27 February 2006
Rt Hon Helen Clark
Many of our mutual friends in the Philippines paid a heavy price to defeat the Marcos dictatorship. They suffered persecution, torture and gave their lives to secure the right to elect a democratic, representative, honest and accountable government that would protect the fundamental rights of the Filipino people and redress the chronic poverty that plagues that country.
I am sure that you share my sense of distress at Friday's declaration of a state of emergency by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, at a time when many rallies were scheduled to celebrate 20 years since the dictatorship.
Already there are reports that Anakpawis Rep. Crispin Beltran has been arrested without warrant and of the attempted arrest of Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo. The police and military have also raided the media offices of the Daily Tribune and Abante.
Some of us, as individuals, can only offer solidarity to those who are standing up once again for democracy and to send our letters of protest to the Philippine government.
As Prime Minister you are in a unique position to repeat the stand you took in the 1980s. I urge you to convey, publicly, to President Arroyo's representative the New Zealand government's condemnation of the state of emergency and the Philippine government's breach of its international human rights obligations.
I also urge you to demand the immediate release of those who have been detained and endorse calls from the Philippines for an independent fact-finding and investigation team composed of representatives from human rights groups, the Church, local government, and the Commission on Human Rights to inquire into the illegal arrest and detention of Congressman Crisipin Beltran.
I ask you to act now before the situation escalates and we return to the dark days of the 1980s.
Professor Jane Kelsey
cc. Hon Winston Peters, Minister of Foreign Affairs
Hon Phil Goff, Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs
Ms Lolita B. Capco, Charge d'Affaires, Embassy of the Philippines, Wellington
H.E. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo