International Solidarity to STOP the KILLINGS in the Philippines

Blood is being spilt across the globe with US President George Bush’s “war on terror”. Human rights violations are viciously rampant and the effects have left thousands of people displaced, incapacitated, killed and their families rendered destitute. Citizens of Afghanistan, Iraq, are only some of those victimized by this US war of aggression. Other citizens of the world are being subjected to the same or even more atrocious human rights violations like in the Philippines.

The Philippines has been declared by the US government as a “second-front” in its “war on terror”. At the same time, in recognition of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s unflinching support to US wars of aggression, she was named as head of the anti-terror task force in the ASEAN, and the Philippines declared as a major “Non-NATO ally”.

As a country already beset with severe political and economic crises, human rights violations have become more than ever a major concern of Filipinos under the Gloria Macapagal–Arroyo (GMA) Regime. Entering into its fifth year of governance, the GMA regime has repeatedly used force and state terror against the people and those whom her armed forces perceive to be enemies of the state.

On February 24, the paranoid President claimed that she quashed a coup plot by her soldiers who had only wanted to join the march of the people at EDSA, a major thoroughfare to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the People Power 1 uprising. That claim was followed by the illegal declaration of a State of National Emergency or Presidential Proclamation 1017. By virtue of this declaration she completely banned protest actions. Two mobilizations were violently dispersed followed by the illegal arrest of protesters, arbitrarily detaining them and charging them with inciting to sedition that day.

During the declaration of a state of national emergency, President Arroyo also targeted media establishments. Immediately upon the declaration, a radio station critical of the President, was shut down. A broadsheet, The Daily Tribune was ransacked on Saturday, February 25 along with a tabloid publication, Abante. The government agency National Telecommunications Center proposed guidelines to be strictly followed by the members of the press in an attempt to muzzle media.

But a broad opposition defied and resisted Proclamation 1017. After a week the President ordered its lifting.

But it does not end there. Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) Representative Crispin Beltran, 73 years old and suffering from various ailments, continue to be detained, five other legislators, Bayan Muna (People First) Partylist Representatives Satur Ocampo, Teddy Casiño, Joel Virador; Anakpawis Congressman Rafael Mariano and Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Liza Maza are still under protective custody of the Philippine Congress. Malacañang vowed to continue the crackdown against the opposition; media and known anti-Arroyo dissenters are under threat of warrantless arrests. Protest marches are continually being dispersed as policies like the Calibrated Pre-emptive Response (CPR) and Batasan Pambansa 880 or the “no permit-no rally” edict are still in place and being implemented.

In fact on the day that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo lifted Proclamation 1017, Bayan Muna member Arthur Caloza, a 28 year old peasant and Bayan Muna member from Nueva Ecija, was killed by elements believed to be from the Philippine Army. Five days later, Crisanto “Santi” Teodoro, a BAYAN Secretary General and Bayan Muna coordinator from Malolos, Bulacan was shot several times while he was driving home on March 10. Earlier that day, Bayan Muna Secretary General Elena “Baby” Mendiola survived a slay try as assassins missed in fatally shooting her while she was sweeping her front yard in Echague, Isabela. (as of May 10, 2006 assailants gunned down Elena Mendiola and her partner Ric Balauag in front of their friend’s home in Isabela, Cagayan Valley, Phillippines.)

Even prior to PP 1017, the country has been gripped with state terror, under the government’s campaign to eliminate terrorists in support of US President George W. Bush’s war of terror. The human rights organization, KARAPATAN or Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights, documented 874 cases of human rights violations with 99,011 individual victims from January to Novemeber 30, 2005. The violations affected 14,302 families in 288 communities.

This year there are already 75 members of progressive people’s organizations and ordinary citizens killed from January upto May 29.

In a statement released after GMA “lifted” PP 1017 on March 4, 2006, Amnesty International expressed its concern over continued violations of human rights in the country: “…Amnesty International continues to be gravely concerned at reports of an ongoing pattern of political killings of members of legal leftist organisations in various provinces nationwide.

Over recent years, the number of reported attacks by unidentified armed men on members of legal leftist political organisations, including Bayan Muna (People First), Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) and others, have increased. There are now fears that repeated statements by senior government officials linking such organizations directly to communist armed groups, in addition to the recent arrest or threatened arrest of many of the congressional representatives of such organizations, threatens to create a climate within which further political killings may take place.

Amnesty International calls on the authorities to fulfil their obligation to protect the right to life, not least by conducting prompt, thorough, impartial and effective investigations of all such killings. Such investigations should then lead to the prosecution and punishment of those responsible. In order to combat impunity, the authorities must also send a clear, unequivocal message to all members of the police, military and other security forces that involvement in, or acquiescence to, such unlawful killings will never be tolerated.

Amnesty International is also concerned about apparently political motives behind recent selective arrests and launch of criminal proceedings. Although the recent alleged coup conspiracy reportedly involved persons from across the political spectrum, there are reports that the political Left in particular may have been targeted for a repeated series of arrests on a variety of spurious charges.”

Many venues have been exhausted by victims of human rights violations and their families to achieve justice, which has remained an elusive goal.

KARAPATAN believes that all possible venues must be pursued. We are reaching out to our network and friends across the seas and encourage them to embark on an international campaign – International Solidarity to Stop the Killings in the Philippines or STOP THE KILLINGS for short.