Tuesday, November 16, 2010

New Zealanders ask: What happened to Aquino's vow of justice, closure for victims of killings?

New Zealanders ask: What happened to Aquino's vow of justice,
closure for victims of killings?

by Luke Coxon
Phil Solidarity

13 November 2010

Almost one year after the 23rd November Ampatuan massacre, New Zealanders are interested to know whether justice has been obtained on the case. "Are journalists now enjoying better protection under the new Philippine government?" This was among the questions on the Philippine human rights situation and peace process raised at the public meeting organised by Auckland Philippines Solidarity (APS) and Global Peace and Justice Auckland (GPJA) on 9th November as part of the peace speaking tour of MR. LUIS JALANDONI and MS CONI LEDESMA, representatives of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Peace Negotiating Panel.

"Until now, justice has not been obtained for the journalists and civilians killed in the Ampatuan massacre. Journalists especially those who expose corruption in government continue to face death threats," Ledesma noted. Four months ago, Aquino declared his administration's priority in a press conference, "Cases of extra-judicial killings need to be solved, not just identify the perpetrators but have them captured and sent to jail." In particular, Aquino promised justice for the victims of Maguindanao massacre.

"We join the Filipino people in demanding justice for the killings of public union leader Caloy Rodriguez and peasant activist Rene Rodriguez which brought to 22 the record of political killings under Aquino. These latest cases on top of the Ampatuan massacre and hundreds of unresolved political killings under the Arroyo government show that trade unionists, peasant leaders and community activists advocating for economic and political reforms remain targets of brutal state repression," Luke Coxon, APS Spokesperson stated.

Contrary to Aquino's promise and despite Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin's admission that the murderers of Negros farm-worker and human rights activist Benjamin Bayles were members of the military, the killings of political activists continue and the Aquino government has yet to have the perpetrators sent to jail," APS noted.

Coming from the ASEAN Summit in Vietnam last week, Aquino announced that he has been invited by several heads of state including New Zealand Prime Minister John Key to visit their respective countries. "Besides the usual talks on business, we ask Mr John Key to make his future meetings with Philippine president to be constructive for peace-building efforts and resolving the human rights crisis in the Philippines. Mr Aquino will deserve a warm welcome from Filipinos and New Zealanders if he would come not only to court more NZ investments to Philippines, but to bring good news about the progress of peace negotiations and obtaining justice for human rights victims under his administration," Coxon concluded.