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COMMUNIQUÉ: International Conference for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines

Quezon City, Philippines
19 – 21 July 2013

Guided by the theme: “Uphold People’s Rights! Work for Peace! Fight for Justice! Build Solidarity and Resistance with the People of the Philippines and the World!”, 280 representatives of people’s organizations, the academe, faith-based institutions, human rights advocates, defenders and victims, people’s lawyers, and peace promoters from 26 countries in five global regions gathered for the International Conference for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (ICHRPP) held at the Great Eastern Hotel in Quezon City, Philippines from 19 to 21 July 2013.

The objectives of the ICHRPP were:

  1. Identify, examine and analyze the social, economic, political, and the geopolitical context of the worsening violations of collective and individual rights in the Philippines.

  2. Identify the Filipino people’s commonalities with progressive forces in various countries confronting people’s and human rights issues, and on these bases seek to develop, expand and consolidate the Philippine movement of international solidarity to defend, uphold and advance human rights and people’s rights.

  3. Assess the significance of the combined domestic and international human rights solidarity campaigns concerning the Philippines since the fall of the Marcos dictatorship, and draw up a plan for an international solidarity campaign for peace, human rights and people’s rights in the Philippines culminating in the next international conference in 2016, the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Marcos dictatorship.

The ICHRPP was organized by the ICCHRP (International Coordinating Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines) with Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights), EcuVoice (Ecumenical Voice for Peace and Human Rights in the Philippines), Peace for Life Network, and the ILPS (International League of Peoples’ Struggle).

Prior to the holding of the ICHRPP, international solidarity missions were conducted in several areas, including Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog, three regions in Mindanao, Cordillera, and the National Capital Region. The missions looked into large-scale mining, landgrabbing, forced evacuation and the plight of internal refugees due to militarization in the countryside, targeted areas of extensive political repression by Oplan Bayanihan, forced eviction and demolitions in the urban areas, trade union struggles, and the situation of political prisoners in detention centers.

Among the prominent guests of the International Conference were: Jeanne Mirer, President of the 700-strong International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL); Azadeh Shahshahani, President, National Lawyers Guild (NLG) in the US; Anna Claire Morris, Vice-Chairperson, Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers; Jan Fermon, Co-Head of the Progress Lawyers Network, and Bureau member of the IADL; Prof. Gill Boehringer of the International Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL) and former Dean of Macquarie University Law School, Australia; Marta Benavidez of Siglo XXIII, El Salvador; David Wildman of the General Board of Global Ministries, United Methodist Church; and Antonio Tujan, Co-Chair, CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness.

Three days of in-depth discussion of people’s issues

The first day session of the Conference was opened by the People’s Chorale with the rendition of the song Batingaw (Bells). It was followed by the welcome address of Rep. Teddy Casiño, who was also ICHRPP spokesperson.

The keynote addresses were delivered by: 1) Edita Burgos, mother of missing Jonas Burgos. She inspired the delegates with her strong determination to find her missing son. 2) Jeanne Mirer, who spoke about economic rights as human rights. And 3) Prof. Jose Ma Sison, Chairperson of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS), who, in his video message, assailed the impact on human rights and peace of neoliberalism and the imperialist crisis.

Panel 1 (Economic, political and social crisis globally and in the Philippines, and implications on peace and human rights in the Philippines) had the following speakers: Dr. Kathryn Poethig (Associate Professor of Global Studies, California State University, Monterey Bay) tackled the deterioration of economic and social conditions in different parts of the world; David Wildman spoke about the crisis in Afghanistan and the Middle East; Rev. Christopher Ferguson shared about the conditions in Latin America, with special focus on Colombia; and Antonio Tujan, as final speaker, comprehensively discussed the global situation and implications on the Philippines.

A video entitled “No Child’s Play” by EJ Mijares, was shown after Panel 1.

Panel 2 (US geo-political and military strategies in the Asia-Pacific and the Aquino government’s Oplan Bayanihan) had the following discussants: Rep. Satur Ocampo (President, Makabayan People’s Coalition and, as Bayan Muna representative, was Deputy Minority Leader of the 14th Philippine Congress) on Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan, US Counterinsurgency Guide and US pivot to Asia; Prof. Gill Boehringer explained why Australia is a “deputy sheriff, an imperialist subaltern”; Len Cooper (Divisional President, Communications Electrical and Plumbing Union, CEPU) discussed the implications on Oceania and the Philippines; and Kao Wei-kai (Councilor, Hinchu County and member, Taiwan Labor Party) discussed the peaceful development and reunification between the strait, and US intervention.

