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Category Archives: Abductions/Forced Disappearences

By Pagbabago! People’s Movement for Change

First 100 days agenda: GMA, Luisita, human rights abuses. With the presidential elections now over save for the official proclamation of Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, we ask what is perhaps the same question in the mind of most Filipinos today: what can our forlorn people expect from an Aquino presidency?

The first 100 days of the Aquino administration will be crucial. This period will reveal and set the tone on the priorities of the new government as well as demonstrate the intent, if not ability, of Aquino to address the injustices that our people have long been suffering.

Thus, for the first 100 days of Aquino as President, we strongly believe that he must make considerable headway in resolving three of the gravest injustices that we face: the plunder perpetrated by Mrs. Gloria Arroyo and her cohorts; social injustice such as at the Hacienda Luisita; and the extrajudicial killings, abductions, and other human rights violations under the brutal Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL) military campaign of the Arroyo administration.

By depicting himself as the bearer of genuine change, indeed as the anti-thesis of Arroyo, Aquino has raised people’s expectations of his administration. Invoking the legacy of his parents, the martyred Ninoy Aquino and former President Cory, it is reasonable to ask for tangible steps in his first three months – when and how will he investigate and prosecute Mrs. Arroyo and her cohorts in crime?

As president who claims to have the high moral ground compared to other presidentiables, how will he pro-actively ensure that the Cojuanco-Aquino clan will give up Hacienda Luisita in favor of the poor peasants and farm workers? What will he do with regard to the case of the Morong 43, Jonas Burgos, and many other victims of human rights violation under Arroyo? What will he do to make the likes of Gen. Jovito Palparan accountable for his bloody crimes against the people? Will he dismantle the oppressive Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL) 2 or will he embark on an OBL 3 or similar “Internal Security Plan” that tramples on constitutionally-guaranteed rights in the name of so-called national security?

Aquino built his successful bid for the presidency on a strong advocacy against Arroyo and all that her administration represents, encapsulized in his political ads enticing Filipino voters to take the “daang matuwid” (righteous path) with him. Many Filipinos, disgruntled by nine years of grand scale corruption, abuses, and poverty under the despised Arroyo presidency, responded to his call and gave him a strong mandate to lead.

However, while corruption aggravates the people’s poverty and suffering, the basic premise of Aquino’s advocacy – that corruption is the root cause of poverty (“kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap”) – must be challenged. This premise glosses over the fundamental truth that poverty is bred by age-old unjust social structures strengthened through the years by anti-people economic policies allowing a few to monopolize society’s wealth.

Such situation is clearly illustrated, for instance, at the Hacienda Luisita. Poverty will not be solved without substantial reforms in these structures and policies, e.g. genuine agrarian reform that will truly distribute vast landholdings like Hacienda Luisita to farmers and farm workers, as Pagbabago! articulated in our People’s Agenda.

The time for mere rhetoric about change and justice is now over. We who come from people’s organizations, sectoral formations and non-government organizations, who have long been fighting for genuine reforms in the country’s misshapen and undemocratic political and economic system, want to see whether Aquino’s “daang matuwid” will lead to redemption or greater perdition.

source: http://kodao.org/blog/contributor/noynoy-must-show-what-%E2%80%9Cdaang-matuwid%E2%80%9D-concretely-means

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The FACT SHEET exhibit is a collection of the piece reflects a few of the endless cases of human rights violations in the Philippines. Each of the pieces are based on Fact Sheets that contain important information on these cases. Artists’ ARREST in collaboration with the KARAPATAN (RIGHT) collected works from artists as part of CineVeritas 2008.

Currently, the  FACT SHEET exhibit has crossed the Pacific Ocean  and presenting  30 posters about human rights violations in the Philippines. It is inspired by Bay Area’s Social Serigraphy movement that started in the 1960s, 20 works and ideas of Artists’ ARREST, an art collective in the Philippines.  In addition 10 pieces from Kwatro Kanto collective, Lainerz, KA68, and others artists from the U.S.  The exhibition will show how art can be used as a social practice by forming alliances and mobilizations, from a single person to an entire nation.

Media Contact: Lian Ladia, lian_ladia@yahoo.com

MHF Contact: DiAnne Bueno, dianne.bueno@manilatown.org

MHF: 415-777-1130, 415-399-9580

www.manilatown.org

Political Poster Exhibition on Human Rights at Manilatown

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – San Francisco – January 11, 2010

EVENT: Manilatown Heritage Foundation (MHF), a Filipino American community arts organization based in San Francisco, will host “FACTSHEET: Activism is Not a Crime,” an exhibition of 30 posters by artists in the U.S. and the Philippines about human rights violations in the Philippines, curated by Lian Ladia and Con Cabrera and co-presented with SF Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines.

