NEW YORK– Less than one week after 3 prominent human rights defenders from the Philippines traveled over 30,000 miles to the United Nations headquarters in New York to file formal complaints of record-breaking human rights violations committed under the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo regime to the UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC), blood continues to spill over the Philippine headlines more than ever before.
This time with the back-to-back killings and attacks of Anti-Arroyo student activist Cris Hugo of the League of Filipino Students in Legaspi City, peasant leader Amante Abelon of the partylist Anakpawis, his wife and their 5-year old son in Central Luzon in less than 24 hours starting Monday. Abelon and his family were victims of strafing when unidentified armed assailants ambushed their home.
While mother and child died immediately, Abelon remains in critical condition at James L. Gordon Memorial Hospital in Olongapo City.
The attacks happened around the same time the Distinguished Service Star was being awarded to Major General Jovito Palparan, who many have come to know simply as “the Butcher” of Mindoro, Eastern Visayas and now Central Luzon, in Fort Bonifacio.
“This is definitive proof that no so-called domestic remedy can be reliably exhausted by the victims of human rights violations and the Filipino people to stop the rampant human rights violations the Arroyo administration is committing at such high frequency other than to oust her from power. Nothing can be more accurate than to deem these killings as good as committed with Gloria’s own hands” states human rights attorney Edre Olalia of the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) in the Philippines.
Olalia was among the three, along with Marie Hilao-Enriquez of the National Human Rights Alliance known as Karapatan in the Philippines, and Father Rex Reyes of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), who stormed into the UN headquarters last week to file the complaints against Arroyo.
Days after, on Saturday morning March 18th, Filipinos and Anti-Arroyo allies in New York gathered in front of the Philippine consulate along Fifth Avenue to register condemnation and demand an answer from the Arroyo administration to the boxes and boxes of complaints issued by over 4500 human rights victims and their families since Arroyo’s ascendance to power back in 2001.
The most outstanding cases called to attention were the extra-judicial killings of Karapatan Southern Tagalog secretary-general Eden Marcellana and peasant leader Eddie Gumanoy, who were tortured and killed by the Philippine military while conducting a fact-finding mission on human rights violations in Mindoro back in 2003. Both deaths were eventually exposed by credible witnesses as having been ordered directly by then-Colonel Palaparan himself.
“We are deeply saddened and outraged that these recent deaths occurred within our ranks in BAYAN with such lightning vengeance from the Arroyo regime only days after official complaints were filed to the UN and Filipinos in New York held an assembly demanding Arroyo be accountable to these complaints. This is Arroyo’s messaging to the Filipino people–our human lives mean nothing, and those who take them, such as Palparan, are awarded rather than brought to justice,” states Dr. Robyn Rodriguez of the NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP).
While in New York, the three visitors left no stone unturned when maximizing their time to publicly expose the human rights situation in the Philippines to the American public.
NYCHRP, a member organization of the Filipino alliance BAYAN, held a vigil outside the UN building gates as Enriquez, Olalia, and Reyes made their cases in front of the UNHRC. NYCHRP also sponsored community forums for the guests who spoke extensively about the resurrected martial law under Arroyo at the International Action Center, Community Service Society, and the Center for Constitutional Rights in Manhattan.
Two important meetings were held between Olalia, Enriquez, and the human rights attorney for the Cuban 5, Leonard Weinglass, who signed a petition calling for an end to human rights violations and publicly condemned the Arroyo regime.
Another was a meeting between Olalia and Sophie Richardson of the Asia Pacific Advocacy Department of Human Rights Watch.
Richardson expressed particular alarm over the political detainment of Anakpawis Party representative Crispin Beltran and the civil rights violations against the Batasan 5, all progressive anti-Arroyo legislators being held inside the Batasan Congressional Complex as Philippine military await to arrest them just outside without warrant and no prospects of due process.
Richardson, who has spent time in the Philippines back in 2004, recalled witnessing the Arroyo-commanded military shoot at innocent, unarmed civilians while in a restaurant in the Abra region.
At the Philippine consulate, allies from various organizations including Nodutdol for Korean Community Development, CAAAV:Organizing Asian Communities, and other non-Filipinos expressed their solidarity with the Filipino people at a time of martial law, and supported the call to oust the number one violator of human rights from Malacanang.
References: Berna Ellorin, NY Representative, BAYAN USA, email: ny @ bayanusa.org;
Robyn Rodriguez, NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, email: nychrp @ yahoo.com