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Vol. VI, No. 28      August 20 - 26, 2006      Quezon City, Philippines








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Batasan 6 Persecution Alarms World Parliamentarians

After studying the documents submitted by six progressive lawmakers and the Philippines’ justice secretary, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), has expressed concern over the political persecution of six party-list representatives.


Batasan 6: Abused parliamentarians?

After studying the documents submitted by the six progressive lawmakers and the justice secretary, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), in a confidential decision, expressed concern over the political persecution of six progressive legislators in the country.

In its four-page decision, a copy of which was obtained by Bulatlat, the IPU stated, it “is further deeply concerned” over “the prosecution attempts to criminalize legally authorized political parties, which participated in the 2001 and 2004 elections and the parliamentary work of their representatives.”

The decision was adopted by its Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians during its 114th session on July 11-14, 2006 in Geneva, Switzerland. IPU is a permanent observer of the United Nations and has 146 affiliated parliaments from all over the world.

Continuous persecution

The persecuted lawmakers being referred to were party list Reps. Saturnino Ocampo, Teodoro Casiño, and Joel Virador of Bayan Muna (People First), Crispin Beltran and Rafael Mariano of Anakpawis (Toiling Masses), and Liza Maza of Gabriela Women’s Party.

The six have been charged with rebellion along with former Sen. Gregorio Honasan and 40 others.

The lawmakers were described in the confidential decision as “all known to be outspoken critics of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's policies.”

The decision further stated that it is “deeply concerned,” in the light of the foregoing, at the continuing detention of Beltrán, which is detrimental to his state of health.  It “calls” once again on the authorities to release him.

Beltran, 71, was arrested by the national police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) on Feb. 25. He remains confined under police custody at the Philippine Heart Center in Quezon City. The decision stated that Beltran’s “state of health has worsened in detention” in the “prison hospital.”

The decision also noted the attempts of Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales and the Cabinet Oversight Committee on Internal Security (COC-IS) to bar Ocampo from travelling to Jakarta on May 26 and June 12 despite the official authorization from the House speaker.

The IPU also “notes” (i) the continuous efforts of the prosecution to bring amended indictments, all based on the same broad allegations; (ii) the circumstances of the arrest and detention of Mr. Beltrán in the absence of any legally valid arguments; (iii) the inhibition/recusal (or disqualification)of two judges as well as (iv) the public statements of President Arroyo and the Secretary of Justice which clearly prejudge the guilt of the persons concerned in disrespect of the fundamental principle of the presumption of innocence.

It “fears” that all this suggests that the persons concerned are prosecuted on the basis of considerations which are alien to the law,” it said.

Abused parliamentarians

During IPU’s 114th session, the committee examined 30 public cases concerning 112 parliamentarians in Bangladesh, Belarus, Burundi, Cambodia, Colombia, Ecuador, Eritrea, Honduras, Palestine/Israel, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Turkey and Zimbabwe. It was chaired by Philippine Senator Franklin M. Drilon, and participated in by parliamentarians Sharon Carstairs of Canada, committee vice-president Fernando Margaín of Mexico, Zahia Benarous of Algeria, and Marie-José Laloy of Belgium.

Being in the list of cases being investigated by the IPU, Lim said the six Filipino lawmakers are among those “parliamentarians who were abused by the administration in power.”

The IPU stated that “this (persecution) constitutes a grave attack on parliament itself and should therefore be of concern to the parliamentary authorities; calls on them to closely monitor the investigation and would appreciate the observations of the parliamentary authorities in this respect.”

Also, the IPU has decided to continue examining this case at 115th IPU Assembly to be held in October and “hopes to be able to close it upon reaching a satisfactory settlement.”

Established in 1976, the Committee meets in camera four times a year to ensure that the human rights of the world's parliamentary community - composed of more than 40,000 members - are respected. It has contributed to the settlement of a large number of the 500 cases in 104 countries that it has examined since its creation.

Established in 1889, the IPU is the oldest multilateral political organisation. It brings together 146 affiliated parliaments and seven associated regional assemblies. The world organisation of parliaments acts as Permanent Observer to the United Nations.

As the international organization of parliaments of sovereign states, IPU serves as the focal point for world-wide parliamentary dialogue and works for peace and co-operation among peoples and for the firm establishment of representative democracy.

The IPU is financed by its members out of public funds. Its budget for 2006 totals 10.5 million Swiss Francs.

International concern

Aside from the IPU, other members of the international community have expressed concern over the unabated political persecution and killings in the country.

The alarm within the international community suggested that the administration is “moving toward martial law” and “do not respect human rights anymore,” said Benito Lim, a political analyst.

Lim, who is also a fellow of the Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG), said that the persecution of the six lawmakers is part of the attack on the Left.  The Left, he said, is the target of Macapagal-Arroyo’s all-out war.  That is why, he added, other opposition congressmen like representatives Alan Peter Cayetano and Francis Escudero were not touched.

Asked if he thinks the government would honor the IPU recommendations, he said, “kung makakalusot ang gobyerno natin, lulusot ‘yan. ‘Yun naman palagi ang ginagawa nila.” (If the government could get away with it, it would continue with what it is doing.  The government has always been that way.)

Lim said the Philippine government has acquired this behavior from the Bush’s administration which “does not recognize international laws and conventions as it launches its unilateral wars.” Bulatlat



© 2006 Bulatlat  Alipato Media Center

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