Human rights stalwart Marie Hilao-Enriquez passes away

Karapatan’s chairperson emeritus Amaryllis Hilao-Enriquez has died on April 24 in California, USA, the human rights icon’s family announced.

Hilao-Enriquez’s daughter Andrea said her mother died at 12 noon Sunday (California time). She was 68.

 “My mother, Amaryllis Hilao-Enriquez, passed away at 12 noon today. She is reunited with her sister, Liliosa, who died under martial law in the Philippines,” Andrea wrote on Facebook.

 “My mother dedicated her life to fighting for justice and human rights. She was a beautiful person, funny, intelligent, brave, and strong. She was loved and will be greatly missed,” she added.

Karapatan also announced her death, adding it mourns with her family along with human rights violations victims, their families and communities.

Hilao-Enriquez was also a former chairperson of the Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensiyon at Aresto (SELDA) and former convernor of the Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law (CARMMA).

Hilao-Enriquez had long been suffering from various illnesses.

Martial law survivor

Fondly-called Marie by the Philippine human rights community, Hilao-Enriquez was a scholar at the College of Medicine at the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH) taking up occupational therapy when she first became involved in activism.

She eventually joined the Kamuning chapter of the youth organization Kabataang Makabayan (Patriotic Youth).

Karapatan further described its former long-time chairperson as a stalwart in the anti-Marcos dictatorship struggle and in the relentless advocacy for justice and accountability of the Marcoses.

“[S]he and her family endured gross human rights violations during that dark period of our nation’s history. Her sister, student journalist and activist Liliosa, was the first reported case of killing under military detention after Marcos’s martial law was imposed,” Karapatan said.

After Liliosa’s death, Marie went underground and continued her work as community organizer.

In 1974, Hilao-Enriquez was arrested, tortured and was detained for two years. She became part of the Kapisanan para sa Pagpapalaya at Amnestiya ng mga Detenidong Pulitikal sa Pilipinas or Kapatid after she was released from prison and as she campaigned for the release of her detained husband, Karapatan said.

After the late dictator was ousted in 1986, she joined SELDA and helped in the filing of the historic class action suit against Marcos in Hawaii.

Hilao-Enriquez helped in consolidating the data and finding the lead plaintiffs for the class suit. Her mother and younger sister were two of the ten named plaintiffs in the case.

She led campaigns for justice and reparations of human rights violations victims against the Marcoses, including in the advocacy for the enactment of Republic Act No. 10368 or the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013.

She led the formation of CARMMA in 2016, having campaigned against what Karapatan said are historical lies of the Marcoses throughout decades.

Hilao-Enriquez continued in leading the campaigns for people’s rights as the founding secretary general of Karapatan in its establishment in 1995 and became its chairperson in 2009.

“She worked for the release of political prisoners and the dismissal of trumped up charges against those detained, in pursuing justice for victims of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and torture, and in working for the signing and implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL),” Karapatan said.

“Hilao-Enriquez mentored numerous activists and human rights workers throughout decades. We are deeply indebted to her brilliant, selfless and passionate work as among the foremost human rights defenders in the Philippines. We vow to strive to honor her legacy of service to the Filipino people in every possible way that we can and as long as tyrants and dictators remain in our midst,” it added.

READ: Marie Hilao-Enriquez: An Icon of Human Rights Activism in the Philippines

Marie Hilao-Enriquez (Photo from Andrea Enriquez’s announcement)

‘From Manila to the world’

National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers president Edre Olalia said he is very sad at the news of Hilao-Enriquez’s passing.

“Tita Marie (Hilao-Enriquez) was very dear to me. We walked together in many a journey to defend, protect and promote human rights. From Manila to Geneva, from Utrecht to Oslo to New York, she was a partner, aunt, comrade, and friend,” Olalia said.

The lawyer added that Hilao-Enriquez was “unique, indefatigable, funny, thoughtful and selfless, even as she was naughty and sometimes pesky in her own adorable way. I got only the fondest, funniest and feistiest of memories of her.”

To say that Hilao-Enriquez is an icon of the human rights struggle is an understatement, Olalia said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)