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Maguindanao massacre victim’s kin leave for US on refugee status

23 November 2016

Myrna Reblando and daughter.
By Vir B. Lumicao

The widow and daughter of a Filipino newspaperman who was among the 58 people killed in the Maguindanao massacre on Nov 23, 2009, are now in the United States leading new lives as refugees.
Myrna Reblando and her 19-year-old daughter Julia left Hong Kong last month after more than five years of waiting in the SAR for a third country to grant them refuge.

Myrna, wife of the late Manila Bulletin correspondent Alejandro Reblando, came to Hong Kong in April 2010 with her youngest daughter to address a forum organized by AHRC.

They decided to stay and file torture claims with the Immigration Department, citing threats to their lives, so they would not be forced to return home.

They were granted refugee status on July 14, 2014 by the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHCR) but had to wait for more than two years to get resettled.

“Yes, Myrna and Julia are now in the US. They left Hong Kong on Oct 13,” The SUN learned on Oct 29 from Danilo Reyes, who is on leave as deputy director of the Asian Human Rights Commission.
Reyes said the Reblandos were assisted by a staff from International Organization for Migration, the United Nations agency on migration, in their travel to the U.S.

“I’m not sure exactly what documents were used, but I’m sure they were not Philippine passports,” Reyes said, adding that he was not aware if they changed names.

The Reblandos were among hundreds of Filipinos who had come to Hong Kong to seek asylum on grounds of persecution or threats to their lives back home.

Hong Kong does not grant refuge to asylum-seekers but evaluates torture claims and provides temporary shelter to claimants while the UNHCR screens their applications.

According to Immigration, all the applications made to its Torture Claims Board by Filipinos have all been rejected.

This was corroborated by Reyes, who confirmed that the Reblandos’ claims were unsuccessful.
“Myrna and Julia’s claims were rejected by the Board earlier. We appealed (their case) to the Torture Claims Board, but before the Board decision on their appeals came out, the UNHCR Hong Kong confirmed their refugee status determination,” Reyes said.

“So, their resettlement in the US was by virtue of their being declared refugees by the UNHCR, not by the Torture Claims Board,” Reyes said.

In an interview with The SUN two years ago, Reblando expressed fear for the safety of her family in the Philippines after 17 police officers who were among the suspects in the killings were allowed to post bail.

“How can we avoid fearing for our safety when the very same suspects who were among those who planned the massacre are allowed to post bail?” she said.

Reblando said there had been threats to her family after she led the widows of the other victims in a vocal crusade for justice against Maguindanao’s powerful Ampatuan clan, the prime suspects in the massacre.

Alejandro was with 31 other journalists and 26 civilians in a vehicle convoy escorting the wife of then Vice-Governor Esmael Mangudadatu to the Commission on Elections office to file her spouse’s candidacy for provincial governor when they were massacred.

Governor Andal Ampatuan Jr and his father, Andal Sr. were among those jailed for the killings. The case remains unresolved, nearly seven years since it happened.

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