POLITICAL REPRESSION IN THE PHILIPPINES: Canada Should Suspend Relations until Human Rights Are Respected

By Waldern, Barbara | CCPA Monitor, June 2005 | Go to article overview

POLITICAL REPRESSION IN THE PHILIPPINES: Canada Should Suspend Relations until Human Rights Are Respected


Waldern, Barbara, CCPA Monitor


Canadians rallied to defend human rights and oppose martial law in the Philippines in the 1980s. This international solidarity contributed to the ousting of President Ferdinand Marcos in 1986, and the subsequent closure of U.S. naval bases in the Philippines in 1992. The new government of President Corazon Aquino was supposed to bring democratic, economic and social reforms to the Filipino people, but instead announced a permanent, total war on the people. Sadly, state-perpetrated human rights abuses actually rose during her time as president.

A wave of political killings in recent months underlines the urgent need for Canada-Philippines solidarity again, for the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo regime has done nothing to stop the killings and bring the perpetrators to justice. From January to March, 2005, 32 activists were systematically gunned down in a series of incidents across the Philippines. The victims include human rights advocates, journalists, peasant and labour leaders, clergy, and members of progressive political parties.

Many of these recent victims were supporters and organizers of sugar workers. During the Hacienda Luisita sugar workers' dispute, government forces fired at thousands of unarmed picketers and their supporters on Nov. 16, 2004, killing seven without provocation. Following that tragic event, 13 individuals were summarily executed and five abducted in the same region of Central Luzon.

The military brands activists "enemies of the state" in an effort to justify such harsh repression. To this end it also supports the U.S. "war on terror," seeks to revive the Anti-Terrorism Bill, activates a national ID system, and implements a "no permit, no rally" policy. Thousands of U.S. troops roam the archipelago. This pattern of political killings and the climate of political repression are tantamount to an undeclared martial law in the Philippines.

Longstanding conflicts and systemic violence stem from unaddressed economic, social and political problems. A 30year conflict between the government (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) over fundamental questions of land reform, workers' rights, public health care and education, social programs, and taxation has persisted since the government and NDFP signed the Joint Hague Declaration in 1992. Yet the government continues to stall the peace negotiations currently facilitated by Norway while the 10,000 surviving victims of martial law still have not received their legitimate compensation.

The Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) resulting from the peace talks is consistently violated. The ongoing arbitrary arrests and detentions, disappearances, harassments, torture, rapes and murders is no longer aimed solely at underground fighters and associates of revolutionary organizations. Since the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo took over in 2001, the numbers of documented human rights violations has risen alarmingly to well over 3,500. …

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