WHEN: Exhibit runs from February 6-April 24, 2010

Opening reception: Saturday, February 6, 4-6  PM, with live performances and special guest,  Marie Hilo from KARAPATAN, a human rights organization in the Philippines. FREE, donations appreciated

Film & Discussion: Saturday, March 27, 4-6 PM

Film shorts about human rights in the Philippines from the Southern Tagalog Exposure, followed by a panel discussion with Bay Area community organizers. $5-$10, no one turned away for lack of funds

Closing Reception: Saturday, April 24, 4-6 PM

FREE, donations appreciated

WHERE: International Hotel Manilatown Center, 868 Kearny Street (and Jackson), SF

ABOUT THE EXHIBITION: “FACTSHEET: Activism is Not a Crime,” showcases 30 posters by artists in the U.S. and the Philippines about human rights violations in the Philippines. It is inspired by Bay Area’s Social Serigraphy movement that started in the 1960s, as well as by the works and ideas of Artist Arrest, an art collective in the Philippines. FACTSHEET shows how art can be used as a social practice to form alliances and mobilize, from a single person to an entire nation.

ABOUT MANILATOWN HERITAGE FOUNDATION: The Manilatown Heritage Foundation is a non-profit community-based organization formed in 1994 and incorporated in 1998, to advocate for the rebuilding of the International Hotel (I-Hotel) and the preservation of the Filipino legacy in the San Francisco Bay Area. Its mission is to promote social and economic justice for Filipinos in America by preserving our history, advocating for equal access, and advancing our arts and culture. The I-Hotel was the last vestige of a vibrant 10-block area known as Manilatown. Manilatown Heritage Foundation emerged out of the struggle to defend the tenants’ rights to their homes and to preserve the Manilatown District. 28 years after the brutal eviction of the tenants, the new International Hotel Senior Housing opened its doors in August 2005. The Manilatown Center has now come alive with exhibits, weekly events and activities.

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Posted date: December 04, 2009
GENEVA — Investigations into the deaths of 57 people in an election-related massacre in southern Philippines must be the start of a major reform process in the country, two United Nations human rights experts said on Wednesday.
The two experts called for the “effective” prosecution of those behind the killings and an end to manipulation by the elite of the country’s election process.
The authorities must also put in place immediate measures to prevent similar murders in the run-up to elections next May, said the experts, who report to the UN Human Rights Council on extrajudicial killings and on freedom of expression.
“The premeditated killing of political opponents, combined with a massive assault on the media, must be tackled at various levels that go well beyond standard murder investigations,” declared the two experts, Philip Alston and Frank La Rue.
The massacre took place in Maguindanao province on Nov. 23 in the Philippines’ deadliest ever election-related crime. The killings were blamed on members of the Ampatuan family, whom President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has in the past called valuable political allies.
Threat to democracy
Alston and La Rue said the inquiry “must be followed by effective prosecutions of all those responsible for the killings.”
But the massacre should also spark extensive reflection “on the elite family-dominated manipulation of the political processes and the need to eliminate such practices in order to assure the future of democracy in the Philippines,” they said.
The two UN experts—Alston from the United States and La Rue from Guatemala—said any broad inquiry into the country’s political system would have to focus on how to improve protection for journalists, 30 of whom died in the massacre.
Even more urgent was the creation of a task force to prevent more election-related killings.
“There is every indication that the run-up to the May elections will sound the death knell for many political activists,” the two added.
UN intervention
In Manila, journalists said Philippine media groups might ask the United Nations to intervene in the probe of the massacre.
“We’re considering all options, including asking the UN rights body to step into the massacre,” Melinda Quintos de Jesus, executive director of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, told reporters, adding the local press must “not drop the ball to allow the suspects to get away with the murders.”
Int’l press group’s mission
International press groups were also sending a mission to the Philippines to look into the massacre.
Around 15 delegates from groups like the International Federation of Journalists, the Southeast Asian Press Alliance, and the Committee to Protect Journalists were expected to arrive in Manila this weekend, according to National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) board member Rowena Paraan.
“This shows that there is international attention on the incident, as it should be. The trip will also be an expression of solidarity with local journalists,” Paraan said.
Paraan said members of the media would march on the Don China Roces Bridge (formerly Mendiola) on Dec. 9 as part of the Global Day of Action for the slain journalists.
In a report released Thursday, a fact-finding team that went to Maguindanao observed that police had handled evidence poorly, leading to its possible contamination.
“There was little or no consideration given to preserving the evidence. There was little or no consideration given to avoid the contamination of the crime scene,” the report said.
The group said the vehicles used by the suspects in stopping a convoy carrying journalists and relatives of a clan opposed to the Ampatuans were still unaccounted for.
“Investigators said the suspects also used a Nissan Frontier pickup with police markings. One such police vehicle issued to the Maguindanao police is still unaccounted for. This jibes with claims by (witnesses) that police vehicles were involved in the blockade,” the team said.
‘Culture of fear and silence’
The killings have stoked fear among students in some areas of Mindanao.
Fr. Edgardo Tanudtanud, OMI, director of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP) for Central Mindanao, cited a recent incident in which several students, out of fear, canceled their participation in a march for peace in Cotabato.
“It has created a culture of fear and silence among the people, including the students, Christians and Muslims alike. But that fear did not stem from that massacre incident alone, but because of the history of violence in the area,” Tanudtanud said.
In a statement, the association of 1,272 member schools, colleges and universities said: “This mass murder … has showcased the extent corrupt individuals are willing to go in order to arrogate the power to themselves.”
Msgr. Gerry Santos, president of the CEAP, said the group was demanding long-term solutions to the decades-old conflict that had forced Maguindanaoans to live in fear and subhuman conditions.
“We ask the government to dismantle private armies and put an end to the anarchy of clans in the region,” Santos said. Reports from Reuters, Alcuin Papa and Tina G. Santos

