End the killings, petitioners cry worldwide
(Hong Kong, July 11, 2006) Hundreds of people from the Philippines and around the world have so far signed up to a petition calling for an end to the relentless killings of human rights defenders and labour and peasant leaders in the country.
Over 500 people from all walks of life and countries have so far signed the online petition, which was launched last Thursday, calling for proper investigations into the killings and protection for witnesses and relatives of victims.
"Extrajudicial killing has no place in a civilized society! Neither will it stop people from rising and pursuing what they believe is right and just," Gessen C Rocas of the Student Christian Movement in Hong Kong writes on the petition.
"We are preparing a strong 'Stop the killings' campaign with a lot of organisations here in Belgium. What is happening in the Philippines is unacceptable," Rob Van Vlierden of the Third World Council Overpelt/ Philippine Support Groups in Belgium says.
Signatories to the petition so far include persons from groups such as Task Force Detainees of the Philippines, Amnesty International, the World Federation of Democratic Youth, the Thai Regional Alliance in Hong Kong, Rights & Democracy in Canada, the DAMAYAN Migrant Workers Association in New York, National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights in India, Birmingham Heartlands Hospital in the UK, the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union in Brisbane, Australia and members of the Catholic Church and other religious groups worldwide.
"It pains me to hear and know that people don't value life anymore and justice is trampled upon in our dear country the Philippines," Ditma Trocio of the Catholic Church in Hong Kong says.
"We, religious women in the Philippines have proclaimed our stance on this and I quote: 'WE ARE ENRAGED at the unabated extra judicial killings of peasants, workers, Church people, journalists, lawyers, activists, especially the 71 women among them. We call for: a stop to these killings, punishment of the perpetrators, and compensation for the victims' families,'" Sister Estrella Castalone of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines states.
Mark Kelvin Manga from Aquinas University Hospital in Legazpi City, Philippines writes that he has signed the petition because his friend was shot three times by "unknown people" and like other cases the authorities have failed to solve the crime.
"I lived and worked in the Philippines many years ago and know that Filipinos are talented and lively people with the potential to make their country rich and happy. At the very least they deserve a government that upholds human rights," Edward W Crunden, a former professor at the University of the Philippines and UN specialist, writes from Colchester in England.
Overseas workers, clergy and religious persons, trade unionists, sex workers, students, politicians, journalists and broadcasters, teachers and academics and civil servants have all joined the call.
"Paquito Diaz was shot dead by assailants outside his home. This murder brings to 696 the number of activists killed since President Arroyo came to power. Does she think this is acceptable?" Piers Elias, the chairperson of COURAGE, an umbrella organisation for public sector unions in the UK, asks.
Andreas Palma of Concerned Pilipinos in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, suggests that overseas workers protest the killings by sending remittances back to their families through private companies, not government-affiliated banks.
"We in the United States will do everything in our power to bring this outrage to the attention of the US people and people around the world," Jeffrey Michael Meyer of the Network in Solidarity with the People of the Philippines says from New York.
Karin Slovoda in Serbia-Montenegro says that the killings bring to memory the time of the Marcos regime.
"How can any country ever expect to prosper as long as it does not care about its own people? Thousands are dying weekly in the Philippines due to starvation, and those who are trying to help them are being killed," Mark Collier writes from the US.
"As a Norwegian citizen with an adopted daughter from the Philippines, I am shocked and concerned about the lawlessness in the Philippines. I sincerely urge you to take human rights seriously," Cecilie Nustad says from Oslo.
"The whole world is watching what is going on in Philippines," Wan Hoi-wing warns from Hong Kong.
"People worldwide know what is happening in the Philippines and there will be a reaction and consequences to all the wrongs done to your people," Dr. Keola G A Downing in Hawai`i concurs.
Signatories have so far joined the petition from more than 30 countries and territories, including India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Italy, Spain, Germany, Belgium, Hungary, Norway, Austria, Serbia-Montenegro, Slovak Republic, Switzerland, UK, US, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand.
"Stop this madness!" Raphael Segal cries from Adelaide, Australia.
The online petition was initiated by Filipino groups in Hong Kong together with the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC).
It is posted on a new website: www.pinoyhr.net.
When it is signed, copies of the letter are sent to the justice department of the Philippines, UN human rights experts, the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines and the Pope, whom the country's president visited recently having abolished the death penalty there.
The petition may be signed by visiting: www.pinoyhr.net/signature.php
It follows an earlier petition launched by the AHRC and human rights defenders in Thailand calling for reform of the Department of Special Investigation there.
That petition, which has been translated into six languages, is also being hosted by the Hong Kong-based regional group online: http://thailand.ahrchk.net/dsi_petition/
"We are encouraging people around the world to sign both of these important petitions to protect the lives of human rights defenders, environmentalists, trade unionists, social activists and other persons in the Philippines and Thailand," Kim Soo A, urgent appeals coordinator at the AHRC, said.
"The problems of blatant killings followed by non-investigation, non-prosecution, a lack of witness protection and spreading violence in society are common to Thailand and the Philippines, as well as many other countries in the region," Kim said.
"For this reason we hope that concerned persons in the Philippines and Thailand, as well as other countries, will share one another's causes and demands for change," she concluded.
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About AHRC The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.
Posted on 2006-07-11