Filipino Rights Workers say to London and Oxford Conference: Impunity continues in PH, victimizes rights defenders while violators are scot-free

News Release – International Notice for Fugitive Gen. Palparan – Filipino Rights Workers say to London and Oxford Conference: Impunity continues in PH, Victimizes rights defenders while Violators are Scot-free

“We leave unmolested those who set fire to the house, and prosecute those who sound the alarm.” This was the statement recently at the Defending Human Rights Defender’s Conference of Atty. Edre Olalia, Secretary General of the NUPL, quoting playwright Sebastien Roch Nicholas Chamfort. The statement is an apt description to the continuing attacks against human rights defenders in the Philippines today.

The conference organized by the London-based Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, Amnesty International (UK) and the 19-country member European Lawyers for Democracy and Human Rights (ELDHR) was held at the Amnesty International UK Human Rights Action Centre in London.

Atty. Olalia is an invited delegate to the conference together with Cristina Palabay, Spokesperson of the human rights watchdog Karapatan. They also spoke before a large public service union in UK and at the Oxford Philippine Society before Filipino “Oxonians” or students studying at the prestigious university.

“Human rights defenders work to protect and promote human rights and fundamental freedoms. Unfortunately, being a human rights defender in a country such as the Philippines fraught with a hideous human rights record means putting oneself in the line of fire, as rights violations which one seeks to oppose are heaped on the defender,” the paper read.

Under the administration of former President Gloria Arroyo, the human rights-group Karapatan reported to have 34 human rights workers extrajudicially killed and 68 involuntarily disappeared. On the other hand, eight human rights lawyers have been killed.

“Even with the privileged status they enjoy in Philippine society and with their mandate as officers of the courts of law, legal practitioners are not insulated from the rights violations that continue even with a new administration riding on the crest of promise for reforms,” Atty. Olalia added.

In the one and a half years of the present Aquino administration, there has been no let-up in the terror and violence especially against human rights defenders. With the government barely lifting a finger to end the climate of impunity, Karapatan has documented 67 victims of extrajudicial killings, 37 of whom are human rights defenders. Also, there are nine cases of enforced disappearances since July 2010.

“Defending human rights defenders is imperative as it ultimately meant defending the victims themselves and upholding human rights,” Atty. Olalia said.

Atty. Olalia said that ending the spate of killings, disappearances and other rights violations rests on the perseverance and struggle of the people’s movement, of which people’s lawyers and human rights workers are part of, and the solidarity of all peoples against tyranny.

“Human rights defenders may continue to face the perils in their line of work but it will never be enough to water down their passion in working for the causes that they believe in. Their idea is to sow terror and make us cow in fear. This we shall never allow,” Atty. Olalia quoted from the paper.

Meanwhile, Atty. Olalia informed the delegates from several European rights organizations, unions and prominent lawyers like Michael Mansfield and Gareth Pierce and lawyers’ groups, British media as well as key Members of Parliament of the House of Lords about the fugitive Gen. Jovito Palparan. He asked for support to call on the government to step up its efforts to arrest him and to be on the look-out for him should they find him somehow somewhere. Not a few delegates likened the case of Palparan to the case of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet who had evaded arrest and punishment for the longest time.

Olalia is presently in Dublin, Ireland and would travel to Geneva for the UN Human Rights Council session and then to Brussels for the Bureau meeting of the UN-accredited 90-country member International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) where he is expected to bring up these issues.#

Reference: Atty. Edre U. Olalia, NUPL Secretary General, +639175113373

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