They murdered a jolly activist today

They killed him in the midst of a dangerous pandemic, one that shut down his beloved city and rendered its poor communities nearly helpless.

The person brutally murdered by four burly men in early this morning was one of Iloilo City’s most visible personalities during times of disaster and calamities, often seen organizing and coordinating relief missions. And giving relief to those most affected by the coronavirus lockdown was one of the last public things he did before assassins brutally snuffed out his life.

Jory Porquia was at ease with the poor, both urban and rural. He had a smooth rapport with the people he chose to serve since his student-activist days. He bantered easily with the poor and marginalized, his voice and laughter carrying the Ilonggo’s sing-song and tender accent far, be it in Iloilo City’s poor communities or in the far-flung communities of the Tumanduk, the indigenous people of his beloved Panay Island.

Jory was coordinator of the alternative political party Bayan Muna in his home city of Iloilo, touted to be the “City of Love.” How he lived this love was unconscionable to the enemies social justice Porquia struggled to abide by all his life. The assassins barged into his rented house and pumped nine bullets into him, killing him on the spot.

Bayan Muna immediately condemned the assassination, calling it traitorous. The group suspects Porquia’s murderers could only be of the government. “Prior to this killing, Jory was hounded by elements of Iloilo City PNP (Philippine National Police) for leading relief operations and education campaign on COVID 19 among hungry residents of poor communities in Iloilo City,” Bayan Muna said. “This is part of the impunity in political killings aimed at terrorizing activists critical of Duterte’s administration,” it added.

 Bayan Muna revealed that even though Iloilo City mayor Mayor Jerry Treñas welcomed the relief and feeding activities Bayan Muna and Jory initiated, this did not sit well with the government. ”The police did not only prevent activists like Porquia from doing volunteer work against the pandemic, it even spread the blatant lie that the food served by activists to quarantined residents are contaminated with the COVID 19 virus,” Bayan Muna fumed. “Apparently, the PNP gets instructions from their generals ignoring the policies of local chief executives,” the group added.

The lies and harassments did not stop Jory. But the assassins’ bullets did.

Jory Porquia (Supplied photo)

Successful activist career

Jory survived Ferdinand Marcos’ Martial Law as a leading Kabataan para sa Demokrasya at Nasyonalismo (KADENA) and League of Filipino Students leader. After Marcos was ousted he was appointed by Corazon Aquino to the National Youth Commission. He left his government post when it became clear the so-called People Power government is not one to bring genuine social change.

As a young family man, he had to work as a migrant worker in Saudi Arabia, Singapore and China. In those countries, it was as if Jory was still the Iloilo activist of old as he became active in organizing fellow migrant workers and advocating for Filipino migrants’ rights.

Upon his return, Jory briefly engaged in the construction business and worked as Migrante organizer in Panay. To this day, Migrante calls him its own, expressing grief and anger at his murder. “With pain and sorrow, we grieve with Jory Porquia’s loved ones, friends and his fellow Bayan Muna members for his demise,” Migrante International said.

Jory was an well-rounded activist. Aside from his organizing tasks in various organizations, he was also an active environmentalist. He was among the activists of the Madia-as Ecological Movement, which was instrumental in the banning of destructive commercial mining in Panay.

When Bayan Muna Party was founded in 2000, Jory was among its founding members. As party coordinator in Iloilo City, he actively engaged in developing good relations with local political leaders in Panay. He even was goaded into trying his luck at an elected position in the 2010 local elections, but lacking funds, it was a long shot.

But in 2016, Jory again found himself in government service. In barely a year, he assumed the coordination of the National Anti-poverty Commission and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in Panay Island. As he left government in 1987, so he did in 2017.

“Jory is a great loss to the progressive movement for social transformation, but will inspire Bayan Muna members and all activists to persist in advancing New Politics against the tyrannical rule of the current administration. We will always remember you, Kaupod (Comrade) Jory, as we turn our grief into liberating courage,” former Bayan Muna Representative and current vice president for the Visayas Siegfred Deduro said in his tribute.

Jory Porquia (Supplied photo)

Loving father

Even in his very busy schedule as a social activist however, Jory was a loving father to his two children.

In announcing the death of his father this morning, Jory’s son Lean remembered when his father immediately flew to Manila when he needed someone to talk to. He said his dad always supported his decisions but always reminded him to ask himself, “Who is he doing it for?” Lean and his sister grew up sharing their father’s patriotism.

Lean raged at his father’s killing. “They killed my tatay (father) when all he wanted was to help the poor. They killed my tatay in the middle of a crisis when all he did was to give relief to those who need it. They killed my tatay, mercilessly. Nine gunshots to kill him, NINE! He was alone. He was defenseless,” he wrote on his Facebook wall.

But like his father’s friends and colleagues, Lean could not help but remember his father’s jolly nature and easy-going ways with the ordinary folk even when he was facing grave danger and great injustices. “You survived Martial Law. You went in and out of prison because you fought for other people’s rights. Despite that, you gave a smile on the faces of people you helped, people that I don’t know, people that I’m surprised to welcome you in their homes and share their meal, even if it’s just one small can of sardines. You brushed shoulders with bureaucrats, but only to remain grounded in advancing the welfare of the poor people in Iloilo,” he recalled.

At the time of his assassination, Lean revealed Jory was brewing a personal project that was close to his heart. “We were just talking last night about your plans of opening up a small restaurant. You even showed me all the papers are ready. You even took a picture of your own masterpiece dish and I told you to reserve some when I have the chance to go home,” he wrote.

“How can I go home and grieve? How can we cry for justice when justice is elusive for people who fight for justice? I can only place my rage in words that mean nothing to those who killed you,” Lean added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)