Skip navigation

Tag Archives: United Nations


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

For Immediate Release

June 8, 2009

Reference: Katrina Abarcar, Coordinator, Katarungan: Center for Peace, Justice, and Human Rights in the Philippines, email: katarungan@comcast.net

DC Summit Unites Human Rights Advocates for Greater Cooperation for the Philippines

Washington DC—Representatives from key institutions, networks, and organizations spanning the country convened at the United Methodist Building on Capitol Hill last Saturday for an Emergency Human Rights Summit on the Philippines. Sponsored by Katarungan: Center for Peace, Justice, and Human Rights in the Philippines, the successful summit brought together advocates from California, Illinois, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York and Washington, DC for a one-day meeting on the human rights situation in the Philippines and ended with a high unity amongst the participants to share resources and collaborate on initiatives. (A full list of co-sponsors can be found below.)

“This is not a summit in the traditional sense, meaning a meeting of government heads,” stated Katarungan Coordinator Katrina Abarcar at the opening of the summit. “This is a summoning of the people to come up with solutions to a problem that government heads have refused to address in a meaningful way.”

Human Rights Crisis in the Philippines and Tactics for US-based Advocacy

The day started with presentations offered by Dulphing Ogan, Secretary-General of Kalumaran, an alliance of indigenous peoples in Mindanao in the Southern Philippines, who spoke of the reality of killings, abductions, and militarization in resource-rich Mindanao, where multi-national corporations engage in mining for natural resources such as gold and oil and other forms of “development aggression” that lead to the massive displacement of hundreds of thousands of Filipinos who live there.

“The War in Mindanao is not about religion, it’s about Mindanao’s rich resources. Only the big corporations have benefited,” Ogan explained. “Filipinos who choose to resist the multinational monopolization of resources are the ones that are killed.”

Another presentation by Dr. Kenneth Bauzon, a professor from St. Joseph’s College, linked the current Arroyo counter-insurgency operation known as Oplan Bantay Laya to the historical role of the US government and the CIA to crafting covert low-intensity conflicts in Southeast Asia, beginning with a presentation of CIA memos from the 1960s-70s on Operation Phoenix in Vietnam. In his presentation, Bauzon exposed the CIA’s rationale in crafting of operations to train Vietnamese nationals to assassinate other Vietnamese rather than US operatives conducting the killings themselves. This same pattern is applied to the situation in the Philippines today.

Reverend Goel Bagundol of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), Northwest Mindanao Jurisdiction spoke of his experience working with members of the church victimized by political repression in the Philippines. Lastly, lawyer Brian Campbell of the International Labor Rights Forum spoke of ways US-based advocates could engage all three branches of the US government in effecting the human rights situation in the Philippines.

Summit participants included Tim and Linda McGloin of the Ecumenical Advocacy Network on the Philippines (EANP), who shared their experiences pressuring for the 2007 US Senate hearing on the Philippines that led to human rights conditions tied to a portion of the subsequent US military aid package to the Arroyo government by the US Appropriations Committee. Representatives from the New York and San Francisco Committees for Human Rights in the Philippines (CHRP) and National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) spoke of working amongst the overseas Filipino community in the US, whose dollar remittances keep the Philippine economy afloat, to educate and mobilize them for the cause of human rights in their home country. While Derek Duncan of the Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ spoke of collaborations between US and Philippine Churches to respond to the killings of pastors and other clergy in the Philippines.

A Call to Unite for the Philippines

DC participant Elizabeth Palmberg, Ph.D, who shared tips for media strategies during the summit, stated, “I’m appalled by the torture and killings of pastors and other nonviolent people – and, as a U.S. taxpayer, I’m deeply angry to see U.S. government aid go to the very Philippine armed forces which have innocent blood on their hands. I’m glad to see so many groups starting to network and come together in the U.S. to help make a difference.”

A presentation by Reverend Marma Urbano, a minister of the UCCP currently helping in the National Association of Filipino-American United Methodists’ (NAFAUM) Paglago program, proposed a national US framework for greater cooperation between US-based advocates working for the Philippines. The framework was unanimously approved and areas of collaboration were identified by the summit participants. One proposed collaboration was the formation of a US delegation that would participate in the 2010 Philippine elections’ International Observers’ Mission. An ad-hoc committee was also formed at the end of the summit to propose the mechanics of coordinating future efforts of the participants and co-sponsoring organizations.

Bagundol shared his thoughts on diversity of the summit’s participants, “We are different springs who came together to become one stream! We are now one big stream that can be seen, can be heard, and can make a change!”

The summit comes at a critical time with the recent release of United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings Philip Alston’s follow-up report on the Philippines in Geneva which confirms the failure of the Arroyo government to decisively stop the killings and abductions in the Philippines, the release of the UN Committee Against Torture’s report on the Philippines confirming the military’s usage of torture, and the May 19th abduction and subsequent torture of Filipino-American human rights advocate Melissa Roxas in the Philippines.

Meetings of the US Appropriations Committee deciding on next military aid package to the Philippines are also nearing their close. In response, the participants vowed to coordinate actions to educate and mobilize constituents to tighten human rights conditions and reduce aid amounts for foreign military assistance to the Philippines.

The full of list of co-sponsors for the Summit includes: the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, the Ecumenical Advocacy Network-Philippines, the Episcopal Church, the Fellowship of Filipino Migrants of Chicago, the Filipino Ministry-Diocese of San Bernadino, the Friends of the Filipino People, the Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ, the Holy Child and St. Martin Episcopal Church in Daly City, the International Labor Rights Forum, the Migrant Heritage Commission, the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns, the National Association of Filipino-American United Methodists, the New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, the Philippine Independent Church-Diocese of USA and Canada, the Portland Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, the San Francisco Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, Share Foundation: Building a New El Salvador Today, the United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministreis, USAPAN: USA-Philippines Ecumenical Advocacy Network, the US Committee for the Protection of Workers’ Rights, and the Philippine Partnership Committee-Presbyterian Church USA.

###