New Zealanders return from the Philippines noting extreme human rights abuses
Today, December 10th, is Human Rights Day. It has been chosen by the International Trade Union Confederation to highlight human rights abuses of trade unions and labour activists in the Philippines. Two New Zealanders - Robert Reid, President of FIRST Union and Teanau Tuiono, representing the Green Party -have just returned to New Zealand after a four-day high-level human rights mission to the Philippines last week, FIRST Union said today.
"The mission enabled us to hear first-hand testimonies of the human rights abuses that are endemic in the Philippines today," said Robert Reid.
"We heard disturbing accounts from indigenous youth about harassment and killings perpetrated by the military and paramilitary groups against their schools and communities. The displacement of indigenous communities by extractive industries and the targeting of environmental defenders is reprehensible," said Teanau Tuiono.
"We heard many testimonies from mothers in the Caloocan suburb of Metro Manila who had had family members killed as part of Philippines President Duterte’s "War on Drugs". In most cases, those killed were "collateral damage"; never having sold or used drugs but just being in the wrong place at the wrong time."
"Now the Duterte Government has also declared war on the people of the Philippines, meaning that many community organisations, NGOs, human rights groups and trade unions are the subject of state terror with extra judicial killings, false arrests and "red tagging" (the declaring of organisations to be communist-aligned prior to them being attacked)."
Robert Reid spent one day interviewing trade unionists and human rights activists on Negros island.
"Negros can only be described as an island under siege and a regime of state terror," said Mr Reid.
"Executive Order 70 and Memo 32 has seen the introduction of a form of martial law in Negros."
"There have been 87 extra-judicial killings in Negros since President Duterte has come to power. These have included trade union and peasant leaders, lawyers and local councillors. Hundreds of workers and peasants have been arbitrarily detained or arrested, often with guns and explosives planted in offices and houses minutes before military or police raids."
"We were able to visit a group of political prisoners in Negros that included workers, peasant leaders and even local priests."
"Human Rights Day is a timely reminder to take a moment to consider human rights across the globe. It is also timely in 2019 that we concentrate on the Philippines, where the human rights abuses of trade unionists and others have reached epidemic proportions."
"We demand that the Duterte Government end the war on its own people, end the extrajudicial killings of trade unionists, human rights defenders and others, and end the large-scale arrests of Filipinos - often with planted evidence - and end the harassment of the lawyers and judiciary who stand up to such abuses."