Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Press Release – November 16, 2006

References: Atty. Ning Alcuitas, Philippines-Canada Task Force for Human Rights Coordinator
Beth Grayer, Bus Riders' Union, Vancouver, Canada
Marie Hilao-Enriquez, KARAPATAN Secretary General (09178800213)

Canadians arrive in RP to probe killings, rights abuses
Team goes to Hacienda Luisita today

Alarmed by the worsening human rights situation in the Philippines, a delegation of concerned Canadian citizens has arrived to probe various reports of human rights violations in the country.

The nine-member fact-finding team, composed of lawyers, trade unionists, community leaders and human rights advocates from different areas in Canada announced the start of their mission at the site of the Hacienda Luisita massacre that happened two years ago today and which claimed the lives of 7 sugarcane workers.

“We are very much concerned about reports of wanton human rights abuses in the Philippines, the seeming lack, if not absence, of remedies for victims and the pervading culture of impunity attending the atrocities,” said lawyer Luningning Alcuitas, a Filipino-Canadian and coordinator of the Philippines-Canada Task Force for Human Rights.

Community organizer Beth Grayer said they empathize with the victims and their families and join their call for justice. “Extrajudicial killings and trade union repression seem to have escalated, especially after the Hacienda Luisita massacre. What happened to the state forces that fired upon striking workers? Was the Philippine government able to render justice to the victims?”

The Canadian Mission will follow-up on the case of the Hacienda Luisita massacre and the cases of extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations in Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog and the Cordillera. They will also look into the political persecution of the Batasan 5 and detained Anakpawis Party List Representative Crispin Beltran.

The mission’s report will be presented to Philippine and Canadian government authorities, media and church institutions here and abroad.

The Canadian team will be joined by human rights workers and volunteers in the rural areas, said KARAPATAN Secretary General Marie Hilao-Enriquez, who welcomed the arrival of the foreign mission.

“Their presence here is important to help us gather more evidences and document cases of reported rights violations. Since our colleagues have been under attack, 27 of whom were already killed and many others arrested and harassed, human rights work in the Philippines is becoming more and more difficult and dangerous,” Enriquez said.

The mission is being launched on a very significant date, that of the second anniversary of the Hacienda Luisita Massacre which is also designated by member countries of the International League of People’s Struggles as the International Day of Action Against Trade Union Repression and Political Killings in the Philippines.


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