Prime Minister Stephen Harper is applying a double standard by inviting President Benigno Aquino III. Last year, Harper cancelled his visit to Sri Lanka and closed the Tehran embassy because of human rights concerns. He refused to participate in a United Nations conference on disarmament because North Korea was the chair.
The government of President Aquino is a serious violator of human rights. The International Coalition on Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) joins the Philippine community in Canada to strongly protest his visit.
In a report of Global Witness, the Philippines ranks third among countries with the highest number of assassinations of environmentalists. Fifteen Filipinos were killed in 2014 by state agents because the Aquino government considered their opposition to large scale mining and other destructive resource extraction projects a threat to the state. Under the guise of fighting rebels, the Philippine military is conducting intense military operations in indigenous communities to break their resistance to these projects. In Mindanao, massive numbers of indigenous peoples are forced to evacuate.
As a result of Aquino’s counter-insurgency program, Operation Plan Bayanihan, 241 civilians have been assassinated since he came to power, 491 are in political detention, 26 have been abducted and missing and 59,612 have been displaced from their communities. A study by the Impunity and Justice Research Center of the Universidad de las Americas in Mexico showing that the Philippines holds the worst record of bringing perpetrators of violations to justice attests to Aquino’s lack of commitment to human rights.
Mary Jane Veloso, who was saved at the last minute from execution in Indonesia on April 28, is a victim of human traffickers, but more tragically she is a victim of the Aquino government’s dismal disregard for the rights of migrant workers. According to Migrante International, the Aquino government deprived Mary Jane of proper and sufficient legal assistance. Its 2011 appeal for clemency was passive and perfunctory. Mary Jane was abandoned by President Aquino but his government is now shamelessly claiming that his phone call to the Indonesian Foreign Minister led to the suspension of the execution. It is clear that Mary Jane was saved by the collective action of the Filipino people and the international community. Philippine groups point that President Aquino did not act until he was forced to by a new people power movement.
The temporary worker’s program is reportedly on President Aquino’s agenda during his visit. Large numbers of Filipino temporary workers are presently being forced to leave Canada under Prime Minister Harper’s law limiting their time in Canada to four years. Along with Migrante Canada and other migrant workers’ groups, we believe that any deal Aquino will negotiate would once again put the rights and welfare of Filipino workers secondary to consideration of the revenues going to the Philippine government’s coffers from their exploitation. There has been a history of lack of concern for the rights of Filipino migrant workers, and we worry even more could fall victims to abuse, like Mary Jane.
Reliable sources say that the Philippine consulate in Toronto is directly involved in organizing a public rally for President Aquino. Community organizations have apparently been directed to ensure their members show up in record numbers. Aquino obviously hopes to use the Canada visit to salvage his waning popularity in the lead up to the 2016 election by showing Filipinos back home that he enjoys the support of overseas Filipinos. His popular support has plunged to record low since the botched police operation in Mamasapano on January 25, 2015 that led to the death of 44 police troops, 18 MILF fighters and 7 civilians and for which President Aquino continues to refuse accountability. Investigations reveal that the operation was planned and supervised by U.S. forces in complete disregard of Philippine sovereignty, ultimately leading to an unnecessary slaughter and setting back ongoing peace talks between the Philippine government and Muslim forces.
Media reports have revealed that Aquino’s visit is viewed as an opportunity for Prime Minister Harper to court the vote of Filipino-Canadians ahead of this fall’s federal election. Mr. Harper is sacrificing Canada’s values for electoral gains by inviting President Aquino, whose human rights record clearly shows he does not embody the values of Canada, especially respect for people’s lives.
ICHRP invites Filipino Canadians and other concerned citizens to join us in frustrating the political designs of Stephen Harper and Benigno Aquino III by exposing their basic disregard for human rights and the devastating impact of their anti-people policies on the people of Canada and the Philippines.
ICHRP, in cooperation with international human rights organizations, is convening an International Peoples’ Tribunal on Crimes of the Aquino Government Against the Filipino People (IPT 2015) which will be held in Washington DC from the 16th to 18th of July 2015.
For more information,
please contact Malcolm Guy
telephone #1- 514-574-9906