral domain of indigenous communities all over the world. These areas are notoriously rich in natural resources, such as minerals and oil. As such, they are magnets for extractive multinational corporations. Because the state forces and leaders serve the interests of big business, they support this effort by heavily militarizing these areas and committing mass genocide on the people living on and defending these lands. Simply existing in these areas is a threat to the monopoly capitalist agenda.
In no way did these young people or their communities deserve this pain, torture and disrespect. Elgyn, along with her comrades, sacrificed her life in service to the people. As a self-taught community health worker, she had been serving the indigenous communities of the Philippines for over 9 years. She was a trusted and beloved member of the Lumad community, offering a safe and culturally responsive healthcare alternative to the heavily privatized healthcare industry of the Philippines where the Lumad often face discrimination.
This is not an isolated incident. Over ninety-five individuals, mostly parents and teachers, are being charged with trumped up cases in the Philippines. In the six years of the Duterte administration, over forty-five of lumad teachers have been charged with fabricated cases. Thirty-four teachers, students and PTCA members, were tortured or physically assaulted. Over 16 students, teachers and education advocates were victims of Extrajudicial Killings.
As the Filipinos all over the world prepare for the presidential election in June, and the international focus is on the escalating war in Ukraine, the US-backed Philippines state forces have been killing with impunity. It is no surprise that Duterte is escalating his aggression against those who oppose his policies. He is trying to silence pro-people forces while promoting his daughter, Sarah Duterte, as vice president alongside BongBong Marcos - the son of late martial law dictator Ferdinand Marcos. IWA denounces this political move on behalf of Duterte, and calls on all Filipinos to vote against the Marcos/Duterte tandem in the coming election.
Despite the increasing human rights violations, Lumad communities continue to resist and expose the development aggression, militarization, forcible displacement and environmental degradation impacting indigenous communities of the Philippines. The Lumad community is a clear example of the interconnectedness of our struggles as well as the necessity of land defense as a path to the liberation of all Filipino people. As a woman and a mother, Elgyn offered her skills and resources to serve and sustain environmental defenders because she knew that only through anti-imperialist resistance can we rid our society of its misogyny, patriarchy and sexism.
As women fighting imperialism, war, and economic plunder, we must follow Elgyn’s example and unite across all sectors of society. We must learn to unite our struggles and offer our lives to fighting imperialist aggression in all of its forms. We must hold our martyrs with the respect and esteem they deserve and continue to struggle for all exploited and oppressed people of the world.
We demand justice for the New Bataan 5 and an independent, thorough investigation into their deaths! We demand an end to all attacks on the Lumad people and the Save Our Schools Network, including the lies the military and National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) are peddling about Chad, Jurain, Elgyn, and their two unarmed drivers! We demand the US government pass the Philippine Human Rights Act (PHRA) to ensure our tax dollars do not go toward funding military and police that commit such gruesome massacres. Join Filipino communities around the world in this Week of Rage, demanding justice for these and all of our martyrs.
Monday March 14: Record and post a video demanding Justice for the New Bataan 5
Tuesday & Thursday March 15 & 17: $5K FOR THE NEW BATAAN 5; Raise an additional $2,500 for the Save Our Schools Network toward our $5,000 goal
Wednesday March 16: Post a photo of you planting seeds or with flowers, remembering Chad's wish "to be planted”
Friday March 18: Hold in-person protest actions to voice our demands to Philippine consulates and legislative offices