NZ Ambassador Gets Assurance: Dennis Maga Will Not Be Arrested
By Selwyn Manning and Joseph Barratt
The New Zealand Government has been given an assurance by its Philippines counterpart that protester Dennis Maga will not be arrested on his return home.
A spokesperson for New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark told Scoop today: "The Prime Minister is aware of Mr Maga's claims that he believes he is likely to be arrested on his return to the Philippines.
"New Zealand's Ambassador to the Philippines sought clarification from senior Philippines' officials and was told there are no charges pending against Mr Maga and no warrant has been issued for his arrest," the Prime Minister's spokesperson said.
Scoop understands a request was issued Friday from the Council of Trade Unions to the Prime Minister Helen Clark's office asking that diplomatic channels be used to seek assertions or clarification from its Philippines counterpart - that Dennis Maga does not face arrest.
That clarification has now been given.
However, Philippines trade unionist and human rights activist Dennis Maga has applied to remain in New Zealand for another month while he and his supporters seek assurances he will not face arrest nor death on his return home.
Mr Maga had planned to return to the Philippines on June 2.
For the next month, Mr Maga will be a guest of both the National Distribution Union and Unite Union where he will continue to visit work sites, union meetings, and gatherings to educate New Zealanders about human rights abuses in the Philippines.
Mr Maga also received expressions of solidarity from unions in Australia.
Dennis Maga traveled to New Zealand especially to raise awareness of human rights abuses in the Philippines. He said Philippines President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ought not take part in the InterFaith Dialogue as she is partly responsible for human rights abuses.
Speaking to Scoop Media, Dennis Maga said: “I called my family because it was my sons 1st birthday. Then my father came on the line and told me that it is not safe to return.”
Mr Maga was told by his father that a family member working for the ministry of immigration had told them that there are orders for Mr Maga's arrest when he arrives back in the country on Sunday, June 3nd.
His father also told Mr Maga that their house had been under surveillance by the police.
Dennis Maga spent last week touring New Zealand, speaking on political repression in the Philippines, and then travelled to Waitangi to protest with human rights groups about the involvement of President Arroyo in the dialogues.
The Interfaith dialogues are aimed at increasing understanding between different faiths in order to reduce religious radicalisation and terrorism. Human rights activists have cited hypocrisy by those who organised the InterFaith Dialogue claiming the Philippines president is a real terrorist.
Mr Maga said the union movement in the Philippines had tried to find out what his status is from the Philippines government and the Ministry of Immigration. But Philippines officials refuse to deny or confirm plans for his arrest.
Philippines President Arroyo, while attending the InterFaith Dialogue Forum in Waitangi, was asked to explain her position on political killings. In reply, she said her government has been trying to stop the violence.
“We share the values of human rights and democracy same as New Zealand,” President Arroyo said.
“We are in a fight to turn around our history of political violence and retribution. We are slowly breaking down the cycle of violence.” President Arroyo said.
Recent reports by both the United Nations and Amnesty International have documented killings in the Philippines including the murders of political activists, journalists and politicians. Both reports attribute many of the killings to the Philippine military.
The United Nations report released earlier this year showed how people responsible for the killings acted with “virtual impunity” and many of the deaths were “convincingly attributed” to the Philippines military.
A researcher for the Amnesty International report Tim Parritt found that many of the senior military officials were openly talking about “neutralising” left-wing groups. Mr Parritt wrote: "No-one deserves to die for their political affiliation.”
Contemplating his return home, Mr Maga explained there are two things that could happen: one will see him arrested and charged with rebellion. Or two: he could be taken away and killed.