Another artist cries military harassment
By Abigail Kwok
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 13:23:00 09/22/2009

Filed Under: Espionage & Intelligence, Military, Arts (general)

MANILA, Philippines – A creative writer on Tuesday complained of falling victim to military harassment, days after a trainee intelligence officer was caught conducting surveillance outside the residence of National Artist Bienvenido Lumbera.

Writer and University of the Philippines professor Jun Cruz Reyes said during a press conference that unidentified men were conducting surveillance outside his Bulacan home for two days on September 10 and 13.

At around 11:30 p.m. on September 10, around eight men on board a white van reportedly parked outside Reyes’ home in Sta. Elena, Hagonoy town. The men reportedly stayed outside and surveyed Reyes’ home.

On September 13, a black van again staked out the home of Reyes again late at night. The van left minutes after.

“Nagiging kakaiba ang mga pangyayari sa buhay ko,” Reyes said. “Nanganganib ang buhay ko, may mga nagtatangka, gayong wala naman akong kagalit sapagkat ako’y isang manunulat at pintor lamang.”

Also on September 13, an unidentified man approached Reyes while he was having a snack at a nearby convenience store inside the UP campus. The man reportedly took a picture of the author without his consent.

According to Reyes, the man was wearing a blue pants and stood 5’4” in height.

Reyes is an award-winning literary writer having won various awards including the prestigious Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature, National Book Awards, and Catholic Mass Media Awards, among others.

When asked why he was being targeted by the military, Reyes said he could not think of any particular reason.

But Reyes admitted that the incidents were not the first for the writer. On November 2007, unidentified men wearing fatigue reportedly went to the home of his neighbor and offered P20,000 to reveal Reyes’ direction.

On August 2007, unidentified men wearing black jackets also attempted to break into his home in Bulacan. But alert neighbors prompted the men to escape.

Reyes criticized the alleged harassment.

“Their method is primitive. The price of gasoline

is very high. They should have searched the Internet if they want to know more about me,” he said.

Human rights group Karapatan said that the military was targeting artists because of their impact in shaping public opinion.

“They help form public opinion and give a creative analysis of what’s happening. They are telling the story in a precise manner easily understood by the masses,” said Karapatan chairperson Marie Hilao-Enriquez.

Reyes’ legal counsel, lawyer Jules Matibag, said they are “seriously considering” filing for a writ of amparo and habeas data for Reyes’ protection.

Enriquez said Karapatan has also asked the Commission on Human Rights to compel the Philippine Navy to reveal its training module, after it admitted that spy training exercises were being conducted.

Mother Braves Uncertainty to Find Abducted Son

By ZOFIA LEAL
Bulatlat.com

At 56, yesterday was Wilma Rodriguez’s first trip out of town. She has always considered herself as a homebody, going out only to attend mass or buy food and other needs. Now, however, she needs to leave the comforts of her home in Rodriguez, Rizal to find her missing son, Noriel.

Noriel, 26, was abducted last September 7. According to initial reports gathered by human rights group Karapatan-Cagayan Valley, Noriel was taken at gunpoint by four armed men in civilian clothes at around 5:00 p.m. in Sitio Sta. Isabel, Barangay Tapel, Gonzaga, Cagayan.

The suspected perpetrators are elements of the 17th Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army stationed at San Jose, Gonzalo, Cagayan.

Noriel has been an active member of the activist youth group Anakbayan- National Capital Region since 2004. In May 2005, he joined the basic masses integration program in Cagayan and decided to stay and commit his time organizing peasant communities through the Kagimungan peasant group.

After almost five years in Cagayan, Noriel went home in late 2008 and left only last April.

Last week, he sent a text message to his mother asking that they send him chocolates. That was the last text they received from him.


Noriel, or Nonge to his family and friends was a mass server in his teens. His mother Wilma explained that she did not raise her children to be bad people. That is why she does not understand why Nonge was abducted.

She has always supported her son’s mission of serving the masses. In fact, she has joined rallies herself and was even a member of a union when she was still working. Even when her son was already based in Cagayan, she did not pressure him to come back even though she was always worried about his safety.

She said her oldest son told her not to cry and to be strong in their search for Noriel. However, sometimes her emotions get the best of her. She could not help it, she said. Wilma admits that she is not brave, but she is trying hard to put a brave face so that she can find her son.

While waiting for the service that will take them to Cagayan, friends of Nonge recalled that he became a member of Anakbayan when he joined a youth camp at the Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac last November 2004.

