To commemorate the 58th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, human rights groups held a mobilization Dec. 8 to call for justice for the victims of political killings and enforced disappearances under the Arroyo regime, as well as to oppose the moves to amend or revise the Constitution through a constituent assembly.
BY ZOFIA LEAL
For militant groups, the current moves at the House of Representatives to amend or revise the Constitution to change the form of government and remove term limits for the head of government and for legislators should be opposed, as these would prolong what they described as the “murderous” Arroyo regime.
Cause-oriented groups led by Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights), Selda (Society of Ex-Detainees for Liberation against Detention and for Amnesty) and Desaparecidos aired this view in a Dec. 8 rally held in Manila to call for justice for the victims of political killings and forced disappearances under the Arroyo regime, as well as to oppose the moves to amend or revise the Constitution through a constituent assembly.
For this year alone, Karapatan has recorded a total of 185 victims of extrajudicial killings and 93 enforced disappearances. The number of forced disappearances for this year is the highest under the Arroyo presidency. Since 2001, there have been 797 victims of summary executions and 207 victims of enforced disappearances.
Families of victims of enforced disappearances delivered a compelling presentation about the story of the abduction of their loved ones and the struggle that they are facing now. One victim, Armando Portajada, has been missing since 1987. The families of the victims were firm in saying that what they need is justice and not just sympathy.
From Plaza Miranda in Quiapo, Manila, the protesters made their way toward Mendiola – a few steps away from the presidential palace – but were stopped by police at the corner of C.M. Recto Avenue and Nicanor Reyes Street. A brief stand-off ensued until the protesters decided to continue the program.
A “citizens’ arrest” of congressmen pushing for charter change through a constituent assembly was presented by protesters wearing masks bearing the face of House Speaker Jose de Venecia and other administration representatives.
“Instead of focusing on solutions to the worsening human rights situation in the Philippines, administration congressmen have chosen to speed up the train that will change the Charter and extend the term of the murderous Arroyo regime,” said Karapatan secretary-general Marie Hilao-Enriquez. “Like thieves in the night, these ‘con men’ who dare claim to be the people’s representatives in Congress have robbed us of our rights to genuine representation and suffrage.”
Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) Rep. Rafael Mariano, a member of the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments, was also at the mobilization. Mariano explained how the House majority were using different tactics just to push for the constituent assembly.
Militants from Southern Tagalog also came to the mobilization. Members of Karapatan-Southern Tagalog began on Dec. 6 a three-day cultural caravan that culminated in their arrival at Manila.
In Southern Tagalog, there are already 143 cases of extrajudicial killings under the Arroyo regime. Based on data from Karapatan, Southern Tagalog has the third highest number of extrajudicial killings for this year.
“With the passage of the con-ass, we know that more injustice will come our way due to more projects that would lead to demolitions and economic displacement, including human rights violations as the government uses force to advance foreign interests. We believe that the desolate plight of the toiling masses will become worse as the selfish interest of JDV (Jose de Venecia), GMA (Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo) and their foreign backers will be protected and maintained,” said Arman Albarillo, secretary-general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance)-Southern Tagalog, in a statement distributed during the rally.
A flag dance from Southern Tagalog activists closed the program. By 4 p.m, the militants declared an organized dispersal and marched toward España Street. (Bulatlat.com)