Martial law survivors, activists pay tribute to human rights champion Marie Hilao-Enriquez

In a gathering at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani compound in Quezon City, martial law survivors, activists and friends of human rights champion Marie Hilao-Enriquez, chairperson emeritus of Karapatan, paid tribute to her courageous and indefatigable work for the cause of people’s rights, justice, and national democracy. On April 24, 2022, Hilao-Enriquez, a stalwart in the anti-Marcos dictatorship struggle and a leading human rights activist, died in the US.

“Today, we extol Marie’s life and legacy of service to the Filipino people at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani, before the names of the many martyrs and heroes of martial law – many of them Marie had known, worked and were friends and colleagues with. She now belongs to the nation’s pantheon of heroes who have dedicated their lives against the Marcos dictatorship and to the greater cause of social justice and democracy,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay.

Andrea, Marie’s daughter, in a video message thanking those who delivered and sent messages, stated: “Kaya naman po, para sa amin, ang pinaka-akmang pagpaparangal kay Mama, at sa libu-libong biktima ng martial law ay ang pagpapatuloy ng kanilang adhikain. Nananawagan po kami sa lahat na bumoto nang tama at mariing ireject ang mga Marcos at kanilang mga kampon sa eleksyon na ito at sa mga susunod pang panahon. Never again to the Marcoses, never again to martial law!”

Hilao-Enriquez was Karapatan’s founding secretary general and eventually became its chairperson. She worked with several martial law survivors and human rights advocates in the pursuing the landmark class action suit against the estate of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. and in the campaign for justice and indemnification of victims of human rights violations under martial law. Her sister, Liliosa, was the first documented victim of extrajudicial killing of an activist under detention after Marcos’ martial law was imposed. Marie and several members of her family were detained and tortured as well.

In Karapatan, Marie led campaigns against the extrajudicial killings, torture, enforced disappearance and other gross human rights violations against activists and civilians, particularly during the administrations of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Rodrigo Duterte.

In a written tribute read during the gathering, former UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston said: “Before I visited the Philippines as United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions in February 2007, I was warned that she was a trouble-maker and that I should not trust any information that she provided to me... I soon came to the conclusion that Marie was the ‘real deal.’ She didn’t make empty or careless allegations. Instead, she provided detailed, carefully put together, dossiers on each of the cases of the alleged killings that she presented to me... She stood out as an outstanding example of someone who dedicated her life to human rights. She was indeed a trouble-maker, but in the best sense and in the highest of causes. She loved her people and her country in the best possible way and I mourn her passing.”

Marie’s colleagues in Karapatan led by its chairperson Tita Lubi and friends during martial law, including those while in detention, rights advocates including Mrs. Edita Burgos, Atty. Edre Olalia, former Secretary Judy Taguiwalo and Bonifacio Ilagan, and several human rights and people’s organizations also spoke in the said program.

“Marie dedicated her life in advancing and defending people’s rights – and in the face of a massive human rights crisis in the Philippines as well as the threat of a Marcos restoration and Duterte extension, we turn towards Marie’s life and legacy as a courageous human rights defender as our guiding light in the continuing struggle against tyranny and fascism. As we approach the upcoming elections, we call on all freedom-loving Filipinos to honor Marie and the many other heroes and martyrs of martial law by fighting for our hard-won rights and freedoms. We are all called to firmly reject the Marcoses and Dutertes in the elections and beyond, and, like Marie, we are compelled to relentlessly pursue justice and to hold them accountable for their crimes against the Filipino people,” Palabay concluded.