December 2011 – Philippines Australia Solidarity Association (PASA), an organisation of individuals committed to promoting peace and social justice in the Philippines, Australia and in other parts of the world, celebrates the 63rd year of the United Nations’ declared International Human Rights day with hope and determination.
Since PASA’s founding in 2003, it has campaigned ceaselessly for Human Rights in the Philippines and Australia and advocated for human rights violations victims. PASA commemorates the IHR day yearly and welcomes it as an opportunity to update the public on the Human Rights situation in the Philippines and in Australia. This IHR day also serves to highlight the experiences of victims of human rights abuses.
Philippine government administrations since the Marcos regime of the 1970s has assured us that there is no shortage of victims of human rights abuses. Even the current administration, on which many Filipinos pinned their hopes, is no different from its predecessors in abusing its citizens. In just 16 months of rule, the Aquino administration added to the list of victims with sixty four extrajudicial killings and nine enforced disappearances.
Militarization in the countryside motivated by the massive exploitation of lands by big foreign companies for its natural resources impacts on the rise in human rights violation. Mining companies are protected by the Philippine government military personnel, in addition to being allowed private armies that patrol their sites. As a result, many Filipinos are displaced, driven out of their lands and their means of living destroyed depriving them their very basic right to food, shelter and security of life.
Overseas Filipinos, representing more than ten percent of the Philippine population especially the overseas Filipino workers (OFW), also experience abuses. They expect the Philippine government to protect their rights as Filipino citizens wherever they may be. Philippine President Noynoy Aquino promises to the OFW’s are yet to be fulfilled.
In September this year, PASA sent letters to Australian Parliamentarians and senators expressing concern about Human rights violation in the Philippines. In the letter PASA asked the Australian government to raise the issue of HR to the Philippine President Benigno Aquino Jr, review the military aid and financial support to the Philippine government given that the Philippine Military is implicated in majority of the Human Rights violations. PASA also requested that Australia support the peace process between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Philippines.
Many of the responses from Australian Federal politicians mentioned that they are happy to be updated of the issue; that they have referred the matter to the Minister for Foreign Affairs Kevin Rudd; and that they will ensure that the issue of human rights in the Philippines is addressed by the Australian government.
The Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Kevin Rudd, in his reply to PASA’s letter gave assurance that the Australian Government is promoting the respect for human rights in the Philippines; that Australia is conducting training of the Philippine Military and the course includes the emphasis on the rule of law, individual and command responsibility, the law on armed conflict, detainee handling and rules of engagement. The Minister also accepted that there is more work to be done to ensure that the Philippine government protects all its citizens.
We are confident that the Philippine Military knows and understands its duties and responsibilities to the people it is supposed to protect. They just ignore them and abuse their positions because the Philippine government allows the culture of impunity to continue.
PASA is committed to pursuing the respect for human rights in the Philippines and in Australia. It is vigorously interested in pursuing genuine peace and justice. ###