Shocked to Hear of Human Rights Abuses in the Philippines
Members of the House of Commons Subcommittee on International
Human Rights expressed deep concern over the continuing political
killings perpetrated by the military in the Philippines and vowed
to submit to Parliament the recommendations by three progressive members
of the Philippine Congress on what the Canadian government can do.
"It's very shocking what we read in the reports
- both (UN Special Rapporteur) Prof. Alston's and Judge Jose Melo's
reports - on the human rights violations taking place," said
the Liberal Party member of the House of Commons Subcommittee on
International Human Rights, Mario Silva. "We as a country have
to speak out and say this is outrageous."
Members of the Philippine House of Representatives
Crispin Beltran, Luz Ilagan and Satur Ocampo testified before the
Subcommittee on April 15. They reported that more than 900 extrajudicial
killings and 180 enforced disappearances have occurred under President
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's administration. They appealed to the subcommittee
to urge the Canadian government to put more pressure on the Arroyo
government to end the political killings and to arrest and prosecute
the perpetrators. They further urged the Canadian government to
precondition its bilateral aid to the Arroyo government upon its
full implementation of Alston's recommendations. The three parliamentarians
have been elected under the Philippine Party List system as representatives
of marginalized sectors, namely peasants and workers, women and
a coalition of grassroots organizations. Their 2-week human rights
advocacy tour in Canada was organized by members of the Stop the
Killings and Philippine Solidarity Networks, including The United
Church of Canada. The parliamentarians also met with all the opposition
parties and representatives of the Department of Foreign Affairs,
Trade and Investment and International Development Cooperation.
The Philippine legislators also urged the Canadian
government to review its bilateral aid to the Philippine government
, in particular, its Military and Police Training Assistance Programs,
its mining investments and its development aid to determine if any
part of it is used for programs involving human rights violations.
"I'm personally very troubled that 12 (Filipino)
officers will be trained in this country," said New Democratic
Party Subcommittee member Wayne Marston. "We need to get to
the bottom of that." Marston also highlighted the need for
Canada to heed a two-year-old subcommittee report on corporate and
social responsibilities of Canadian mining firms operating in the
Philippines, a few of which have been alleged to have used military
and paramilitary forces for their security.
"I am quite astounded, despite this subcommittee's
report that was produced two years ago, that this situation has
not yet been corrected," added Bloc Quebecois member Diane
Bourgeois. I'd like us to discuss that (report) in this subcommittee
to find out what the government did to follow up. I am hoping that
Canada will not once again be losing face."
Marston also acknowledged the grave risk the Philippine
legislators have taken in bringing forward their criticisms and
opposition against what they view as an oppressive government.
"I am very respectful of the courage that I am seeing here
and that you are standing up on behalf of your country," Marston
The Filipino legislators welcomed the response of
the subcommittee to their report and are optimistic that Canada
will lend its voice to the growing international condemnation of
the Arroyo administration and its gross human rights violations."We
are also very pleased with the response of the subcommittee members,"
said Bern Jagunos, Asia Coordinator of the United Church and spokesperson
of the Stop the Killings Network.. "We will certainly follow
up on the subcommittee's promise to bring the recommendations of
the Filipino legislators forward. We will also continue our lobbying
efforts calling on the Canadian government to disclose to the public
how taxpayers' money has been spent in the Philippines and to suspend
development, financial and military aid to the Arroyo government
pending a full review of its bilateral relations."
UPDATE! Armed men surrounded the residence of Rep. Satur
Ocampo upon his return to the Philippines. He and two other Party
List parliamentarians, Rep. Teodoro Casino and Rep. Liza Maza are
at risk of imminent arrest. Rep. Casino had also just returned from
a speaking tour in Geneva during the U.N. Human Rights Council's
Universal Period Review of the Philippines. New charges of murder,
dating back to 2001, have reportedly been filed against them at
a provincial court. Past charges of rebellion and multiple murders
against them which have been dismissed by the Philippine Supreme
Court and this new charge are among the various forms of harassment
they and other government critics experience and reported last week
to the Subcommittee on International Human Rights.
Letter to the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and
the Government of Canada