Monday, November 20, 2006

Rights probe team to appeal to Canada

By Desiree Caluza

Published on Page A14 of the November 21, 2006 issue of the
Philippine Daily Inquirer

BAGUIO CITY—Members of a Canadian human rights fact-finding mission said they would call on the Canadian government to express concern over the spate of political killings in the Philippines.

In a press forum on Monday, lawyer Mike Leitold, a mission member, said the team would make public the results of its investigation of alleged human rights violations in the country next month and submit these to the Canadian government. Leitold said the publication of the results of the fact-finding mission would coincide with the observance of International Human Rights Day on Dec. 10.

The mission looked into cases of political killings in Abra, Ilocos Sur and Benguet as part of the Phil-Can Task Force on Human Rights that conducted probes in Central Luzon, Northern Luzon and Southern Tagalog recently.

Last week, the group was barred by the military in Quezon from pursuing an investigation of alleged human rights abuses in that Southern Tagalog province.

Leitold said the team wanted Canada to pressure the Philippine government to act on and solve the killings.

“We want [our leaders] to express [concern over] these cases [with] President Macapagal-Arroyo. [We want them to tell Ms Arroyo] that this chilling pattern in the Philippines is real and needs to be investigated,” Leitold told reporters here.

He said it was significant for the Canadian government to express its sentiments about this issue. Canada is one of the major foreign investors in the Philippines and is host to a large number of Filipino immigrants, he said.

He said the results of the mission in Abra and Ilocos Sur showed a clear pattern of human rights abuses committed against leftist activists and farmers who were tagged by the military as New People’s Army members. Military officers have denied the charges. The abuses ranged from threats, murder, forced disappearances, torture to surveillance, he said.

“This merits full investigation. The victims and their families should be given
justice,” he said.

Beverly Longid, vice chair of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance, said the military could have been behind the murder and surveillance of and threats received by political activists in the Cordillera, Cagayan Valley and the Ilocos.

“We hold the Arroyo regime responsible for all these killings and other violations of people’s rights… It has declared a war of terror against the Left, including leaders and members of progressive legal organizations,” she said.

On Monday, the militant Tongtongan Ti Umili said suspected military agents had been monitoring the movements of Jose Cawiding, coordinator of the party-list group Bayan Muna in Baguio and Benguet, and Jeannette Ribaya-Cawiding, Cordillera coordinator of Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great article,are there pictures of the article?

11:14 AM  

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