Protesters hold vigil for murdered Kababayans Jennifer Laude and Evelyn Castillo

Community News & Features Nov 7, 2014 at 9:35 am
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By Rachelle Cruz

About 35 people gathered at the Bathurst-Wilson parkette on Friday, Oct. 24, many of them members of Filipino organizations under the umbrella of BAYAN Canada to demand “Justice for Our Sisters”. Gabriela Ontario, Anakbayan Toronto, Migrante organizations, FMWM, Binnadang, IwWorkers, and other progressive organizations held solidarity, to protest the recent deaths of two Filipinas, Evelyn Bumatay Castillo , a 43-year-old caregiver, murdered on Oct. 11 in Mississauga and on the same day, 26-year old transgendered woman Jennifer Laude, who was murdered back in Olongapo City, Philippines.

DSC_0074The aim of the vigil was to highlight the gender-based violence that kababayans face, abroad and at home,
“These people are victims. Our women are being victimized, but rather than seeing justice done to them, they’re even accused of other further wrongdoings. So decry that and we demand that the Philippine government protect and show respect for human rights, most especially the migrant workers who have been remitting billions of dollars,” Christopher Sorio, vice-chair of Migrante Canada, said.

In the case of Castillo, Peel Region Police responded to a fire on Britannia Rd. and located the victim without vital signs. She was later transported to a local hospital where she succumbed to her injuries. Police believe that she was engaged in sex trade work, in addition to her work as a caregiver. “Nick” Vade Murray, 32, of Toronto, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder.

DSC_0002“She did die prior to the fire being deliberately set in that room,” Const. George Tudos, of Peel Regional Police confirmed.

Back home in the Philippines, Laude was found unconscious in a motel room in Olongapo City, her head submerged in a toilet bowl. U.S. Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton, of New Bedford, Mass., allegedly killed Laude, in a room at the Celzone Lodge. Pemberton is currently being held at the Philippine military’s main camp in Manila, in an air-conditioned van guarded by American soldiers. Laude’s death sparked outright criticism and widespread protests in the country.

But it’s only the beginning of their “indignation” leading up towards Migrants Day on Dec. 18, Sorio warned. The group hopes to engage Kababayans and encourage them to be part of the ongoing campaign to seek justice for both women,
“Our call is very simple: It’s justice for our sisters. Eto ay para kay Jennifer Laude, (na pinaslang umano) ng isang US army sa Pilipinas on October 11. And on the same day, meron ding na-murder na live-in caregiver na si Evelyn Bumatay Castillo. So we’re here to call for justice for both our sisters, from back home but also here in Canada,” Jesson Reyes of Anakbayan Toronto said.

DSC_0039“Ginigiit namin na bigyan ng protection yung mga caregivers sa kanilang work places – alisin yung mga very restrictive na conditions ng program at bigyan ng permanent resident status dahil yung kanilang temporary status ay nagbibigay sa kanila ng napaka-vulnerableng position,” Mithi Esguerra, Gabriela Ontario member added.

Even groups outside BAYAN Canada joined the vigil to stand in solidarity,
“We decided to join our Filipino comrades today in calling, first of all in bringing awareness to the community about what has happened to these two women, both here in Canada and in the Philippines. And also to call attention to how imperialism impacts the lives of women worldwide, and specifically a call to the end of American imperialism within the Philippines,” Randy Brown, of Proletarian Feminist Front-Toronto, said.

“The community should look at the violence that the caregivers face even more in Canada. The fact that she’s a live-in caregiver and had to do sex work means that she’s not making enough money working as a domestic worker in Canada,” Kim Abis, of the Revolutionary Student Movement- Toronto, said.

DSC_0013The Philippine Consulate through the Philippine Overseas Labour Office has been extending support to the family’s victim.

Connie Sorio, of Migrante Canada, and International Women’s Alliance has also been working closely with the family. She said that they are trying to bring Castillo’s son over to Canada, so he can attend his mother’s funeral. Sorio has reached out to the victim’s sister, also a caregiver who arrived here in Canada on December 2012.

“So kahit sa kanyang sister na nandito ngayon, ay di pa rin makapaniwala doon sa nangyari, kaya lang hindi siya makapag-mourn at the moment dahil ang dami nyang dapat gawin,” Sorio said.

“Unfortunately the mother does not know kung anong nangyari kay Evelyn kasi she suffered a mild stroke the week that Evelyn was killed. So wala sa mga kapatid nila na nagkaroon ng lakas ng loob sabihin sa nanay na napatay si Evelyn,” she added.

But in her pray for justice, Sorio finally said, “Ang gusto ko lang talagang message to send out at the moment is, hindi sex trade worker si Evelyn. She was a caregiver. Meron syang legitimate na employers, who are also grieving at the moment. At isa siyang responsible mother and daughter, at katulad sya nang karamihang nanandito sa Canada na nagtratrabaho as caregiver, working so hard para lang may maipadalang suporta sa kanilang mga pamilya sa Pilipinas.”