Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Protests, Rallies Shame Arroyo In New Zealand

Anti-Arroyo protests in New Zealand. (KMU photos contributed to the Mindanao Examiner)

MANILA - Delegates to the interfaith dialogue hosted by Prime Minister Helen Clark at Waitangi in New Zealand, were left in no doubt about the real issues of peace, security and tolerance that should be on their agenda, the National Distribution Union said on Tuesday.

Banners reading "Stop the Killings Gloria" and "Stop the Killings in the Philippines" highlighted the appalling record of human rights violations under President Gloria Arroyo, a co-host of the forum, it said.

Dozens of white wooden crosses were planted in the ground at the entry to the treaty grounds to symbolize the 858 extra judicial killings during the Arroyo regime.

Photographs of slain protestant Bishop Alberto Ramento and other victims showed the human face of this travesty.

Renowned New Zealand law professor Jane Kelsey said that crosses planted at the entry to the Copthorne Hotel made it impossible for Arroyo to miss the protest when she arrived to address the conference.

"Our noisy reception sent President Arroyo a clear message to stop the killings, for which the UN rapporteur holds her ultimately responsible," she said. "Equally, Helen Clark was challenged for hosting someone with a proven record of gross human rights violations.

"It's no longer acceptable for our Prime Minister to claim that she has raised these issues with President Arroyo. Past assurances have been shown to be worthless. The time has come for the New Zealand Government to put its money where its mouth is. Instead of channeling 'technical assistance' funding to the Philippines government that is responsible for the violations, it should direct that money to the churches and other independent human rights advocacy organizations."
A local Maori leader, Arthur Harawira, also led a protest on his ancestral grounds.

"I challenge the hypocrisy of the New Zealand government for holding this event on the sacred grounds of Waitangi in an attempt to give legitimacy to an illegitimate occasion,” he said.

Harawira drew links between the struggles of Maori with the struggles of the indigenous peoples and workers in the Philippines.

Dennis Maga, spokesman for the "Free Ka Bel" movement, urged inter-faith participants not to sit at the table with governments, like that of President Arroyo, who are responsible for gross human rights violations in their own countries.

"Yesterday, another UCCP pastor Berlin Guerrero has been abducted and found tortured by the Philippine National Police and charged with inciting to sedition dating back to 1991 and 1992."

"This reality flies in the face of President Arroyo’s assurances repeated at the press conference yesterday that her Government was fighting to improve its record in the killings," he said.

The militant Kilusang Mayo Uno said Tuesday President Arroyo humiliated herself in New Zealand by not telling the truth about state of human rights in the Philippines.

It also said that Philippine authorities are planning to arrest Maga as soon as he returns to Manila from New Zealand for leading the protest against Arroyo’s visit.

"Reliable sources have informed us that the Philippine government is planning to arrest Dennis Maga upon his arrival from New Zealand on June 2. Obviously, Arroyo was embarrassed in New Zealand that's why Malakanyang is posing to arrest Maga and further suppress the advocates of democracy," Maria Theresa Dioquino, KMU International Affairs Secretary, said in a statement sent to the independent regional newspaper, the Mindanao Examiner.

Maga was among the protesters who rallied against President Arroyo at the Parliament during her state visit to New Zealand.

He was hosted by the National Distribution Union of New Zealand, also supporting for the release of Anakpawis solon Crispin Beltran, who has been tagged by the Philippine military as an alleged supporter of the Maoist rebel group, New People’s Army, the armed wing of the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines.

"We are just stating facts about the Arroyo government's grave human right violations. It is Arroyo who embarrassed herself when she flagrantly lied about the state of human rights in the Philippines.

The young labor leader was 'caged' outside the New Zealand Parliament as his symbolic protest against the Philippine government's continued detention of Beltran.

The incident stirred huge media attention from New Zealand and the Philippines and the international media.

The protests countered Arroyo's boasting of her 'exemplary' human rights record in the Philippines.

Labor unions and progressive groups in New Zealand which are allied with the KMU and FKBM condemned Beltran’s continued illegal detention and the spate of political killings in the Philippines.

While activists criticized President Arroyo, Malakanyang issued a statement boasting her strong pitch for the promotion of interfaith dialogue to bring about lasting peace, political stability and economic growth in Asia.

"In Mindanao, we have taken steps to bring interfaith forces to bear upon a peace process that has resulted in a three-year ceasefire and monumental strides in economic growth," she said.

Extolling New Zealand’s role in the Mindanao Trust Fund, President Arroyo hailed the key role Prime Minister Clark plays in fostering interfaith dialogue in the resolution of conflicts, the promotion of peace and economic growth.

The Mindanao Trust Fund is intended for the development of Mindanao.

"I am here as a follower and participant to promote interfaith collaboration in education, security, social development and media," she said.

The President said that apart from its assistance to Mindanao, New Zealand plays a major role in East Asia’s "determined journey of consolidation since last year."

"As chair of the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), I have witnessed the warming of ties between ASEAN, China and Japan within the context of common prosperity and collective security," she said.

She pointed out that "East Asia is coming of age in this millennium as a global leader for equitable trade with a clear social dividend and solid security with a soft touch. Our relations with New Zealand are incorporated in this paradigm."

Noted for its commitment to human rights, protection of the environment, peace and interfaith dialogue, New Zealand brings to East Asia, the "soft strategies that guarantee peace, reinforcing the hard elements such as joint military training and law enforcement operations that we share with allies like Australia and the United States," the President said. (Mindanao Examiner)

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