Legacy of human rights abuses spurs rally at Philippine consulate
Several organizations held a rally in front of the Philippine consulate yesterday demanding the newly elected Philippine president shed, what they consider, the murderous policies of the previous administration.
Demonstrators say the Philippine government, via its military, has been leading a campaign of terror against activists and journalists.
In early July, the New York Times reported that Philippine activist, Fernando Baldomero, was murdered. Baldomero was a member of Bayan Muna, a pro-democracy, human rights party. Since 2001, 145 members of Bayan Muna have been murdered.
Two days prior to Baldomero’s killing, Philippine journalist Jose Daguio was murdered as well, becoming the 141st journalist to be killed since 1986.
Bayan-USA, the U.S. extension of the pro-democracy movement in the Philippines, says since President Benigno Simeon Aquino III took office in late June, a total of five activists were murdered in less than two weeks. Human rights activists say this is evidence that the policies of former-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo are still in effect.
The rally marked President Aquino’s first address to the nation since being elected.
Since taking office Aquino has established a “truth commission” to investigate the former Arroyo administration for corruption, voter fraud and extra-judicial killings.
But yesterday’s demonstrators were not impressed with Aquino’s pledge to investigate Arroyo.
“There is already reason enough for Aquino himself to be prosecuted,” said Bayan-USA member Kayla De Los Reyes speaking to the crowd of some 40 protesters. “Only three weeks into office, Aquino’s administration has already beaten the record of extra-judicial killings set by former President Arroyo.”
“Aquino called for peace in his speech,” she said, “but his actions show the terrorist Oplan Bantay Laya counter-insurgency program is still in effect.”
A 2009 U.S. State Department human rights report on the Philippines says the country is experiencing political killings, disappearances, arbitrary arrests and detentions, denial of fair public trials, corruption and widespread civil rights abuses.
“Leftist and human rights activists often were subject to harassment by local security forces,” stated the report. “Problems such as violence against women, abuse of children, child prostitution, trafficking in persons, child labor, and ineffective enforcement of worker rights were common.”
Despite such knowledge within Washington, D.C., the U.S. continues to provide military and financial aid to the Philippines. In April, Bayan-USA asked Congress to cut funding.
“Granting even one cent of aid from the U.S. emboldens the Philippine military to continue committing the atrocities,” said Bernadette Ellorin, Bayan-USA Chair to the Philippine Reporter. “The U.S. needs to completely cut off taxpayer funding and political support for the Philippine military’s brutality.”
Ellorin argues that U.S. support for the Philippine government is due in part to its neoliberal economic policies, also know as globalization, because the people being targeted by the Oplan Bantay Laya do not support such economics.
Philippine reformers are demanding a living wage increase, the ejection of the U.S. military, an agrarian reform program and an end to the privatization of public assets. Historically such demands place reformers on the detrimental end of U.S. foreign policy and aid.
“Oplan Bantay Laya’s goal is to literally eliminate anyone who stands in the way of Arroyo’s neoliberal economic agenda and the big landlords and multi-national corporations who profit from the status quo,” said Ellorin. “OBL labeled journalists, health workers, religious leaders, labor organizers, students, peasants and women ‘enemies of the state’ and systematically executed them.”
Currently there are 43 health care workers being held in detention in the Philippines. The Philippine government accuses the health care workers of being members of an armed wing of the Communist Party. The government claims they found bomb making material in the residence the workers were staying in.
According to Amensty International’s report on this incident, “Health workers in rural areas have faced attacks and persecution that range from murder and assassination attempts, to filing of fabricated charges and other forms of harassment.”
Demonstrator’s at yesterday’s rally were also calling for the release of the health care workers.
According to a Bayan-USA press release, the rally was coordinated with actions in other U.S. cities, as well as in Hong Kong, Canada and Australia.