Since then, he became an active member of Anakbayan with the primary task of teaching literacy classes to children. According to Lei Piñon, Noriel’s friend, their area of work is at the community of the North Cemetery and along the railroad tracks of Blumentritt in Manila.

Good Organizer

Lei remembered that they were having difficulties inviting the youth in the communities to join rallies. The youth could not just leave their work. They needed to sell street food to earn a living. It was Nonge who told them that they could sell during rallies so they would be able to join the activity and even earn money.

Nonge was also able to recruit so-called “rugby boys” in the community. Rugby, a solvent, is the inhalant of choice for most poor teenagers wanting to get a high. Since their recruitment to Anakbayan, these boys have not used rugby anymore.

Wilma also attested to her son’s sincerity and kindness. He was always the one worrying about his siblings when they were not yet home, she said.

Both Wilma and Lei expressed their concerns about Nonge’s abduction. For Wilma, she admitted that she is fearful but mentioned that if they do not fight the perpetrators, crimes like these would never end.

Meanwhile, Lei believes that Nonge’s dedication to change society and his perseverance in the face of sacrifice would help him withstand whatever might be happening to him right now, including the possibility of torture.

According to Ken Ramos, national chairperson of Anakbayan, this incident in nothing new. Ramos cited the case of two missing University of the Philippines students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan who were abducted in 2006. Ramos said that despite the overwhelming evidence proving the military’s role in their disappearances, they are still missing up to now.

“The list of desaparacidos will continue as long as the fascist Arroyo regime uses force to protect her self-interests”, Ramos said.

Wilma is not the only mother whose children have been abducted under Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s administration. According to human rights group Karapatan, there are already 207 victims of enforced disappearance as of June 2009.

For Wilma, the fight has only begun. “Nagtatapang-tapangan lang ako. Hindi talaga ako matapang. Pero kapag hindi ka lumaban, hindi rin titigil ang mga yan.” (I just try to be fighter. I am not really a fighter. But if you don’t fight, they would not stop.)

She is uncertain of what awaits her in Cagayan but is ready and willing to be as courageous as her son to be able to find him. (Bulatlat.com)

ANAKBAYAN (Sons and Daughters of the People)
For Immediate Release
September 13, 2009
SURFACE NORIEL RODRIGUEZ!
Justice for victims of enforced disappearances!
ANAKBAYAN condemns in the strongest possible terms the recent abduction of Noriel Rodriguez in Cagayan by elements of the fascist Arroyo regime. This incident proves yet again the policy of the Arroyo regime of employing extra-judicial means to silence progressive individuals whose only advocacy is the advancement of people’s welfare.
Noriel Rodriguez, 26 years old, was forcibly abducted by suspected elements of the 17th Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army stationed at San Jose, Gonzalo, Cagayan last September 7, 2009. According to initial reports gathered by KARAPATAN-Cagayan, Noriel was taken at gun-point by four armed men in civilian clothes at around 5:00 p.m. Monday in Sitio Sta. Isabel, Barangay Tapel, Gonzaga, Cagayan.
We demand the leadership of the Philippine Army, particularly the 17th IB-PA, to immediately surface and release Noriel Rodriguez. We demand accountability from the Arroyo regime for this atrocity.
We are furthermore outraged by the fact that he has been missing for nearly a week as of today. And with the military’s despicable record of enforced disappearances, time is of the essence. Habang tumatagal na walang impormasyon sa kinalalagyan ni Noriel, mas lalong nalalagay sa panganib ang kanyang buhay, at gayundin ang iba pa namin kasamahan.
Rodriguez is an active member of ANAKBAYAN-National Capital Region and regularly joins in ANAKBAYAN’s annual integration program with the peasant and workers. He helped in the organizing of peasant communities in Cagayan through the KAGIMUNGAN peasant group.
This incident is nothing new. In 2006, elements of the Philippine Army also abducted activists Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan. Despite overwhelming evidence proving the military’s role in their disappearances, they are still missing up to now.
The list of desaparacidos will continue as long as the fascist Arroyo regime uses force to protect her self-interests.
But we will not cower in fear. Instead, we will continue our search for our missing comrades. Hahalughugin namin ang bawat kampo at bawat instalasyon ng militar hanggang hindi namin nakikita ang aming mga kasamahan. Magpoprotesta kami sa harap ng Malacanang hanggang hindi nakakamit ang hustisya.
Once again, we reiterate our call to the military to immediately surface and release Noriel Rodriguez! We call on our fellow Filipino youth to help in extracting accountability for the Arroyo government. We demand justice, not just for Noriel, but for all victims of enforced disappearances and political repression!
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Student Christian Movement of the Philippines

NCCP Compound,  879 Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, Quezon City, Philippines

Mobile Number 09289526973                              e-mail: scmpinas@gmail.com

CONVENOR: TANGGULAN Youth Network for Civil Liberties and Human Rights

Press Statement

September  13, 2009

Reference: Ma. Cristina Guevarra, Chairperson (09186106275)

Call to surface and release Noriel Rodriquez from the hands of 17th Infantry Brigade

The Student Christian Movement of the Philippines calls for the immediate surfacing of Noriel Rodriguez, 26 years old, and a member of Anakbayan who was reportedly abducted by suspected elements of 17thIBPA stationed at San Jose, Gonzaga, Cagayan on September 7.

