Tells Arroyo to Listen to Appeals on Killings
As members of
a Canadian fact-finding mission are held by the military
The Canadian ambassador
has asked President Arroyo to listen to international appeals for a stop
to the political killings in the Philippines, reminding her that his
country’s aid is tied to “good governance.”
Expressing concern over the reported spate of political killings in the
Philippines, the Canadian ambassador to Manila has asked the Arroyo
government to listen to international appeals of alarm.
Meeting a group of
Canadians who recently joined a fact-finding mission in Luzon, Ambassador
Peter Sutherland said at the embassy office in Makati Nov. 22 “When the
international business community says something, she (President Arroyo)
has to pay more attention."
In an interview with
Bulatlat, a source from the fact-finding mission quoted Sutherland as
saying Canada gives $13- $15 million a year in bilateral aid to the
country but that close to $30 million would have been poured into the
country if the direct business investments are included.
"Our aid is tied to promoting 'good governance' and support small
businesses to become self-sufficient," the ambassador said.
FOR THE FATHER HE NEVER SAW: Maribel Valdez was just a
few weeks away from giving birth when the Hacienda Luisita massacre
took place, claiming among other victims her husband Jesse. The little
boy with her, lighting a candle along with other relatives of Hacienda
Luisita martyrs, is the two-year-old son Jesse never saw.
PHOTO BY TED ALCUITAS
Earlier, the Canadian
embassy together with lawyers from CODAL, a Philippine human rights law
coalition, intervened with the military to release the Canadians and other
members of a fact-finding mission who were detained at seven military
checkpoints in the course of their investigation in Luzon.
In a news briefing
Nov. 21 in Quezon City, members of the Canadian fact-finding mission asked
the Canadian government to re-direct its foreign aid from the Arroyo
government to NGOs instead because of the Philippine president’s poor
human rights record.
On Nov. 17, three
Canadian members of the fact-finding mission were detained for more than
13 hours in seven military checkpoints as they went through their
"It was a harrowing experience for the whole delegation which consisted of
three foreign delegates and over 20 members of local mass organizations,”
said lawyer Luningning A. Imperial, who is six-month pregnant. "There were
terrifying and tense moments as we negotiated with military officials to
let us continue our investigation."
Imperial, who headed the nine-member Canadian Human Rights Fact-Finding
Mission to the Philippines, told reporters that some 1,000 soldiers most
of them in full battle-gear, were involved in the operation to apparently
frustrate the mission.
The mission broke up
into three teams that went to three different regions of the country Nov.
16-20 where reported cases of human rights violations were rampant.
Imperial's group went to Quezon province in Southern Tagalog. A second
team went to Nueva Ecija and Bulacan provinces in Central Luzon while the
third team visited Abra and Baguio, north of Manila.
"By the time we were
allowed to leave, however, there was no more we could do and the mission
had to be aborted for the safety and security of the members," said
In the same press
conference, Imperial lambasted the government for claiming it is open to
the investigation of political killings yet it "is preventing independent
groups like ours to find the real truth behind these killings."
Three family members
who experienced military harassment also told how they were subjected to
interrogation leading one of them to leave their home and seek refugee in
a safe house.
Hilao-Enriquez, secretary general of the human rights alliance Karapatan,
said if the President is serious in solving the killings “she should allow
the United Nations Human Rights Rapporteur to come to the country to
"The experience of
the Canadian delegation only confirms what we have been saying all along -
that the Philippines is under martial law, albeit not officially," Hilao-Enriquez
Karapatan has documented human rights violations since Arroyo came to
power in 2001. Accounts say there are now 791 victims of political
killings, over 100 enforced disappearances and cases of attempted murder.
Karapatan says its
investigations point a finger at the Philippine military.
The government, however, disputes Karapatan's figures and accuses the
group as a Communist "front" along with other so-called leftist
organizations. The tagging of these groups whose leaders are in the
military's “Order of Battle" put them on a virtual death sentence.
Arroyo has been under pressure from both local and international bodies
including Amnesty International to put an end to the killings whom critics
liken to Operation Phoenix during the Vietnam War.
Last week, the Joint
Foreign Chambers of Commerce (JFC) in the Philippines called for a stop to
the killings or risk losing aid and investment followed by a similar
warning from U.S.-based apparel companies.
delegation also met with Sen. Jamby Madrigal, the administration's leading
opposition critic, who promised to introduce a resolution calling for an
inquiry into the detention and harassment of the fact-finding mission
you could have been arrested and worse, killed as 'terrorists' had the
Anti-terrorism Bill been passed," she told the delegation. The bill is
awaiting final amendments and possible passage in the Senate.
The mission's report will be submitted to the Canadian and Philippine
governments as well as other institutions. The Philippines-Canada Task
Force on Human Rights which sponsored the fact-finding mission will hold
simultaneous events in various cities in Canada on Dec. 10 (International
Human Rights Day) to highlight the findings of the mission. Bulatlat
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