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Serve the People: a Mustard Seed

by: Ruel Muñasque

Two weeks before I was abducted, I just read a news article about the alarming and increasing figures of extra-judicial killing, enforced disappearances and other brutal human rights violations across the land. Under the blessings of “Oplan Bantay Laya” of the US-Arroyo regime, the Armed Forces of the Philippines conducted a massive campaign to “neutralize” their targets. The main objective of this new counter-insurgency campaign is to end the historical communist revolutionary movement in the country. Sounds new but it is the same classical method of a fascist reactionary government to defend this decadent social system. Most of the victims have been organizers, members and leaders of legal parliamentary struggle to uphold the basic civil rights of our people. As peasant organizers, we planned to conduct a massive education campaign and awareness program in our covered areas considering the fact that peasants are among those affected by the issue of human rights violations. Together with my colleagues, we designed a comprehensive human rights campaign where the main objective is to expose and oppose the worsening militarization in the countrysides of Zamboanga del Sur.

Unfortunately, on October 24, 2007 around 10:00 o’clock while I was on my way to Pagadian City, the bloodthirsty mercenaries of the US-Arroyo regime abducted me. I could not forget those fascist faces aiming their guns on me and my fellow peasant organizer who traveled with me that night. They searched our body and took away our wallets, cellular phones and other belongings. They blind folded, handcuffed and brought us to a place for investigations. From almost midnight at 11:00 p.m. until 8:00 a.m. the next day of October 25 I was subjected to the anguish of tactical interrogation and a series of psychological torture.

“Serve the People!”, this patriotic pledge echoed in my mind that night while I was in the hands of my captors. “Is this my journey?,” I asked myself as the cold wind that night embracesd my soul and slowly I felt fear deep inside my heart. I knew that service to the very least of our brethren means sacrifice and unconditional commitment and dedication. My mind searched the truth in our cause for social transformation and genuine development for the grassroots that we should always be willing to face all chances and obstacles along the way. “I have seen comrades in this cause losing their families, friends and loved ones and even others have valiantly sacrificed their own lives for the cause.”

That night, I have come to realize that I am one of the victims of 181 desaparecidos in our country and I felt like I was being buried alive. There was no way out and I must face it because this is my chosen path to “serve the people.”

Servanthood was to be just an ideal theme for our young people’s activities in the church. We tried to live at the concept of true service to the very least of our people that Jesus himself set as an example. Sometimes, service was a very popular theme in our church advocacies to bring the good news to the people. But the good news somehow cannot be heard for it is not good news to the people without social justice and if these bloody crimes of extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, harassments, torture and illegal arrests, whose common victims were peasants, workers, and other progressive sectors, remain unresolved.

Yes, that night I felt like a mustard seed that can move mountains. For me it is not just a streak of fashion printed in our shirts but it is a pledge of undying, unconditional love to our toiling people. The people who are in bondage under this demonic social order.

Hope in the grave!

From October 24, until November 5, 2007 I had sleepless nights and indigestion. Maybe it was because of mental stress due to the relentless mental torture, psychological threats and tactical interrogation I am facing almost every day.

Because I was abducted by the composite units of the 53rd IB, Military Intelligence Battalion and Military Intelligence Group - ISAFP my tactical interrogation lasted long because each unit will conducted separate interrogations everyday. They forced me in a subtle way to sign an affidavit of voluntary surrender and they took pictures with those planted and fabricated documents and a grenade with me. I felt so humiliated and helpless...but I could not move nor I could speak the truth.

“Counting days in those four gray walls inside the outpost of MIB in TABAK division Philippine Army just like lying in my own grave.”

During those days of lament, I was hopeless and tired of waiting for help. Sometimes one’s commitment, faith, and endurance will be put to the test. Pressure and threats were always there puncturing my soul And I heard no help inside my cold grave.

With their menacing presence, I could not help but be intimidated, they have controlled my life, my freedom and dictates even my soul to let go of my principles. Slowly, they pushed me to the edge.

“They forced me to choose my own fate inside my grave…will I cooperate with them, go to jail or be executed? It was a choice that would lead to my fate in this journey. I knew that in anyone of choices, I was still a captive and there was still no way I can be freed…”

Well it would be better to “play the game” they wanted, the game of the devil was the only choice left. A hopeless choice I was able to grab onto in a hopeless situation where no one was there to lend a hand except by me. I was just too afraid of my death and afraid of losing my loved ones if I did not cooperate with them. But I didn’t want to see these criminals persecuting the people and celebrating their evil plans at the expense of many innocent lives who just wanted to serve for the realization of our dreams. A dream for a just and social order where justice, peace and equality reigns.

Then, I remember His verses in the Bible which says, “the Lord is my shepherd I shall not want. He maketh me lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul, He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name sake, Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for though art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me”. Righteousness conquers evil and I should fear neither demons nor death.

When I talked to my sister on the phone, a glimmer of hope shone upon me. It was hope that gave me courage to fight for what I believe is for the good of our people. However, it was not easy as expected; still there was fear and anxiety inside. Slowly, the fire started burning especially when I knew that my family, colleagues, friends, and fellow believers were fighting for my freedom.

On November 7, 2007, I was “resurrected from the grave” when I saw my sisters, brother-in-law, friends, lawyers, and colleagues inside the courtroom. A miracle happened in my life after the fierce battle in the court had awakened my soul! A battle that I myself must decide in front of my fascist abductors who have been waiting for the fulfillment of their dirty tricks. However, the prayers and the strength of the people who have supported me in this journey-- from my family and from our colleagues-- have lighted the fire in my heart thus empowering me to cross the borderline of liberty and death and fight for my freedom. Even death could not separate me from the love of our people and the love of God.

Being a victim of enforced disappearance is like lying dead in my enemy’s grave. And being freed through the Writ of Amparo is like a resurrection and redemption. Yes, it is a miracle because the Writ of Amparo took effect on the day that I was also taken.

As I walked through the hallway of my freedom with my angels surrounding me, A bible verse echoed in my mind that captured my heart and led me bursting into tears…Luke 4:18…“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, He hath anointed me to bring the gospel to the poor. He hath sent me to heal the hopeless hearted, To preach freedom for the captives and oppressed, To bright light for those who were blind and to set liberty to them that are bruised.” Amen…
The article was posted at a yahoo group but not knowing where it came from I have to put if off and almost did not post it. Since it was a very gripping reflective account I just can’t let it pass. This is also a great article for people to have a sense, appreciation, and feel of what people are going through under this circumstance........ just like Jun Lozada's experience who at the time he was held can only hope and pray that he be spared.

Ruel Muñasque is a youth leader with the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, an affiliate of United Church in Australia, Western Australia. The description of their ministry found on their website makes you wonder why the greedy corrupt ruling elites with a zombie unthinking military are targeting religious members of the church, to quote:

Social Justice Commission has the object of enabling the Uniting Church in Western Australia to maintain a vision of wholeness of life for all people and of holding before the Church the importance of standing alongside those at the fringe of society, the poor, the marginalized and the oppressed, in a commitment to solidarity and advocacy as a direct implication of faith in the Gospel.

That in essence is a true genuine practicing Christian ministry unlike some irrelevant CBCP members and other institutionalized religion and cults who may have been eaten by the endemic corruption standing not with the poor but the crooked corrupt leader like Gloria Arroyo…… and they have the gall to defend and pass off the lies coming from the illegitimate administration.

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