In the morning session of the second day, Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Chairperson of both Karapatan and Selda (organization of former political detainees), delivered a keynote speech on the human rights situation in the Philippines.

Speakers for Panel 3 (Struggle for just and lasting peace) included: Anna Claire Morris on the South African experience; Azadeh Shahshahani on the experience in the Middle East; and Jose Enrique “Sonny” Africa (Executive Director, Ibon Foundation – Philippines) on the struggles for economic and social rights in the Philippines.

Panel 4 speakers (Best practices in international solidarity campaigns) included: Fr. Rex Reyes

(General Secretary, National Council of Churches in the Philippines – NCCP) on Ecumenical Voice’s international lobbying; Kelti Cameron (International Solidarity Officer, Canadian Union of Public Employees – CUPE) on Canada’s Stop the Killings (STK) campaign; Dr. Julie Caguiat (Executive Director, Community Medicine Foundation, and co-spokesperson of the Free the Morong 43 Alliance) on the Free the Morong 43 national and international campaigns; and Jan Fermon on winning Jose Ma. Sison’s legal battle in Europe.

The last session, Panel 5 (Struggle for national and social liberation) had for its speakers: Ann-Kristin Kowarsch (Kurdish Women’s Office for Peace, CENI); Alberto Ruiz (Civil Rights Committee, Peru); and Luis Jalandoni (Chairperson of the Peace Negotiating Panel, National Democratic Front of the Philippines), whose paper was read by Fidel Agcaoili (NDFP Peace Negotiating Panel member. Sharing their countries’ situation were Marta Benavidez about El Salvador; Dr. Malem Ningthouja (Campaign for Peace & Democracy) from Manipur, India; and Samuel Villatoro (Museo de los Martires del Movimiento Sindical Estudiantil y Popular de Guatemala).

A summary highlighting discussions and points of agreement for the five panel discussions was given by Dr. Carol Araullo (Chairperson, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan – Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance) after a dance interpretation of an original song, “Palayain ang Bilanggong Pulitikal” or Free Political Prisoners by a community youth cultural group, KMM.

On the third day of the Conference, delegates had the chance to join any of the ten workshops on different topics such as: people’s resistance to large-scale mining; peasants fight global landgrabbing; workers’ struggle against monopoly capital attacks; women and children fight neoliberal policies and state violence; church’s role in the struggle for human rights and peace; challenging the legal system as tool of repression and impunity; urban poor resist forced eviction, demolitions and massive displacement; defending migrants’ rights; indigenous peoples’ defense of land, life and rights; and cultural imperialism as a violation of people’s rights.

A plenary session was convened afterward for workshop report-back and the adoption of a number of workshop resolutions.

Asserting people’s rights

The Conference approved the Conference Declaration which asserts that people’s rights encompass the economic, social, cultural, civil and political dimensions, and involve the people collectively and as individuals. It upholds, respects, promotes, and calls for the defense of people’s rights as embodied in various international instruments and agreements and further developed as fruits of the collective experiences and struggles of the people against discrimination, exploitation and oppression.

The Conference Declaration further states:

“We salute the determination of the Filipino people in their struggle for genuine sovereignty and democracy.

“We agree to further develop international cooperation to put a stop to state repression that breeds a culture of impunity in the Philippines and elsewhere; to pursue justice for the countless victims of human right violations in the country and elsewhere, and to build a strong solidarity network for human rights, peace and justice in the Philippines that supports similar struggles in other countries.”

Several resolutions covering different issues were also submitted for the approval of the Conference. Among these were resolutions on: withdrawal of the 10 million euro grant by the EU to the EU-Philippine Justice Support Programme; release of all political prisoners, specifically Abimael Guzman of Peru and Ocalan of Kurdistan; surfacing of and justice for victims of enforced disappearances; against the terrorist listing of Prof. Jose Maria Sison; against the privatization of health care; and condemnation of Canadian mining operations, to mention a few.

The results of the First General Assembly of the newly-formalized International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) were shared with the Conference delegates. The human rights coalition elected an11-person Global Council and chose the Rev. Barry Naylor of the Anglican Church of the United Kingdom as Chairperson, and Peter Murphy of the SEARCH Foundation (Australia) as General Secretary.

To close the International Conference, a short message of appreciation addressed to all the delegates from Rev. Barry Naylor was read.

The conference closed with the People’s Chorale singing two songs of struggle, with a solo from its choral director in between. The solidarity night cultural program which followed was enthusiastically participated in by almost all delegations.

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