Aussie, NZ groups urge Aquino to give justice to HR victims, prosecute violators

As diplomats and heads of development funding institutions make a beeline to the Times St. residence of newly-proclaimed President Noynoy Aquino, leaders of 13 organizations in Australia and 12 organizations in New Zealand challenged him to take six steps to restore the public's faith in the justice system and build up public confidence in the proposed peace process with armed critics.

This developed even as the groups also expressed concern over the killing of a Filipino labor leader.

“We strongly condemn the brutal killing of yet another labor leader, Edward Panganiban. As the Philippines welcomes a new President, we hope that the calls for justice and challenges for the new administration to end repressive state policies that brought record-high extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances under the 9-year Arroyo government will not fall on deaf ears,” Murray Horton, Secretary of Philippines Solidarity Network of Aotearoa stated this week.

Endorsers of the letter included prominent trade union leaders Helen Kelly, President of the biggest trade union center in New Zealand and Roger Jowett, Chairperson of Philippines-Australia Union Link (PAUL). New Zealand Nurses Organization, the biggest nurses union in NZ, echoed the appeal for the new President to immediately release the 43 health workers and render justice to all human rights victims. The Open Letter follows:

Open Letter to Newly-Proclaimed Philippine President Benigno Aquino III 11 June 2010

We, concerned groups in Australia and New Zealand, urge you Mr. Aquino, to prove to the international community that there is hope for significant improvement in the Philippine human rights situation and greater confidence for peace-building under your leadership.

Now that the Marcoses are back in power and the Arroyos are still very much in power, any compromise deal with the Marcoses and Arroyos under your administration will betray not only your father but every Filipino who yearn for justice, accountability and meaningful change.

As peace advocates in the international community, we fully support calls for your administration to pursue formal peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) toward resolving outstanding issues of land/ancestral domain and socio-economic injustices in the Philippines.

To restore the public's faith in the justice system and build up confidence for the peace process, we ask you to take steps to:

  1. Immediately release the 43 health workers and all political prisoners who remain in unjust detention on purely fabricated charges under the campaign of political repression of the Arroyo presidency.
  2. End Arroyo's Oplan Bantay Laya and all forms of repressive campaigns against trade unions, peasant groups and all legal mass organizations critical of corruption, military abuses, economic plunder and anti-poor policies of the government.
  3. Promote greater protection of media workers and undo the efforts to make the Ampatuans go scot-free for the 25th November 2009 massacre that claimed the lives of the biggest number of journalists in a single day.
  4. Ensure justice for all victims of extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances. Prosecute the main perpetrators of rights abuses like the notorious Gen. Jovito Palparan.
  5. Order the opening of all military detention camps and facilities for the kin and human rights advocates to search for victims of enforced disappearances.
  6. Fulfill the long-overdue compensation for surviving victims of the Marcos dictatorship.

We have watched the Philippines closely and supported the Filipino people’s struggles against injustice and tyranny since the Marcos dictatorship. We are aware that a number of victims of extra-judicial killings under Arroyo include indigenous peoples, peasants and environment advocates who were at the forefront of campaigns against mining giants, including Australian companies.

We shall continue to join the international community in watching and challenging your administration to stop all repressive policies of the previous regimes that gave rise to massive human rights abuses. We fervently hope that ending militarist policies, promoting the peace process and making the Arroyo presidency accountable for nine years of large-scale corruption and human rights abuses will be priority agenda of your administration.

From Australia

  1. Edwin Subijano, President - Lingap Migrante (Migrants' Aid Association of Filipinos and Filipino-Australians)
  2. Peter Brock, Chairperson - Action for Peace and Development in the Philippines - Australia Solidarity Group
  3. Jacinto Manansala, Chairperson - Migrante North - New South Wales, Australia
  4. Annie Thomson, President - Migrante Sydney Neighbourhood
  5. Roger Jowett, Chairperson - Philippines-Australia Union Link (PAUL)
  6. George Kotsakis, Chairperson - Migrante Australia
  7. Reyvi Marinas, Vice Chairperson -Migrante Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  8. Eugenio Lopez, Chairperson - Migrante Perth, Western Australia
  9. Malou Logan, Chairperson - Gabriela Australia
  10. May Kotsakis and Andrew Morrison, Co-chairpersons Philippines-Australia Solidarity Association (PASA) Victoria, Australia
  11. Jane Corpuz-Brock, Co convenor - Migrant and Refugee Workers Support Network
  12. Lina Cabaero, Vice-chaiperson - Philippines-Australia Women's Association (PAWA)

From New Zealand

  1. Murray Horton, Secretary, Philippines Solidarity Network of Aotearoa
  2. Helen Kelly, President, New Zealand Council of Trade Unions
  3. John Minto, Spokesperson, Global Peace and Justice Auckland
  4. Gillian Southey, Campaigns Coordinator, Christian World Service
  5. Mary Ellen Oconnor, Wellington Kiwi Pinoy
  6. Helen Tehira, Auckland Philippines Solidarity
  7. Mike Treen, National Director, Unite Union
  8. Robert Reid, General Secretary, National Distribution Union
  9. Wayne Butson, General Secretary, Rail and Maritime Transport Union
  10. Dennis Maga, National Coordinator, Migrante Aotearoa New Zealand
  11. Alice Javellana, President, MABUHAY Association
  12. Geoff Annals, Chief Executive, New Zealand Nurses Organisation
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