According to initial reports gathered by KARAPATAN-Cagayan, Noriel was taken at gun-point by four armed men in plainclothes at around 5:00 p.m. Monday in Sitio Sta. Isabel, Barangay Tapel, Gonzaga, Cagayan while he was aboard a tricycle.

We condemn this atrocious act by the security forces under the baton of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Arroyo has been presiding over the numerous enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings in the country. According to KARAPATAN there are 207 victims of enforced disappearance as of June this year and not one of the perpetrators had been prosecuted even in the cases of Manalo brothers and Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan whose military captors were clearly identified.

Rodriguez is an active member of ANAKBAYAN-National Capital Region and regularly joined in ANAKBAYAN’s annual basic masses integration program with the farmers. He helped in the organizing of peasant communities in Cagayan and joined the KAGIMUNGAN peasant group there.

It is outrageous that these young people who give their time and efforts in worthwhile service to their communities especially among the marginalized, are the ones victimized.

We hold accountable the Arroyo government and demand the immediate surfacing of Noriel by his captors. We join the calls of Noriel’s family and demand the 17th Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army not to harm Noriel and immediately release him unconditionally.

We challenge the military to open its detachments, which often becomes a detention place of many of our missing friends and fellow activists.

Surface and release Noriel now! We continue our call for justice to all the victims of state terrorism under Arroyo regime!

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photo by Aurora Victoria David

International Day of the Disappeared

Press Release Sunday, August 30, 2009

Reference:

Princess Bustos

Secretary General

San Francisco- Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (SF CHRP)

From the heart of San Francisco to Palestine, Iraq, Mexico, and the Philippines

SF-CHRP linked arms with allies from various communities for the International Day of the Disappeared.

The San Francisco chapter of the Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (SF-CHRP) commemorated the International Day of the Disappeared on Sunday, August 30th 2009 at the Koret Auditorium in the San Francisco Public Library. The event was filled with cultural performances—poetry by Ayla Schoenwald of Break the Seige, Carl Davison, and POETAS POBRE of Poor Magazine; music accompaniment by Diskarte Namin; a skit by POCAT, Poor Magazine and members of SF-CHRP; and an opening ceremony by MIXCOATL. Allies from various communities also shared the struggles in their homeland. In attendance were International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN) on Palestine, Iraq Vets Against the War (IVAW), members of SNAG MAGAZINE who recently went on a trip to Palestine, Action and Resistance Collective (ARCO) on Mexico, and Kiilu Nyasha, a Black Panther veteran speaking on the Mumia Abu-Jamal struggle.

Link to photos at event: http://www.flickr. com/photos/ 23878692@ N07/sets/ 7215762219308597 2/

SF CHRP’s chairperson Angelica Cabande stated that, “it is of utmost importance that we put the issue of human rights violations and enforced disappearances at the forefront of our discussions. Activists are being killed and abducted all over the world, even in our own backyard and we can no longer turn a blind eye and remain silent. We have to condemn these atrocities and seek justice for the victims and their families.”

In the Philippines, the human rights group KARAPATAN documented that under the current President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, 1.7 million people have fallen victim to human rights violations, in forms such as extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, tortures, harassments, illegal arrests and detentions. Recently, a Filipino-American activist, Melissa Roxas was abducted along with two of her companions in La Paz, Tarlac. Roxas was brought to a military camp in Nueva Ecija and was repeatedly tortured. She was later released after much pressure from BAYAN-USA, allies, and friends of Roxas. “The abduction of Melissa Roxas is evident of the current political situation in the Philippines. No one is safe, even a health care volunteer like Melissa Roxas who travels from across the world to help her kababayans is not spared from the repression of the administration,” added Cabande.

Consequently despite international pressure to stop the abductions and political killings, and reports from Amnesty International and U.N. special rapporteur Philip Alston that human rights violations are in fact taking place, the Arroyo-Macapagal administration has made no effort to provide assistance for the families of the victims nor has the administration made any steps to prosecute or question suspected cultprits—elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippines National Police (PNP).

“It is no surprise that the Arroyo-Macapagal administration has continued to dismiss the reports. Once again, she is cheating her way out of accountability like she cheated her way into office during the 2005 presidential elections,” states Cabande.

In addition to the International Day of the Disappeared, Cabande said, “SF-CHRP will continue to educate the public about the human rights situation in the Philippines and lobby against the unconstitutional Visiting Forces Agreement and Balikatan (Shoulder-to-Shoulder) Exercises. We will demand that the Obama administration and the senate stop all U.S. military aid to the Philippines. For this year alone, more than $30 million tax dollars have been allocated and given to the Philippine government despite the cuts in social services here in the U.S. In addition, the Philippine media have reported sightings of U.S. military personnel participating in “anti-terrorism” combat missions in parts of the Philippines, actions which are deemed unconstitutional.”

