Two Bishops, Ex-Political Prisoner Visit New York To Report On Human Rights in the Philippines

by Kobakila News

NEW YORK —  SIXTY-SEVEN extrajudicial killings, nine disappearances and 78 political arrests in the first one-and-a-half years in power of President Benigno Aquino III.

These and more are part of the report on the human rights situation in the Philippines that two Filipino bishops and a former political prisoner will discuss with the New York City-based Filipino-American media on March 19, Monday at 10:30 a.m.

The press briefing will be held at the Church Center for the United Nations at 777 First Avenue, corner 44th Street, in New York, NY 10017.

To present their report on the human rights situation under President Aquino are:

Bishop Reuel Norman Marigza, vice chairperson of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) and general secretary of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP);

Bishop Felixberto Calang of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI, or Philippine Independent Church), chairperson of the Initiatives for Peace in Mindanao (InPeace Mindanao); and

Mrs. Angelina Bisuna Ipong, coordinator of SELDA (Association of Ex-Detainees Against Detention and Arrest), and a former political prisoner and author of the book “Garden Behind Bars”.

The Philippine UPR Watch

The U.S. tour of Bishops Marigza and Calang and Ms. Ipong is in line with the Philippine Universal Periodic Review Watch’s commitment to submit periodic reports to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UN HRC). A similar delegation is currently in Geneva, Switzerland.

The Philippine UPR Watch is an ecumenical network of Philippine human rights organizations and advocates that engages in the Universal Periodic Review process of the UN HRC.

The tour is sponsored by the Asia Pacific Forum of US and Canadian churches with Asia and Pacific related programs and concerns.

The delegation’s mission

The delegations will bring up the continuing human rights violations and the prevailing climate of impunity in the Philippines, and to prepare for the upcoming second cycle of UPR of the Philippines in May to June 2012 in Geneva, Switzerland.

The delegations in North America and Geneva, Switzerland will also seek the support of the international human rights community in calling out the continuing human rights violations under the one-and-a-half year presidency of Benigno Aquino III.

The three will be attending the Ecumenical Advocacy Days (EAD) in Washington, D.C. on March 23-26 to rally the support of the U.S. religious and faith-based community in convincing the U.S. Congress to investigate the connection between U.S. military aid to the Philippines and human rights violations under President Aquino.

The delegation will bring to the attention of the U.S. Congress the continuing extrajudicial killings, disappearances, torture and other violations under the administration of Aquino, including the killing of Italian Roman Catholic missionary, Fr. Fausto Tentorio.

Marigza, Calang and Ipong

Bishop Marigza led the UCCP in filing court cases against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and top military officials for the assassination, disappearances and detention of six members of UCCP. Just recently, another UCCP lay leader, Jimmy Liguyon, an anti-mining advocate, who was allegedly killed by a paramilitary trained by the Philippine military.

Bishop Calang is listed in the Philippine military’s “Order of Battle”, a list of persons tagged by the Philippine military as combatants or supporters of the rebel movement. A number of political activists in the Philippines who have been placed on OBs are among those who have been extrajudicially executed.

Calang’s organization, Barug Katungod Mindanao (or Stand Up for your Rights, Mindanao), is in the forefront of the campaign seeking justice for Father Tentori.

Ipong is the oldest female political prisoner in the Philippines. She was imprisoned from 2005 to 2011 and was subjected to torture, sexual abuse, and continuous interrogations. The rebellion charges filed against her by the military have been dismissed. She wrote about her ordeals in prison in her book, “Garden Behind Bars”.

The three will proceed to Canada to convince Canadian lawmakers to support the Philippine UPR Watch’s position at the next UN HRC Session that the Philippines live up to its human rights commitments.

2007 human rights conference on the Philippines

This trip to the U.S. and Canada is a follow-up to the 2007 International Human Rights Conference on the Philippines.

That year, a delegation of Filipino church leaders, lawyers and human rights advocates attended the EAD and brought to the U.S. religious community’s attention the growing cases of unsolved extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.

The delegation also convened an international conference on human rights in the Philippines in Washington, D.C.. They presented their report before a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing conducted by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-California).

Senator Boxer called on the U.S. government to withdraw economic aid to the government of then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo unless it institutes reforms to curb human rights abuses in the Philippines.

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