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Key asked to raise human rights with Philippines President

17 October 2012

John Key asked to raise human rights issue when Philippines President comes to NZ

Philippine President Benigno Simeon Aquino III is coming to New Zealand on 22-23 October 2012 reportedly to sign new trade agreements with NZ.

According to PH Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Albert del Rosario, “New Zealand is looking at trade opportunities in the Philippines as it sees the country as the third largest market for its dairy exports.”

"When the previous President, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, came to New Zealand in 2007, Helen Clark raised the human rights issue with her. We challenge John Key to do the same with President Aquino. Considering that the Philippines is one of New Zealand’s trade and economic partners, we believe that the attainment of political stability and resolution of the human rights crisis in the Philippines should also concern the New Zealand government," Murray Horton, Secretary of Philippines Solidarity Network of Aotearoa (PSNA) stated.

*Statement of Prime Minister John Key


Murray Horton
Secretary, Philippines Solidarity Network of Aotearoa Box 2450 Christchurch, New Zealand cafca@chch.planet.org.nz

Appeal for New Zealand to Raise Concern on Philippines Human Rights Crisis

Philippine President Benigno Simeon Aquino III is coming to New Zealand on 22-23 October 2012 to sign new trade agreements with NZ. When Pres. Aquino’s predecessor, former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, visited NZ in May 2007, she was greeted with protests because of the appalling Philippine human rights situation. We take note of the case of UCCP Pastor Berlin Guerrero who was abducted and detained in a military camp on 27th May 2007. The significance of this is that, out of the numerous political murders and disappearances since Arroyo came to power in 2001, this one was highlighted by an NZ union press release during her State visit to NZ. At that stage the pastor’s whereabouts were unknown.

With media scrutiny and no less than Helen Clark raising the issue with Arroyo during their talks, Arroyo was pressured to call Manila to order Police authorities to sort it out. The pastor was suddenly surfaced, he lived to tell about his torture in the hands of state security forces. His captors/torturers told him “you have powerful friends abroad.”

Philippine solidarity groups enjoin New Zealand political leaders and media to raise concern on outstanding human rights issues when they have the chance to meet Pres. Aquino on 22nd October in Auckland or on 23rd October in Wellington.

Five Questions for Philippine President Benigno Simeon Aquino III

1. Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill vs the Cybercrime Law: Would you make the long-awaited push for FOI and heed popular demand to repeal the Cybercrime Law?

While media and advocacy groups have asked Pres. Aquino to make a big push for the passage of the Freedom of Information Bill which has been pending for 19 years, the Anti-Cybercrime Act was railroaded. On 12th September 2012, Pres. Aquino signed into law the Republic Act (RA) No. 10175 or known as Cybercrime Prevention Act. The law allows the Justice Department to summarily shut down a website, or a politician to stifle media with a libel threat. It allows monitoring of ALL online activities without a warrant. A wide range of online activity could be considered libelous. Sharing a link, clicking "like" on Facebook, or retweeting could mean 12 years in jail. Even if you are not the original author of the material, just sharing it with someone online could land you in prison. The Philippine Supreme Court issued a 120-day temporary restraining order after it was flooded with 15 petitions asking for the nullification of the law. Media and citizens’ groups are calling for complete repeal of the law which threatens the Filipino people’s freedom of the press, speech and expression.

2. Unabated Extra-judicial Killings: You pledged to obtain justice for the human rights victims under Arroyo but the killings persist under your watch. What were your efforts to make these stop?

At the end of Arroyo’s 9-nine year rule, the human rights group Karapatan recorded 1206 political killings, making Arroyo the President with the worst record of human right violations since the late dictator Marcos. When you assumed power in June 2010, there were great expectations that the killings would stop and the perpetrators would be hold accountable. We hear that as of September 2012, there have been 113 extra-judicial killings under your watch. Two of the victims were foreign missionaries who served amongst mining-affected protesting communities: Italian missionary Fr. Faustino Tentorio and Dutch missionary Wilhelmus Geertman.

3. Maguindanao Massacre Case: What are the prospects of resolution under your watch?

Almost 3 years after the 21st November 2009 horrific Ampatuan massacre that claimed the lives of 57 people including 32 journalists, 3 witnesses and 3 relatives of the victims have been killed. What can you do to improve the witness protection program for the Ampatuan massacre case and ensure speedy trial for this and numerous cases awaiting just resolution?

4. Political Prisoners: Any chance of granting presidential amnesty as your mother did?

Your father was imprisoned and assassinated under the Marcos dictatorship. There are over 400 political prisoners in state prisons around the country. Is there any chance of you granting presidential amnesty for political prisoners as your mother did when she assumed power after the Marcos dictatorship was ousted?

One of the youngest political prisoners is 21-year old Maricon C. Montajes, student of the University of the Philippines (UP) taking up Mass Communication major in Film. As a student of Mass Communication, it was natural for her to explore the countryside and seek to learn about the situation of communities. Maricon and two other youth were arrested during a raid conducted by the 743rd Combat Squadron of the Philippine Air Force in Taysan, Batangas, Southern Tagalog. They have been detained for over a year on trumped-up charges of frustrated murder and homicide, illegal possession of firearms and violation of gun ban.

Among the prominent prisoners are Alan Jazmines and Tirso Alcantara. Both are consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in the peace process with the Government of the Philippines (GPH). Jazmines reportedly suffered torture and maltreatment after he wrote a statement to the media about the deplorable living condition of political prisoners under police and military custody and for exposing the presence among them of at least three foreign nationals captured by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) elsewhere and detained there under the illegal practice of “rendition” by the American government. Alcantara had issued a signed affidavit detailing maltreatment since his arrest and hinted that he is being slowly poisoned by his captors.

5. Paramilitary Groups: When will these be disbanded?

Local and international human rights watchdog groups have been calling for revocation of Executive Order 546, a decree legitimizing the use of civilian military groups that have in fact been involved in a number of extra-judicial killings such as the case of Italian missionary Fr. Faustino “Pops” Tentorio. These paramilitary groups such as the notorious Bagani group seriously threatens the lives of civilians including Fr. Peter Geremia, chairperson of the Justice for Fr. Pops Movement.


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