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Haiti/Honduras Vigil: Wednesday, Aug. 12 – 4:30 pm
Brazilian Consulate – 300 Montgomery St. (at Pine, nr Montgomery BART), SF
Haitians and Hondurans are still in the streets protesting political kidnappings and coups.
Return Lovinsky! Return Aristide! Return Zelaya!

  • August 12, 2009 marks 2 years since the kidnapping and disappearance of Haitian human rights leader Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine. Yet the authorities have sat on their hands.

  • Haitian President Aristide and Honduran President Zelaya – both kidnapped from their homes in the middle of the night and flown into exile in US-sponsored military coups – are still in exile and not permitted to return home. This is intolerable.

Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine

It is two years since human rights advocate Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine was kidnapped in Haiti. We are with the people of Haiti who have been living under occupation since their elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide was kidnapped and forced into exile in 2004 by a US military coup, and with the people of Honduras whose president Manuel Zelaya was kidnapped and removed by a military coup in June 2009.

Jean-Bertrand Aristide

Please join Haiti Action Committee Wednesday, August 12th, to observe the second anniversary of the kidnapping and disappearance of grassroots organizer and leader, Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine.
Meet in front of the Brazilian Consulate at 300 Montgomery Street in San Francisco, 4:30PM. [Brazil heads up MINUSTAH, the United Nations military force that has been occupying Haiti since soon after US special troops kidnapped President and Mrs. Aristide in 2004 and flew them to exile in Africa aboard a US military plane.]
Lovinsky was kidnapped and disappeared in Haiti on August 12th, 2007 shortly after meeting with a US-Canadian human rights delegation. As a member of Fanmi Lavalas, Brother Pierre-Antoine is an extraordinary grassroots organizer and leading advocate for the poor, including street children, teenage mothers and victims of torture.
Despite international actions demanding an investigation into Lovinsky’s disappearance, there has been no effective effort by either the UN in Haiti or the Preval government to locate Lovinsky and secure his safe return, or to hold those responsible for his disappearance accountable.
Join with Haiti’s grassroots movement on August 12, together with friends and comrades in Haiti, Grenada, Los Angeles, London, and elsewhere, in events demanding the return of our dear brother, Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine. End the US/UN occupation! Brazil out of Haiti! Free the political prisoners! Return Presidents Jean-Bertrand Aristide and Manuel Zelaya!
Here is last year’s message of solidarity from Mumia Abu-Jamal:
For Haitians, this coming August is a reminder of the kidnapping and disappearance of their brother, Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine, who was taken after a meeting with a US-Canadian human rights delegation visiting Haiti in mid-August, 2007.
Pierre-Antoine is a co-founder of the Fondayson Trant Septenm, (Kreyol for September 30th Foundation), a group which assisted and supported the people who during (and especially after) the 1991 and 2004 coups against the democratically-elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Members of the Fondayson have been targeted for years.
Around the world, activists have been organizing in Lovinsky’s support, calling on various governments, from Haiti’s President Rene Preval, Brazil (which forms the bulk of the United Nations forces in the country), Canada, the US and France, which organized the latest coup against Haitian democracy.
When Pierre-Antoine was abducted, it forced other democracy and human rights activists in Haiti to go into hiding to avoid waves of state repression.
Haiti has a proud and illustrious career on the world’s stage, becoming the first free Black republic in the West after its 1804 revolution against France, which abolished slavery almost 70 years before the US Civil War spelled the end to human bondage in the US. Their freedom spread the bright lights of liberty and independence throughout the Caribbean, and when South America rose against Spain, it was to Haiti that their Liberator Simon Bolivar turned for support, arms, and a place to rest.
For their bold struggle to bring Black freedom to the West, the US and Europe have unleashed an unholy war. France forced reparations (!) on Haiti — an act unprecedented in history, forcing the victor in war to pay away it’s wealth for almost a century. The US repeatedly invaded the country, brutalized its people, and imposed an assortment of puppet dictators to exploit the country for foreign benefit, and national impoverishment, for generations!
Because Haiti’s popularly elected Bertrand Aristide dared to oppose Haiti’s rich elite, and tried to make things nominally better for its peasantry, US Marines forced him into exile.
Because Lovinsky comes from the popular mass movements, he was snatched off the streets of Haiti a year ago, and the movement is building to bring him back home to his family, his community, and the popular movements of which he was a part.
Haiti must never be forgotten, and neither must we forget Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine. 7/30/08 (c) ’08 Mumia Abu-Jamal
Behind the kidnappings of these political leaders [excerpted from an article circulated by Global Women’s Strike]:
Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine is co-ordinator of Fondasyon 30 Septanm for survivors of the military coups against Aristide, and an advocate for those with the least, starting with women and street children. He was kidnapped on August 12, 2007, two weeks after announcing he would run for the Haitian Senate. The grassroots in Haiti hold weekly vigils demanding his return and the return of Aristide, who was forced into exile in 2004 by a Bush administration military coup backed by Canada and France.

