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International solidarity mission investigates rights violations in the Philippines

International delegates to join People’s SONA

“The world is watching. This is a test for the Philippine republic on how to deal with the poor and marginalized and their needs. We are here to show our solidarity and to let you know that you are not alone,” was Rev. Stuart Lyster’s message to the representatives of the remaining 5,500 urban poor residents at the North Triangle who are in constant struggle against government-led enforced eviction and demolition of their shanties.

Rev. Lyster was among the 12 delegates from the US, Canada and Hongkong who joined the International Solidarity Mission (ISM) of peace advocates and human rights defenders  in the National Capital Region (NCR). Other ISM participants from 14 countries are now in a four-day mission in provinces and communities where there are documented human rights violations. Redemptorist priests from the Philippines were also in the NCR mission.

The ISM delegates were welcomed by the residents of North Triangle in a “festive salubong”  and a “boodle-fight” dinner of dried fish, adobong kangkong, okra and fried galunggong served on banana leaves.

The team in the National Capital Region will visit other areas up for demolition: in the esteros that will displace 20,000 families; the Manila Bay Reclamation project affecting 26,000 families; and in areas covered by the construction of Metro Manila Rail Transit (MRT-7) which will displace 40,000 families. The team is also set to visit political prisoners in Camp Bagong Diwa, including NDFP peace consultants Alan Jazmines, Tirso “Ka Bart” Alcantara, Emeterio Antalan and Leopoldo Caloza.

Rev. Lyster mentioned that forced eviction are likewise happening in Canada and in Hongkong because of privatization of lands. There are 12,000 residents in the North Triangle Area who were forcibly evicted for  the Vertis North; where 45 condominium towers are planned for construction. The project is jointly implemented by the National Housing Authority and the Quezon City local government unit for the Ayala Land Corporation.

Meanwhile, 33 Filipino Americans and Latin Americans are already in Typhoon-Pablo affected areas in Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental to look into human rights conditions in these villages and the impact of large-scale mining. The ISM participants will also probe the reported negligence, corruption and discrimination in the distribution of relief goods and in providing assistance for rehabilitation.

Other ISM areas are in Tinoc, Ifugao where elements of the 86th IBPA were reported to have perpetrated rights violations such as illegal detention, torture, destruction and divestment of property, destruction of agricultural crops; Bondoc Peninsula in Quezon Province where there is heavy deployment of military troops unparalleled even during the time of martial law; Tampakan, South Cotabato, where pregnant Juvy Capion and her sons were massacred and Kitari Capion was killed; Caraga Region where farmers and indigenous peoples are affected by US-owned Dole banana plantation and transnational mining corporations; and Aurora Province, Hacienda Luisita and Angeles City specifically in areas affected by the APECO.

The mission is a pre-conference activity of the International Conference for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines on July 19-21, 2013 where more than 200 international delegates from 25 countries are attending. International delegates are also attending the People’s SONA on July 22 to raise their concern on the continuing human rights violations under the Aquino government. ###

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