Monday, April 21, 2008 -- We, the undersigned Canadian-based organizations and individuals, strongly condemn the harassment by armed men of Rep. Satur Ocampo on his return from a Human Rights Mission to Canada. We also condemn the threat of his imminent arrest. We are seriously concerned for his safety and that of the other members of the Mission, Rep. Crispin Beltran and Rep. Luz Ilagan.
According to Philippine newspaper reports, unidentified armed men on motorcycles believed to be police officers were seen staking out Ocampo's residence in Quezon City, early Sunday, April 20. A Honda SUV and a Toyota AUV parked a few metres from his house left when members of the media arrived around 10:30 am.
We view the timing of these events as punishment by the Philippine government for Rep. Ocampo’s courageous and principled stand against the ongoing human rights abuses in the Philippines -- particularly the extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances -- that he and the two other elected legislators aired before the Canadian Parliament and the Canadian media.
Rep. Ocampo, President of the Bayan Muna Party and the Deputy Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, along with Rep. Beltran of Anakpawis and Rep. Ilagan from the Gabriela Women's Party, were in Canada at the invitation of the Stop the Killings Network and the United Church of Canada for a national tour from April 4 -18, 2008.
The three members of the Philippine Congress informed the Canadian public, media and members of Parliament at the House of Commons Subcommittee on International Human Rights that more than 900 extrajudicial killings and 180 enforced disappearances have occurred under the government of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. They revealed that they themselves have been subjected to harassment, arrests and intimidation; 132 members of Rep. Ocampo's party have been assassinated since 2001, along with 49 members of Anakpawis and members of Gabriela.
Members of the Subcommittee who heard their testimonies expressed deep concern, saying that Canada must speak out and condemn the political killings. They acknowledged the grave risk the Philippine legislators have taken in standing up for their country.
The Philippine government appears to be again dredging up murder charges against Mr. Ocampo along with fellow Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casiño, Gabriela Women's Party Rep. Liza Maza and former Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano. Prosecutors in Neuva Ecija province filed the charges on Friday, April 18, this time for the alleged killing of three rebel returnees between 2001 and 2004.
It is to be noted that Casiño also just returned from Geneva, Switzerland where he made front page news exposing the human rights abuses in the Philippines during that country’s appearance before the United Nations Universal Periodic Review on human rights last April 11, 2008.
This is not the first time the government of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has ordered the arrest of Mr. Ocampo and the other progressive Party list legislators in order to silence them. Each time the charges have been thrown out of court.
On February 2007, Mr. Ocampo was arrested and detained for 18 days during an ongoing election campaign on charges of murders he allegedly committed in 1984. At that time he was in prison under the Marcos dictatorship. The case was dismissed by the Supreme Court.
Rebellion charges were also dismissed in 2006 against Reps. Ocampo, Casiño, Beltran and Mariano, along with Rep. Maza of Gabriela. They spent two months under the protective custody of the Philippine Congress to prevent their arrest. However, Rep. Crispin Beltran, 75, was nabbed and spent 15 months in prison where he suffered heart problems before the charges were dropped.
UN Rapporteur Philip Alston rejected the charges of the Philippine government that the ongoing political killings and abductions are the results of internal purges within the Philippine left and underground New Peoples Army, and instead implicated the Philippine military and police forces.
We demand that the Philippine government immediately stop the harassment and drop all trumped-up charges against Reps. Ocampo, Beltran, Ilagan, Casiño and the other elected representatives of these Party list organizations.
We urge that the Canadian government demand an immediate end to the intimidation and harassment of Rep. Ocampo and ensure his safety along with that of Rep. Beltran and Rep. Ilagan. The three were recent guests of the Canadian people. We call on the Canadian government to take a strong stand against the extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances in the Philippines and withhold bilateral assistance to the Arroyo government until Ottawa has proof that suitable measures have been taken.
-- Drop all trumped-up charges against Rep. Satur Ocampo and the other elected party list legislators;
-- Stop the harassment and intimidation of Rep. Satur Ocampo and the other elected party list legislators;
-- Stop the extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances in the Philippines and bring those responsible to justice.
Basics Community Newspaper
Bayan Organizing Committee, Toronto
B.C. Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines
Canadian Advocacy Group for Philippines (CAGP)
Centre d’appui aux Philippines - Centre for Philippine Concerns (Montreal)
Centre for Research on Globalization (CRM), Montreal
Coalition for the Protection of Caregivers' Rights
Centre for Women's Studies in Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education
Community Alliance for Social Justice, Toronto
Connie Sorio, KAIROS, Asia Pacific
Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)- National
Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)local 4600
Denis Lemelin, National President, Canadian Union of Postal Workers
Development and Peace
Dominique Caouette, Political Science Dept., University of Montreal
Francine Lalonde, MP, Bloc Québécois
Friends of Satur Ocampo, Crispin Beltran and Luz Ilagan of Vancouver
Global and Societal Ministries, BC Conference, UCC
Jean-Philippe Massicotte, University of Montreal
Johanne Deschamps, MP, Bloc Québecois
Lois Wilson, Senator (ret.)
Migrante-Ontario (AWARE Filipino Family Services, Damayan Education and Resource Centre, Filipino Migrant Workers' Movement)
Migrante Youth Collective
National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) - National
Ontario Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines
Pacific People's Partnership
PATAC (Philippine Advocacy Through Arts and Culture)
Philippine - Québec Public Forum, Montreal
Philippine Network for Justice and Peace
Primates World Relief and Development Fund
Ricardo Caluen (member of Philippine Press Club of Ontario)
United Church of Canada
Vivian Barbot, MP, Bloc Québécois