Friday, June 02, 2006

Helen Clark's reply on Philippine human rights situation

Helen Clark's Reply To Philippines Solidarity Network Of Aotearoa

Dear PSNA member or supporter,

Several months ago I wrote to Helen Clark, more than once, about the political crisis in the Philippines arising from President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo�s declaration of a State of National Emergency, in February, and everything that has arisen from that. By coincidence, Helen Clark was going to the Philippines immediately after that declaration and PSNA urged her to personally take up the subject with Gloria. According to media reports, both from NZ and the Philippines, she did. I also wrote
to the NZ Ambassador to the Philippines urging him to get personally involved in the crisis, specifically the imprisonment of Congressman Crispin Beltran on trumped up charges of rebellion and of being involved in a �Left/Right� coup plot (allegedly involving all of Gloria�s enemies, ranging from disaffected military men to the Communist Party and everybody in between).

I�ve never had any reply or acknowledgement from the Ambassador and I�d heard nothing from Helen Clark until this week. This is what she wrote.

��As the Philippines Solidarity Network of Aotearoa is aware, I have received assurances from President Arroyo that proper constitutional process would be followed in laying charges against those accused of acts of rebellion, including Crispin Beltran. Following my visit, Ambassador Rob Moore-Jones, New Zealand�s Ambassador to the Philippines, has also called on President Arroyo and received the same assurances�. I understand that other New Zealanders who wrote to her have received similar replies.

So, better than nothing, and presumably a lot more than what the leaders and ambassadors of countries such as Australia and the US have done (Gloria is a �good� dictator, not a �bad guy�). But not much better than nothing.

Crispin Beltran, Ka Bel, remains in prison, hospitalised because of chronic health problems (he is 73). Rebellion is a non-bailable offence, which carries life imprisonment. His five legal Left Congressional colleagues have emerged from their two months of living under siege in the Congress building, under the protection of the Speaker, because a judge threw out the rebellion charges against them. But the Government has since re-laid the same charges and the five Congresspeople await the legal process. Already one of them has been refused permission to leave the country on Congressional business. Numerous other people remain under arrest and/or facing the same trumped up charges (one of them, Rita Baua, is a veteran political activist, well known to the New Zealand movement � she has been here more than once). New charges are being laid against a broad spectrum of opposition figures and the media has been threatened. Gloria is also driving a campaign to change the Constitution to, among many other things, enable her to remain in power for several more years without the bother of elections.

And that�s only in the field of (extremely dubious) �constitutional process�. Regrettably there is a long history of extra-constitutional process in the Philippines, namely a systematic reign of State terror � political murders, disappearances, torture, the whole panoply of the death squad regime operating under a culture of impunity in which nobody is ever charged or investigated. This reign of terror is now the worst it�s been since the Marcos martial law dictatorship of the 1970s and 80s. That is the considered verdict of the Philippine media, official Government human rights bodies, politicians, and international media such as the New York Times. Those being murdered virtually on a daily basis include political activists from the legal Left parties represented by the six Congresspeople, clergy and journalists (the Philippines has the world�s second highest murder rate for journalists, after Iraq. The Government�s solution is to suggest that reporters get guns and defend themselves). The victims include men, women and children (massacres of whole families are not uncommon). And this is no longer happening just in the provinces but is starting to happen in Metro Manila, exactly as it did under Marcos.

I suggest that people write to Helen Clark and acquaint her with what is happening in the Philippines on a daily basis, extra-constitutionally. Ask her what New Zealand is planning on doing about the human rights catastrophe that is occurring there and is steadily worsening. In a time of life and death crisis like this, every little bit of help counts and the Filipino people need to know who their friends are. The New Zealand government cannot just pretend that it is not happening and that everything is OK because it has received �assurances� from the President that there is nothing to worry about.

Murray Horton
Philippines Solidarity Network of Aotearoa
Box 2450, Christchurch, New Zealand

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