Ottawa, Canada (Tuesday, November 22, 2011) -- A delegation of solidarity and human rights activists from Montreal and Ottawa delivered a letter demanding an end to impunity to the Philippine Embassy today addressed to President Benigno Aquino III.
November 23 is the second anniversary of the infamous Ampatuan massacre during which 58 people, including 32 journalists, were killed on the island of Mindanao while on their way to register a candidate for the Philippine election. To date the major perpetrators of the crime have managed to avoid their day in court and impunity reigns.
The delegation represented various organizations under Bayan Canada, the Stop the Killings network, independent journalists, human rights activists, unions and church groups. Delegates met with First Secretary and Consul, Flerida Ann Camille P. Mayo, to hand in the letter and to discuss their concerns, namely to ensure that former President Gloria Arroyo is also brought to justice concerning with her role in the various political killings and enforced disappearances that occurred during Arroyo's administration.
The delegation raised the fact that the political killings continue unabated under the current administration of President Aquino, with Fr Fausto Tentorio being among the latest victims. The group also raised issue with the formation of mining militias to protect destructive mining operations, including Canadian mining companies. They said that they will not accept any human rights violations perpetrated against the Filipino people in the name of protecting Canadian or other foreign mining companies operating in the Philippines.
For their part, Consul Mayo attempted to assure us that all legal avenues were being made to ensure that Arroyo was brought to justice and defended the actions of the Aquino administration to arrest her before she fled the country as a risk undertaken in "contempt of the Supreme Court". The delegation countered that although the arrest of Arroyo was a step in the right direction, the international community continues to stay vigilant and wants to ensure that Arroyo and other human rights violators do not evade justice by using their political influence.
David Koch, an independent journalist, raised his concern that the Philippines is one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists, citing the 32 journalists who were killed in the "Ampatuan massacre".
When Consul Mayo challenged the delegates to come out with any recent journalists who have been victims of political killings and they raised the fact that one of the latest victims is an Italian priest who was also an indigenous rights and anti-mining activist in Mindanao.
The delegates also cited the more than 55 political killings and eightenforced disappearances under the present government. Consul Mayo ensured us that they will make sure that our message and the letter will be delivered to the President.
The consul then opened a discussion about the registrations for the Overseas Absentee Voting and the conditions of Filipino migrant workers in Canada, positively citing several Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) between Manila and various provinces in Canada (including Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba).
The consul proudly announced that the Philippines is now the number one supplier of migrant workers to Canada's Temporary Foreign Worker Program. Migrante Canada members including PINAY and the Philippine Migrant Society of Canada responded by raising issues about the treatment of Filipino migrants in Canada and asked about the efforts of the Embassy and the consulates to ensure that migrant rights are protected.
The Consul asked the group to send her some points of concern so that she can discuss it with the Embassy and in discussion with Minister Jason Kenny when they meet for consultations around migrant workers. Consul Mayo then invited the Consul responsible for migrants to join the end of the discussion.