Wednesday, December 10, 2008

GABRIELA USA Denounces Political Killings and Abductions

For Immediate Release
December 10, 2008
Reference: Joanne Alcantara, GABRIELA-USA, National Coordinator (206) 859-7525, email

GABRIELA USA Denounces Political Killings and Abductions
Philippine Government Must Honor the Human Rights of Philippine Women

Today, on International Human Rights Day, GABRIELA USA, a national alliance of progressive Filipina organizations and overseas chapter of GABRIELA Philippines, demand that the current administration uphold the rights of Filipinas across the globe. Since Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's presidential term started in 2001, over a thousand activists have been killed and abducted in the Philippines, many of them women who advocate for the rights of the Philippine people. Several investigations by Filipino and international organizations, including the United Nations, have been published and reported, asserting that these human right violations are being sanctioned by the current administration.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was drafted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1948, proclaiming that human rights should be protected by the rule of law. Article 3 states that all people have a right to life, liberty and security of person. In blatant disregard of this tenet, the Philippine government denies its people this basic human right by continuing the persecution of progressive individuals and organizations.

Another horrifying example is the current war in Mindanao, conducted by the Philippine army with the assistance of U.S military under the guise of the War on Terror. This ongoing assault have killed, maimed and displaced thousands of innocent civilians. Women and children, especially, suffer from the trauma of watching their loved ones being killed or taken away, in addition to being forcibly removed from their homes, as well as contracting illness due to lack of adequate shelter, food and health care.

Article 5 of the Declaration asserts that "no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." A direct violation is the case of Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño, two student activists who were abducted in 2006. Sherlyn and Karen were reported to have been brutally tortured and raped by their captors in military camp. Although they are believed to have been killed, they their bodies have yet to be surfaced for a proper burial, leaving their loved ones in a perpetual state of despair, unable to put their hopes and fears to rest. Two years have passed, and the perpetrators of the heinous crimes against these women are still at large. As the commander-in-chief of the Philippines army, it is President Macapagal-Arroyo's duty to put a stop to its current repugnant practices and follow the standards set by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

As community leaders here in the United States, the women of GABRIELA USA are deeply concerned about the case of the 72 activists from the Southern Tagalog region, referred to as the ST 72. Fabricated charges of arson, conspiracy to commit rebellion, multiple murders and multiple frustrated murders have been placed against 72 workers, lawyers, researchers and grassroots leaders, 20 of whom are women. Among these figures are GABRIELA Southern Tagalog Secretary General and Gabriela Women's Party Nominee Helen Asdolo and GABRIELA Provincial Coordinator for Cavite, Amelita Sto.Tomas.

Valerie Francisco, Chair of Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE, NYC) declares, "Arroyo. Aquino. Marcos. Torture, imprisonment, and abuse of the Filipino people's basic human rights have been a historical occurrence. The real people who have created such injustice, should be the ones imprisoned. From the corruption issues of $329 USD million NBN-ZTE Deal; $ 503 USD million Northrail Project; P 728 million Fertilizer fund scam to almost a thousand extrajudicial killings and over 200 illegal abductions. Who are the real criminals of our society?" Francisco continues, "Those speedy warrants should have not been towards those 72 community members in the Southern Tagalog, those warrants should be towards Arroyo and her cronies who have been plaguing the Philippines with their corruption."

Despite her reign of terror, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will be giving her administrative order on human rights from Malacañang today, adding isult to those who have suffered under her rule. GABRIELA-USA, consisting of babae in San Francisco, Pinay Sa Seattle and Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment in New York, asserts that the current government, which is becoming more and more a military dictatorship, need to be held responsible for their crimes against the people. That Macapagal-Arroyo should dare declare an order on human rights, when her hands are drenched with blood of innocent civilians, is not acceptable.