by Leah Navarro
Light a candle for Connie.
Concepcion “Connie” Jayme-Brizuela was only fifty-six when she was viciously murdered. She was shot in the face and chest several times, her brother Manuel Jayme could not fathom why anyone would use so much force against a woman that stood at only 4’8”. Her mother, Irene Gepolio-Jayme, was too distraught to cry upon seeing Connie’s body. Mothers should never see their children so violated. Connie’s three children did not deserve to be orphaned so soon.
Connie was a famous human and women’s rights lawyer in Mindanao. Her friend, Rep. Neri Colmenares, remembers her as “feisty and fiery”, especially when prosecuting cases against the high and mighty. That she encountered difficulty would be an understatement. Neri always felt more confident when working with her. She was a relentless force for the downtrodden and never shirked from a challenge as she practiced her formidable legal skills all over Mindanao.
Connie was a founding member of UPLM, the Union for People’s Lawyers in Mindanao and a co-convener of INPEACE (Initiatives for Peace), a grassroots movement dedicated to bringing peace and justice to Mindanao. She was no stranger to death threats, moved away to Negros when the threats intensified. But, that move was meant to keep her family safe as she continued to travel back to Mindanao for work.
It was no surprise, then, that Connie Brizuela would lend her expertise as a volunteer lawyer to the Noynoy/Mar campaign. She probably believed, as so many of us believe, that she could help return good governance to our country through Noynoy and Mar. And so, ever the helpful one, Connie accompanied Genalyn Tiamson-Mangudadatu and the rest of her party on the trip to Sharif Aguak. She went along as the Liberal Party lawyer tasked to assist Genalyn in filing her husband’s certificate of candidacy at the Comelec office.
One can only imagine the terror that took hold of Connie and her fifty-six companions that Monday morning. How can anyone picture the inhuman butchery inflicted on defenseless human beings? Connie must have been among the first to stand up to their murderers, unafraid and defiant. That would have been her natural response. However, a stout heart, a passion and commitment to fight evil, zeal for her beloved Mindanao, were not enough to stop a hail of bullets from ending her all too short life.
Connie’s friends will no longer hear her full throated laugh, as Neri likes to describe it. He also said, “we lost a colleague, a fierce human rights advocate”. She will no longer browse through her favorite “ukay ukay” stalls in Cagayan de Oro. Her family is bereft of her embrace, and our country has lost another champion of human rights.
Let us not forget Connie. Say a prayer for Connie and her slain companions. In your own way, step into her shoes and continue her quest. Light a candle for Connie.