Open Letter to President Benigno Aquino III
(End Impunity, Render Justice to Victims of Human Rights Violations
and Address the Roots of Social Unrest)
President Benigno Aquino III
Malacanang Palace, Manila
Dear Mr. President:
We, undersigned migrants and advocates for migrants rights, express our deep concern over the continuing human rights violations in the Philippines despite the change in government. People hoped that after the brutal regime of Arroyo there would be some change as you have promised to tread the “righteous path.”
Your government is now going into its one and a half years in office but not a single perpetrator of human rights violations during the time of Arroyo has been punished. In fact, in your first year in office, the human rights organization KARAPATAN has recorded the following statistics in its April-June 2011 report: 48 extrajudicial killings, 5 enforced disappearances, 29 cases of torture, 151 illegal arrests and 3,010 victims of forcible evacuation from rural villages. Only recently, an Italian priest, Fr. Pops Tenorio, was killed for supporting the struggle of indigenous people in Mindanao against mining operations that were destroying their ancestral lands.
These human rights violations are the direct result of your counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan that replaced Arroyo’s infamous Oplan Bantay Laya.
As in the time of Arroyo, the victims are the same: peasant leaders, trade union officers and organizers, student acitivists, women militants, environmental acivists, human rights workers and church people who oppose government policies that favor foreign corporations and local vested interests at the expense of the people.
The perpetrators are the same: military, police and hired guns who have the good fortune of not having to worry about being arrested.
These human rights violations are happening in the context of deep-seated social unrest due to poverty grinding down more than 80% of Filipinos. This is the same reason why many migrants like us have left the country to seek for jobs that cannot be produced by an economy that only serves the interests of a few wealthy families.
This is also the reason why there is an armed rebellion that is getting more and more support from the people who desire fundamental changes to happen in Philippine society.
We call on you, Mr. President, that instead of resorting to counter-insurgency schemes like Oplan Bayanihan that is bound to fail to quash the opposition that has deep roots among the people, you must rather put an end to impunity, bring the culprits of human rights violations during the time of Arroyo to justice and stop your military and police from carrying out extrajudicial killings, enforced disapearances, torture and other forms of human rghts violations.
We also call on you, Mr. President to resume peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) that are meant to address the social, economic and political problems that are at the root of the widespread social unrest and the ongoing armed conflict. #