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    PRESS RELEASE

    “The denial of freedom for persons fighting government corruption and advocating change is a continuing mockery of democracy in your country.”

    This was the message of New Zealand-based human rights and peace advocacy groups as they challenged anew the Philippine president to surface all victims of enforced disappearances and issue a Presidential Proclamation to grant general, unconditional and omnibus amnesty to all political prisoners.

    In an open letter to Pres. Aquino, the Philippines Solidarity Network of Aotearoa (PSNA), Auckland Philippines Solidarity (APS) and Wellington Kiwi Pinoy (WKP) stated, “On this International Day of the Disappeared, we urge you as Commander-in-Chief to end impunity, stop the extra-judicial killings and illegal detentions and order the perpetrators of enforced disappearances to allow the safe reunion of victims with their families.”

    The groups also expressed disappointment over the postponement of the GPH-NDFP peace talks which they deem important especially in the light of reports of continuing human rights abuses under the Aquino administration.

    Murray Horton, Secretary of PSNA notes, “New Zealanders took a keen interest in the prospects for resumed peace talks, because the groundwork was being done right while Luis Jalandoni and Coni Ledesma were touring NZ in October – November 2010. Indeed, straight after the peace speaking tour, Jalandoni and Ledesma met the chief Government negotiator in Hong Kong, and they then visited the Philippines to further the process.”

    Full text of the letter follows.

    Reference:

    Murray Horton
    Secretary, Philippines Solidarity Network of Aotearoa (PSNA)
    cafca@chch.planet.org.nz, phsolidarity@gmail.com

    30 August 2011

    Open Letter to Philippine President Benigno Simeon Aquino III
    Re: Call for Resumption of Formal GPH-NDFP Peace Talks, Appeal for Release of Political Prisoners and Justice for All Human Rights Victims

    Mr. President, you take pride with the legacy of your parents who fought the Marcos dictatorship.

    With the gross record of globally-condemned human rights violations under your predecessor Mrs Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, hopes for justice and change were raised when you assumed the presidency in June 2010. At the series of public meetings around New Zealand in October-November 2010 where Luis Jalandoni and Coni Ledesma of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Peace Negotiating Panel spoke on the prospects for peace in the Philippines, New Zealanders were keen to hear whether the perpetrators of the Ampatuan massacre have been brought to justice and whether the killings of journalists and activists under your presidency.

    We find it alarming that in addition to the thousands of unresolved cases under Arroyo, there are now 48 cases of extra-judicial killings, 5 enforced disappearances and 336 political prisoners remain in detention under your administration. Equally alarming is the fact that many peasant and trade union activists, social justice and human rights advocates including church workers and at least one labour rights lawyer are again threatened with arrest on trumped up charges filed at the time of Arroyo and now revived under your watch. We are also aware that NDFP personnel who played significant roles in the peace process are among the hundreds who have become victims of enforced disappearances and illegal detentions.

    The recent news of indefinite postponement of formal peace talks between your government and the NDFP is quite disappointing. We join peace advocates in the Philippines in calling for urgent resumption of peace talks without preconditions. The resolution of the issue of political prisoners and other outstanding human rights, political and socio-economic issues is long overdue.

    New Zealanders took a keen interest in the prospects for resumed peace talks, because the groundwork was being done right while Luis Jalandoni and Coni Ledesma were touring NZ. Indeed, straight after the peace speaking tour, Jalandoni and Ledesma met the chief Government negotiator in Hong Kong, and they then visited the Philippines to further the process.

    Almost 4 decades since the late dictator Marcos declared martial law, and over 25 years since the first People Power uprising supposedly restored democracy in the Philippines, we are dismayed that human rights abuses persist in your supposedly democratic country. On this International Day of the Disappeared, we urge you as Commander-in-Chief to end impunity, stop the extra-judicial killings and illegal detentions and order the perpetrators of enforced disappearances to allow the safe reunion of victims with their families.

    We further support the urgent plea for you to issue a Presidential Proclamation to grant general, unconditional and omnibus amnesty to all political prisoners. The denial of freedom for persons fighting government corruption and advocating change is a continuing mockery of democracy in your country.

    Former presidents Fidel Ramos and your mother Corazon Aquino granted unconditional pardons that resulted in the general release of political prisoners. Mrs. Aquino did so in response to the strong clamor to remove the vestiges of the fascist dictatorship. Last year, you granted conditional amnesty to about 400 active and former personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police and their supporters who allegedly rebelled against the Arroyo government. On 10th December 2010, you also effected the release of the illegally detained health workers known as Morong 43.

    This time, we are hopeful that a general, unconditional and omnibus amnesty to all political prisoners will be granted through your Presidential Proclamation. Mr. President, with your vow to pursue the ‘righteous path,’ let the freedom of political prisoners who endured so much suffering like your father be your great tribute to your parents who fought hard for democracy. Let the inhumane torture, imprisonment and all horrors of martial law never be repeated again.

    Murray Horton
    Secretary, Philippines Solidarity Network of Aotearoa (PSNA)

    Daphna Whitmore
    Convenor, Auckland Philippines Solidarity (APS)

    Rod Prosser
    Convenor, Wellington Kiwi Pinoy (WKP)

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