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Filipinos Share About Common Struggles with Maori

Filipino Activists Share About Common Struggles with Maori

New Zealanders Lit Candles for Freedom, Justice and Peace in the Philippines NDFP: No Short Cut to Peace Pact with Aquino Gov’t

Whangarei, New Zealand - In solidarity with the 6th November protest actions marking 9th month of illegal arrest and detention of Filipino health workers known as 'Morong 43,' peace and human rights advocates in New Zealand lighted candles and signed Free Morong 43 international petition during a public meeting to support the quest for justice and lasting peace in the Philippines.

MR. LUIS JALANDONI and MS CONI LEDESMA, representatives of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Peace Negotiating Panel, spoke at the public meeting in Whangarei organised by Philippines Solidarity Network of Aotearoa (PSNA). They presented the 12-point NDFP program, stressing, "Peace will be the fruit of social justice, when the small landed elite and foreign multinationals will no longer monopolize land ownership in the country. Land reform is a principal issue that must be addressed to pave the way for just and lasting peace in the Philippines."

While Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda stated that Aquino’s preference was for the NDFP leaders to visit Malacanang with a signed peace agreement, Jalandoni declared, “There's no short cut to a peace agreement, solving fundamental problems of landlessness and joblessness of the vast majority is crucial to resolving the decades-old conflict. Pres. Aquino promised change but he has yet to resolve the long disputed Cojuangco-Aquino owned Hacienda Luisita covering 6,453-hectares of land that could benefit thousands of poor families if redistributed justly.”

"We lit candles with the hope that Philippine President Benigno Aquino III will end the darkness of injustice suffered by the 43 community health workers and all political prisoners unjustly detained in the Philippines," Tim Howard, PSNA local organiser of the Whangerei peace forum stated.

Noting that it has been nearly 6 years since the 2004 Hacienda Luisita massacre, Howard says, "At this time we also remember and demand justice for the 7 Hacienda Luisita massacre victims, union president Ricardo Ramos, clerics Bishop Alberto Ramento, Fr. William Tadena and all who have been brutally murdered in this decades-old land dispute." Howard, one of the 5 New Zealanders who joined the August 2005 International Solidarity Mission to probe human rights abuses under the Arroyo presidency, expressed disappointment that the Cojuangco-Aquino family maintains the Stock Distribution Option (SDO) scheme instead of the outright distribution of the vast sugar plantation to the 10,000 farm workers.

According to Jalandoni, "The continuing detention of Morong 43 and the killings related to the Hacienda Luisita dispute highlight the importance of pursuing peace talks that address the problem of landlessness and persistent human rights violations such as illegal arrest, torture, enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings committed by state forces against Filipinos who aspire for socio-economic reforms but are unjustly labeled as 'enemies of the state' and 'terrorists.'”

“With the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) formally signed by both principals of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the NDFP in 1998, Filipinos can file complaints on abuses and demand justice based on this agreement and other existing human rights instruments," Jalandoni noted.

While in Whangarei, Jalandoni and Ledesma were interviewed in a major Radio NZ (national public radio) programme, 3 Maori regional radio programmes, and a local community TV station's news (in Maori and English) - to get the word out to large numbers of Maori and other New Zealanders about land issues and other matters that Filipinos and Maori have in common. #

ENDS

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