Latin American governments have rightly condemned the recent coup in Honduras and have been working for the return of President Jose Manuel Zelaya, but in contrast, they have collaborated with the occupation of Haiti….UN occupying forces in Haiti continue to be headed by Brazil and include troops from Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Paraguay and Uruguay. Only Caricom (a grouping of the English-speaking Caribbean, Suriname and Haiti) and Venezuela have spoken out; Cuba continues to provide doctors to Haiti.

President Aristide, a liberation theology priest with a 91.8% mandate (2000 election), was removed because he fought to eliminate poverty. His policies angered the Haitian elite and the US which profit from sweatshops, privatisation and the import of [US] rice which has destroyed the local agriculture and contributed to starvation. Like Zelaya in Honduras and Chávez in Venezuela (who also faced a coup in 2002), Aristide increased the minimum wage, and invested in food, health and education.

Now, former US President Bill Clinton is pushing US policy to expand sweatshops in Haiti under the guise of global investments – and the UN occupiers are responsible for many rapes and murders, including recently opening fire on mourners at the funeral of Father Jean-Juste, another liberation theology priest….

Despite pressure from those in power to participate in elections, grassroots people in Haiti organized “Operation Closed Door”. This massive boycott of the US-financed ($17 million) elections was organised after all candidates from Aristide’s party Fanmi Lavalas were banned from running. The boycott was an outstanding success – only 3% voted, a fantastic example of grassroots organizing and solidarity! The ban [on Lavalas] came the day after a meeting between US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the present Haitian President, Preval. The reason for the ban?: Lavalas usually takes over 85% of the vote.

Haitians have been made to pay for their 1791-1804 revolution which overthrew slavery, making way for emancipation in the region and for liberation movements everywhere. The world owes a great debt to the Haitian people. They have never given up. [Courtesy of Global Women’s Strike.] Read more about Brother Pierre-Antoine here:http://www.haitisolidarity.net/article.php?id=205

Haiti Action Committee
Information: www.Haitisolidarity.net www.globalwomenstrike.net www.haitiaction.net

Press Statement
July 31, 2009

References:
Katrina Abarcar, Katarungan: Center for Peace, Justice, and Human Rights in the Philippines, email: katarungan@comcast.net;
Peter Arvin Jabido, NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP), email: nychrp@gmail.com

Filipino-American Rights Groups Disappointed in Obama for Standing with Leader on Wrong Side of History

See Related Photos:
http://www.katarungan-dc.org/gma-white-house-visit-picket-and-vigil/

US-based rights groups are registering disappointment over the outcome of US President Barack Obama’s meeting with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of the Philippines yesterday at the White House.

“Yesterday, Obama shook hands with a leader who stands on the wrong side of history,” states Gary Labao of the NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP), a New York City-based human rights advocacy organization. “Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo fits the description of one who clings to power though deceit, corruption, and the silencing of dissent to a tee.”

A few hours before Arroyo’s arrival on the White House driveway, DC-rights group Katarungan: Center for Peace, Justice, and Human Rights in the Philippines and the Columban Center for Outreach and Advocacy sponsored a prayer vigil for the victims of extrajudicial killings and abductions by the Philippine military in front of the White House gate. Other sponsors of the vigil included the Ecumenical Advocacy Network for the Philippines, the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church-USA Washington DC Office, the United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries, the Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ, the International Labor Rights Forum, and NYCHRP.

Members of NYCHRP, Anakbayan NY/NJ, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment, and Sandiwa Fil-Am Youth Alliance traveled from New York to join the vigil, in which around 50 advocates stood in a circle in front of the White House gates and renewed their call for US Congress to cut a greater amount of US military aid to the Philippines and tag greater human rights conditions. Also discussed was the case of Melissa Roxas, an American abducted and tortured in the Philippines last May. It is widely-believed that Roxas was taken by elements of the 7th Infantry Division of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) based in Central Luzon.

Katrina Abarcar of Katarungan spoke on Roxas’ behalf and reiterated the words from a statement of Roxas, who is currently in the Philippines testifying against the Philippine military– “I can no longer count how many times I have narrated the incident and my ordeal. But I will not tire to tell the truth about what happened for I seek justice, not only for myself, but for others who have gone through the same. I seek justice, not only for what they did to me, but for other victims of human rights violations.”

Arroyo’s White House Arrival Met with Protest

After the vigil, the rights groups staged a protest in front of the White House gates in anticipation of Arroyo’s arrival.
Chanting “Gloria Tuta, Diktador Pasista!” (Gloria, Puppet! Fascist Dictator!) and “Inutang na Dugo, Singilin, Siniglin, Pagbayarin!” (Blood Debt, Payback Now!) and “Gloria, Don’t Lie to Me. Torture Don’t Make Democracy!”, as Arroyo’s car entourage drove into the White House driveway, protestors marched to and straddled the White House front gate with banners and signs reading “Justice for Melissa Roxas!” and “Obama: Say to No to Torture! Say No to Arroyo!”

During the 45-minute meeting between Obama and Arroyo, the groups stayed outside the White House holding picket-protest, explaining to tourists and passersby the state of unequal relations between the US and the Philippines, and why more Americans should demand that US Congress withdraw all forms of support to the Arroyo government.

