TELLING IT AS IT IS:Philippine UPR Watch Delegation to have audiences before US Congress and Canadian Parliament

The delegation of the Philippine UPR Watch is meeting with US Congressional offices, both Senate and House, as well as with the US State Department and the Canadian Parliament this month to bring to their attention the continuing extrajudicial killings, disappearances, torture and other human rights violations under the Aquino administration. 

“We are going to ask the US Congressional offices on Capitol Hill and the State Department to investigate the alleged link between US military aid and rights violations under President Aquino,” announced Bishop Reuel Marigza, General Secretary of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines and Vice Chair of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP). Bishop Marigza is part of the UPR Watch contingent.   

In Canada, the group will testify before the House of Commons’ Subcommittee on International Human Rights. The UPR Watch is expected to recommend proactive steps Canada should take at the next UN Human Rights Council Session to support the call for the Philippine government to live up to its human rights commitments. “Likewise, we will raise our concern about Canadian economic policies and activities particularly mining which in many instances lead to or are linked with human rights violations against indigenous peoples and peasant communities,” said Bishop Marigza. 

“We are also going to meet with representatives of Church and faith-based groups in both countries, including international NGOs and Filipino communities. We will ask their support in our campaign to end impunity in the Philippines, specifically in monitoring cases of human rights violations and in supporting our call to the Philippine government to step up its efforts to arrest Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, Jr.,” added Bishop  Marigza. Palparan is believed to be involved in several of the extrajudicial killings and disappearances, including those of Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño (the two missing students of the University of the Philippines).

The delegation is part of the UPR Watch’s efforts to bring to the international community the continuing human rights violations and the prevailing climate of impunity in the Philippines, and to prepare for the upcoming second cycle of UPR of the Philippine government in May to June 2012. 

The UPR or Universal Periodic Review is a process within the United Nations, specifically under the UN Human Rights Council, that reviews the human rights record of all its 193 member states. On November 2011, the Philippine UPR Watch member organizations submitted to the UN Human Rights Council human rights reports parallel to that of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines.   

The Philippine UPR Watch delegation to the US and Canada is composed of  Bishop Felixberto Calang of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) and Initiatives for Peace in Mindanao (InPeace); Ms. Angie Bisuna Ipong of the Society  of Ex-detainees Against Detention and Arrest (SELDA); and Dr. Merry Mia Clamor of the Council for Health and Development (CHD) and also one of the “Morong 43”, health workers  who were arrested Feb. 6, 2010 and detained until Dec. 2010 when the Philippine government was forced by strong pressure from local and international groups to release them.  

The members of the delegation will be featured speakers in workshops  focused on the Philippines at the Ecumenical Advocacy Days (EAD, in Washington, D.C. on March 23 to 25.  EAD is a gathering of faith communities in the U.S. that mobilizes Christians for advocacy on Capitol Hill on specific U.S. domestic and international policy issues.

This trip to the U.S. and Canada is a follow-up to the Ecumenical Voice Delegation on Human Rights in the Philippines that made its first visit to the US and Canada in 2007. The delegation of church leaders, lawyers and human rights advocates travelled to Canada, the United States and Europe to bring attention to the growing cases of unsolved extrajudicial killings in the Philippines. In Canada, they met with Members of Parliament, Government and Church officials and community groups in five cities. In the United States, they attended the EAD and convened the 2007 International Human Rights Conference on the Philippines in Washington, D.C.. They presented their report before a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing conducted by Sen. Barbara Boxer.  

Senator Boxer called on the U.S. government to withdraw economic aid to the government of then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo unless it institutes reforms to curb human rights abuses in the Philippines.