Concerned Australians to Philippines president: Stop the killings

Jun. 14, 2007

Groups in Australia have joined in protest against the continuing killings of unarmed civilians in the Philippines through a postcard campaign featuring peace and justice advocate Bishop Alberto Ramento of the Philippine Independent Church killed by alleged Philippine military elements in Oct. 2006 in his convent in Tarlac.

This follows the recent military abduction and torture of pastor Berlin Guerrero (48) in Laguna of the Uniting Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), forcibly taken from his wife and 3 children by soldiers in 2 vans.

Thousands of the Bishop Ramento postcard have been signed around Australia and are being sent to the Philippines president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo by concerned individuals and groups including the Uniting Church WA Synod, UnionsWA (representing 17 unions), Youth Christian Workers (YCW), Philippine-Australia Caucus for Peace (PACP), Philippine Australia Solidarity Association (PASA), Action for Peace and Development in the Philippines (APDP) and Migrante Australia.

In the Philippines, at least 850 journalists, lawyers, environmentalists, workers, students, church pastors and members, unionists, opposition party members, human rights and social justice advocates have been assassinated since 2001 and at least 200 abducted, violations which Amnesty International and the United Nations Human Rights Special Rapporteur Philip Alston report as directly perpetrated by the Philippines governments military and security forces with the alleged complicity of the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration under cover of its anti-terrorism drive (Oplan Bantay Laya).

The Philippines Arroyo government is being funded by the Australian government with over $100 million in aid and under the recently signed Status of Forces (SOF) Agreement, due for training of its military forces by the Australian Special Armed Services (SAS), set for joint war games and counter-terrorism exercises between Philippine and Australian troops and 30 Vietnam-style riverboats from Australia for use in Southern Philippines (Mindanao) military offensive against local separatists.

The joint Australian-Philippine war games are to take place next to Mindanaos mining regions where Australian mining firms including BHP Billiton and Indophil have a significant interest, with mining export revenue set to hit $2billion for the Philippines.

At least $250,000 for human rights projects in the Philippines have also been pledged by the Australian government to the Arroyo administration.

Despite assurances by the Arroyo government to the international community that the extrajudicial killings in the Philippines will stop and the perpetrators tried, the human and civil rights crisis continues with the deaths at the hands of soldiers of 16-year old Ronilo Vallevare and 20-year old June Bagasbas in Camarines Norte whose bodies were found the day after they were abducted on the way home from voluntary poll-watching for the Kabataan Partylist (Youth Party) in the recent Philippine May national elections.

Motheroffive and teacher Nellie Banaag who served on the board of election inspectors in Batangas was burnt to death last month with 2 others when a police inspector and 7 others set fire to the voting centre she was in – her husband and children were not allowed to view her remains as her casket had to be sealed because of the severity of the burning.

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