Prior to the meeting, US human rights advocates were pushing for Obama to include raising the case of Roxas and human rights with Arroyo in person.

No Public Mention of Roxas or Human Rights in the Philippines

But the subsequent post-meeting press conference did not indicate whether or not the issues of Roxas or Arroyo’s human rights track record were raised behind closed doors. Instead, the only reference to human rights was Obama’s praise for Arroyo’s so-called efforts to address the human rights situation in Burma, as well as eagerness to work with the Arroyo government by appointing the Philippines as the coordinator of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), an economic organization of countries in the region framed to promote economic, social, and cultural progress.

“We assume his silence means he is more committed to continuing Bush’s foreign policy on the Philippines, which includes maintaining and even increasing US troop presence on the island nation, and using the Arroyo government as a proxy to uphold US economic and political interests in the region,” Abarcar said. “So much for standing ‘against torture wherever it takes place.’ ”

Arroyo critics continued with the picket until Arroyo’s departure, in which the chanting resumed until the car entourage was off the White House premises.

Katarungan and NYCHRP, along with other US-based groups and churches, have been actively lobbying the members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to cut a greater portion of US military aid to the Philippines. They expect a final decision on the 2010 military aid package released by September.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 26, 2009

Contact: Rhonda Ramiro, 415-377-2599, secgen@bayanusa.org

U.S. CITIZEN ABDUCTED AND TORTURED BY SUSPECTED PHILIPPINE MILITARY AGENTS TO SPEAK PUBLICLY FOR FIRST TIME

U.N. Day in Support of Torture Victims Marked with Press Conference by Torture Survivor Melissa Roxas

What: Press Conference of Melissa Roxas, recent victim of abduction and torture

When: Saturday, June 27, 2009

Time: 4-5:30 PM

Where: Echo Park United Methodist Church

1226 N. Alvarado St.

Los Angeles, CA 90026

Live Web Stream: www.bayan.ph

LOS ANGELES, CA – In her first public appearance since being released from captivity, Melissa Roxas, a U.S. citizen abducted and tortured in the Philippines from May 19-25, will hold a press conference to describe the human rights abuses she endured while held for six days in an alleged military camp. Ms. Roxas, an American human rights advocate of Filipino descent, is the first known American citizen to have become a victim of abduction and torture in the Philippines, a country which has drawn international condemnation for state-sponsored human rights atrocities.

In a sworn affidavit submitted to the Philippine Supreme Court, Ms. Roxas described being abducted at gunpoint by several heavily armed men, brought to what she believed is a military camp, held against her will, questioned without the presence of an attorney, beaten repeatedly, and asphyxiated using plastic bags before being released. During the press conference, Ms. Roxas is expected to demand accountability from the Philippine government and military, who she holds responsible for her ordeal, as well as the U.S. government for providing funding and training to the Philippine military. Reports by the United Nations, Amnesty International, Philippine-based human rights organization Karapatan, and Human Rights Watch have overwhelmingly concluded that the Philippine military is responsible for systematically carrying out human rights violations such as abduction, torture and extra-judicial killings against innocent civilians. Nearly $1 billion worth of U.S. military aid and materiel has been granted to the Philippines since 1999, the year the U.S.- Philippines Visiting Forces Agreement was enacted.

The experience of Ms. Roxas is considered typical for the 200 cases of abduction and 1,010 cases of torture recorded since Gloria Macapagal Arroyo became president of the Philippines in 2001. The Philippine government’s quick denial of responsibility for Ms. Roxas’ abduction and torture is also considered a typical response; in his 2007 report on the Philippines, U.N. Special Rapporteur Philip Alston cited such systematic denial by the government as one of the primary obstacles to stopping the rampant human rights violations plaguing the country. In his 2009 follow-up report, Alston indicated a general failure of the Arroyo government to stop the persistent human rights violations. In April 2009, the UN Committee Against Torture (UNCAT) also released a report detailing the use of torture by the Philippine military.

At the press conference, Ms. Roxas’ legal counsel, Attorney Arnedo Valera, will explain the potential legal remedies that are being explored, including the filing of a tort action in U.S. Federal Court for punitive and compensatory damages against her identified assailants or the Arroyo government in the absence of named assailants; the lodging of a private complaint before the U.S. Department of State, Human Rights Desk against the Philippine government for the violation of the fundamental rights of a U.S. citizen; and the filing of a complaints before the appropriate U.N. agencies for violations of the International Covenant Against Torture, the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights.

The press conference will be held in Los Angeles, CA and broadcast live on the website www.bayan.ph. Media in the Philippines will be hosted simultaneously by Bayan Philippines and will be able to ask questions in real time. The U.S.-based press conference is sponsored by the Justice for Melissa Roxas Campaign, whose membership includes Ms. Roxas’ legal counsel, BAYAN-USA, GABRIELA USA, Katarungan Center for Peace, Justice and Human Rights, and the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns. ###

For those who have missed the live feed of Melissa’s Press Conference here are the recorded videos: