By April Tiamzon/Asianjournal.com
NEW YORK — Despite the rain, Filipino-American protesters vigilantly picketed outside the Philippine Center while Executive Secretary of the Philippines, Eduardo R. Ermita discussed the current situation of Human Rights and National Security in the Philippines.
Ermita was sent by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to the United Nations as her official spokesman to inform the UN that Human Rights is top of mind under her administration.
Ermita also requested a forum from New York Consulate General Cecilia Rebong to discuss Philip Alston’s report regarding extrajudicial killings of media and military groups in the Philippines.
Ermita, together with Undersecretary Coco Quisumbing and Phil Con-Gen NY Cecila Rebong were the panelists for the forum.
The forum addressed the current situation of unexplained killings in the Philippines. Ermita aired the Arroyo administration’s side on the issue.
“Our government is looking very seriously on what has been reported [about the] violation of Human rights. We must respect the human rights of our citizens. Not only for people who are being killed because of their political belief, but also [to] look after [the] human rights of women, children, and other sectors of our society,” Ermita stated.
With regards to last week’s blast at Glorietta 2 in Makati, Ermita explained that “so far, the Philippine Police report seems to point to defects in the Sewage System, and not an explosion caused by terrorists.” If it was a terrorist act, it will definitely affect our standing with the international community and [with] investors in the Philippines.”
Ermita described to FilAms, the current state of democracy in the Philippines. “If you hear a lot of noise about politicians especially coming from the opposite side throwing things at the administration, just take a look at this as part of our democratic system. Making noise is part of the democratic process; there is no reason to think that the government will collapse.”
A concerned citizen mentioned that this was her first time on the other side of the picket line and that she is on the watch list released by Security Advisor Gonzales. The list includes at least 500 other Human Rights activists, and states that these listed activists have direct ties with the NPA and the Communist Party of the Philippines. They are also being linked to Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
Quisumbing stated that witnesses and their family members who feel threatened or endangered can request any court to give them protection. In addition, any government official who does not honor the Witness Protection Program will be penalized.
According to the October 2007 edition of the Philippine Human Rights Digest, President Arroyo will allot 10 million pesos from the 2008 national budget
to eradicate extreme poverty and “keep the cause of human rights alive.”
Will martial law surpass again? This was one of the questions left unanswered as the forum came to an end.
Human rights organizations such as BAYAN USA, NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, Anakbayan NY/NJ, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment, and the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns were also present in the forum.
A community prayer and candlelight vigil calling for justice for the victims of human rights violations in the Philippines followed shortly outside the Philippine Center.