Friday, November 17, 2006

Paying Tribute to the Martyrs of Hacienda Luisita

Photos of the fact-finding team from Canada lighting candles and offering flowers at the marker dedicated to the victims of the Hacienda Luisita massacre and subsequent extrajudicial killings of the leaders and supporters of the strike. November 16th marked the 2nd year anniversary of the massacre at Hacienda Luisita where 7 striking workers were gunned down by the Philippine military.
















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http://globalnation.inquirer.net/news/news/view_article.php?article_id=33024

Canadian rights team arrives to probe killings

Agence France-Presse
Posted date: November 16, 2006

A TEAM of Canadian activists arrived in the Philippines Thursday to investigate what it said was an "alarming deterioration of human rights" in the country.
The nine-member fact-finding team composed of lawyers, trade unionists, community leaders and human rights advocates will examine cases of extra-judicial killings, and attacks on political and trade union groups, among other human rights abuses.

The group said in a statement it was "alarmed by the worsening human rights situation in the Philippines."

The leftist human rights group Karapatan has documented 764 deaths of activists since President Gloria Arroyo came to power in 2001.

"We are very much concerned about reports of wanton human rights abuses in the Philippines," lawyer Luningning Alcuitas, a Filipino-Canadian and coordinator of the Philippines-Canada Task Force for Human Rights said.

Trade unionist Beth Grayer said extrajudicial killings and trade union repression "seem to have escalated" around the country in recent years.
She cited the attack on striking farm workers two years ago in Hacienda Luisita -- a northern Philippines corporate farm controlled by the family of the former president Corazon Aquino -- where seven unionists were killed as an example.

Last week the executives of seven major US retail giants that source garments from the Philippines sent a letter to Arroyo calling on her to protect labor and human rights.
The executives represented Gap, Polo Ralph Lauren, Wal-Mart, Liz Claiborne, American Eagle Outfitters, Jones Apparel Group and Phillips Van Heusen.

The letter was in reaction to the violent dispersal of striking workers in September at the Cavite Export Processing Zone near Manila.

A report prepared by the Hong Kong Mission for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines said Wednesday the government "is at best grossly failing to protect its citizens, and at worst may be complicit in an orchestrated campaign of targeted assassination."

"Many witnesses or victims' family members believe the state is engaged in a campaign to eliminate politically 'leftist' groups and individuals in the Philippines," said the report, which was released through the Asian Human Rights Commission.
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo defended her government's record on human rights after foreign business groups expressed alarm over a spate of political killings.

On Monday the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce said murder "for political reasons has no place in a modern democratic state."

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http://globalnation.inquirer.net/news/news/view_article.php?article_id=33260

Fil-Canadian lawyer returns to help solve political killings


By Delfin Mallari Jr.


Inquirer


Posted date: November 17, 2006


LUCENA CITY--Concerned with incessant reports of human rights
violations in the country, a Filipino-Canadian lawyer, whose paternal
roots are in Quezon province, arrived here Friday to personally
investigate stories on the alleged rights violations.


"In Canada, there's a growing concern over the political killings in
the Philippines, especially among Filipino-Canadians. We want to know
what's really happening," lawyer Luningning Alcuitas-Imperial said in
an interview here during their visit to the office of Quezon Vice
Governor David "Jayjay" Suarez, who has been acting as the provincial
chief executive.


Suarez was in northern Quezon at the time of the visit but his chief
of staff nonetheless extended his full support to the group of foreign
human rights observers.


Imperial, who left the country when she was barely eight months old in
1968, said her paternal grandmother hailed from Lopez town.


She stressed her group wanted to understand what is happening in the
Philippines. The search for answers has a special significance for her
"whose origins and relatives are in this country."


"We want to express our deep concern over so many reports that we have
been receiving about harassments and intimidation among helpless
farmers. I believe that as Filipinos abroad, we're still intimately
connected with the situation of our compatriots here in the
Philippines," said Imperial.


The Canadian noted that despite over more than 750 cases of political
killings in the country since the Arroyo administration came to power,
the killers had not been brought to court, tried and convicted.


"Impunity [with which] political killings [are carried out] must be
condemned and the government must act and provide justice to the
victims' families," Imperial said.


The group said they would document cases of human rights violations
and present it to the Canadian and Philippine governments.


Imperial arrived with two other human rights observers,
Filipino-Canadian nurse Cecilia Diocson, Canadian Jennifer Efting and
10 members of the militant human rights group Karapatan led by Doris
Cuario, its secretary general in Southern Tagalog.


The three Canadians belong to a nine-member fact-finding team of
Canadian activists who arrived Thursday to investigate what it said
was an "alarming deterioration of human rights" in the country.


Two other Canadian teams proceeded to Central Luzon and Abra province
to conduct a similar probe in these areas.


The Canadian delegation, composed of lawyers, trade unionists,
community leaders and human rights advocates will examine cases of
extrajudicial killings and attacks on political and trade union
groups, among other human rights abuses.


Cuario said the group would focus their investigation in the town of
San Narciso where they intended to stay until Monday morning.


"San Narciso is now the government showcase of human rights violations
in Quezon province with numerous reports of military harassments
against innocent farmers in the area," Cuario said.


San Narciso Mayor Victor Reyes welcomed the arrival of the Canadian
human rights observers. He offered the assistance of the local
government and the police to the fact-finding mission.


But he vehemently denied that human rights violations against
civilians had been rampant in his locality.


"That human rights violations issue was all based on concocted
stories. We have nothing to hide in our peaceful town. We respect
human rights. What we have are minor agrarian conflicts which were
just being sensationalized by professional agitators," he said in a
phone interview.


Cuario claimed that more than 30 "internally displaced" families from
General Luna, San Franciso and San Narciso towns in the province's
Bondoc Peninsula area had left their homes due to intense
counter-insurgency operations by the military. When told that there
had been no recent news reports from the local media of refugees from
military operations in Quezon, Cuario explained that the main concerns
of the terrified peasants were how to rush out of the province.


She claimed that most of the fleeing farmers had sought refuge among
their relatives in Laguna and Batangas. She said that at least 20
persons sought shelter at the Karapatan central office, eight of whom
are children and the youngest a newly born infant.
Lieutenant Colonel Rhoderick Parayno, spokesman of the Armed Forces
Southern Luzon Command based here in Camp Nakar, denied the human
rights violation charges against the military.


In a phone interview, Parayno said the allegations were rehashed
charges of Karapatan "which they could not even substantiate."


He scoffed at the human rights group for turning "a simple agrarian
issue into an insurgency conflict blown out of proportion."


┬ęCopyright 2001-2006 INQ7 Interactive, Inc. An INQUIRER and GMA
Network Company

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