Filipino human right advocates testifying at U.S. Senate hearing on killings in RP

Three Filipino human rights advocates are scheduled to testify at a hearing at the US Senate, which was called by Senator Barbara Boxer (Democrat-California), to find ways to end the violence that has claimed the lives of 836 people since President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo assumed the Presidency in 2001.

The Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, chaired by Sen. Boxer, has scheduled a hearing on the extra-judicial killings in the Philippines on Wednesday, March 14 at 2:30 PM (US time).

The three witnesses are Marie Hilao-Enriquez, general secretary of the human rights group Karapatan (literally, “right”, ), Bishop Eliezer Pascua, general secretary of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), and Ms. Sharon Rose Duremdez Secretary-General of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP).

The three are part of a nine-member ecumenical delegation that is now in Washington, D.C. to present a report on the unabated and unpunished series of politically motivated murders in the Philippines.  The delegation will also urge Congress and U.S. church leaders to exert pressure on the Arroyo government to put an end to the killings.

According to the KARAPATAN National Office, the delegation will also meet with the staff of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, headed by Rep. Tom Lantos (D-California), in a House briefing.

Both the Senate hearing and the House briefing were secured by the concerted efforts of church and ecumenical bodies led by the Rev. Bob Edgar, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA and a former member of Congress, and grassroots organizations in the US that lobbied their respective members of Congress to have the committees of Sen. Boxer and Rep. Lantos hold these meetings at the time that the high-level church delegation from the Philippines is in Washington, DC.

Others scheduled to testify at the Senate subcommittee committee hearing are Eric John, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs; Jonathan Farrar, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Department; T. Kumar, advocacy director for Asia and Pacific of Amnesty International USA; and G. Eugene Martin, executive director of the Philippine Facilitation Project of the US Institute of Peace.

Since January 2001, KARAPATAN documented 836 civilian victims of extrajudicial executions, among them were 392 activists. Some 193 persons were victims of enforced disappearances. ###