FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Open Letter to the Office of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
From the Malaya Movement in Canada
Toronto, ON – February 22, 2021 – Malaya Movement in Canada, on behalf of over 500 people in the Filipino diaspora and friends who signed, has sent an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, calling his attention and that of the Canadian government to the on-going killings and other human rights violations in the Philippines.
“Government institutions such as the military and defense [in the Philippines] are linked to the ongoing violence and gross human rights violations and these are the same institutions which enjoy Canada’s support for its military budget for years. It is in this light that we demand the strongest diplomatic intervention from Canada in response to gross human rights violations and abuses in the Philippines.”
Last December 10, on International Human Rights Day, police conducted a series of raid and illegal arrests with questionable search warrants of six trade union organizers Denise Velasco, Rodrigo Esparago, Romina Astudillo, Mark Ryan Cruz, Joel Demate and Jayme Gregorio, Jr., and of journalist Lady Ann Salem who is the editor of the progressive online news outlet Manila Today and who is also the communications officer of the International Association of Women in Radio and Television. All were charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives which are non-bailable offenses. Prior to this, on December 2, Amanda Lacaba Echanis, a young peasant organizer and new mother with her month-old baby was arrested in a pre-dawn raid with questionable search warrant, and then charged with illegal possession of firearms, ammunition and explosives allegedly found during the raid.
On December 15, 2020, Dr. Rose Mary Sancelan, the city health officer in Guihulngan, Negros Island, and her husband Edwin were gunned down on their way home. Dr. Sancelan was the only doctor in Guihulngan and the local head of the IATF-Inter Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases, working to contain the pandemic in her city.
On December 30, 2020, nine community leaders of the Tumandok Indigenous people were killed and 17 other members of their organization Tumanduk nga Mangunguma nga Nagapangapin sa Duta kag Kabuhi were arbitrarily arrested in Panay Island by the military. The Tumandok Indigenous people had campaigned against the construction of the Jalaur Dam, a billion-peso government project which would destroy their ancestral lands and barangays.
All these people and their organizations have been subjected to communist witch-hunting or red tagging. Even progressive lawmakers in Makabayan (Progressive) Bloc in the Philippine legislature have been red tagged, attacked, and vilified by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict under the Office of the Philippine President. The passage in July 2020 of the “Anti-Terror” Law, described as unconstitutional and anti-human rights by lawyers, church people, human rights groups, etc., has only added to the culture of impunity in the Philippines. People’s opposition to the “Anti-Terror” Law is the subject of 35 petitions now pending before the Philippine Supreme Court.
The United Nations High Commission on Human Rights, in its report, exposed the worsening human rights violations in the Philippines as well as the vilification of dissent. Michelle Bachelet, the High Commissioner, is quoted thus: “People who use or sell drugs do not lose their human rights. People who disagree with Government policies and criticize them, including in international fora, should not be vilified as terrorist sympathizers. Indigenous peoples should not be victims of a tug-of-war between the State, non-State armed groups and business interests.”
In addition to the concerns expressed in our letter, we are also supportive of Parliamentary Petition e-2820 from the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines – Canada and MiningWatch Canada, calling for greater accountability for Canadian companies operating overseas in countries like the Philippines, which is being tabled in the House of Commons on February 25th, 2021.
We are also watching closely the developments of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry into Human Rights Violations in the Philippines, also known as InvestigatePH, which has launched a global inquiry driven by global organisations, religious and political leaders, and civil society looking into ongoing human rights violations in the Philippines.
With the escalation of human rights violations in the Philippines, Malaya Movement in Canada and other Filipino and allied organizations in Canada are continuing to raise these issues and call for dialogue with the Canadian government to respond in defense of human rights worldwide.
The Malaya Movement in Canada and other organizations hope to have the opportunity to have a dialogue with the Prime Minister and other relevant government officials to discuss the concerns and recommendations in the Open Letter.
The Open Letter is a collaboration of the different representatives of Malaya Movement in Canada in the provinces of British Columbia, Quebec, Winnipeg, Ontario, and Alberta.