Sunday, March 15, 2009

Resume peace talks with rebel groups and stop the killing of activists and journalists, European Parliament urges Philippine government

The Philippine government should resume peace talks with rebel groups to address the massive bloodshed and displacement of civilians in the country, according to the European Parliament (EP) in a resolution last March 12. It also expressed grave concern at the rampant cases of extrajudicial killings of activists and journalists, and "the role that the security forces have played in orchestrating and perpetrating those murders."

The EP added that it wants to ensure that the European Union's financial assistance towards economic development in the Philippines is "accompanied by scrutiny of possible violations of economic, social and cultural rights, with special attention being paid to encouraging dialogue and inclusion of all groups in society."

For more information about EP, click here.

European Parliament resolution of 12 March 2009 on the Philippines

The European Parliament ,

– having regard to the Declaration of 15 September 2008 by the Presidency on behalf of the EU on the situation in Mindanao,

– having regard to the appeal issued by the Ambassadors of the European Union and the United States of America and the Australian Embassy's deputy head of mission on 29 January 2009,

– having regard to the third session of the Tripartite Review of the implementation of the 1996 Peace Agreement between the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) from 11 to 13 March 2009,

– having regard to the Hague Joint Declaration by the GRP and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) of 1 September 1992 and the First and Second Oslo Joint Statements of 14 February and of 3 April 2004,

– having regard to the Commission's Country Strategy Paper 2007-2013 for the Philippines, the programme of support to the Peace Process under the Stability Instrument and the negotiations for a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between the EU and the Philippines,

– having regard to its previous resolutions on the Philippines, notably that of 26 April 2007(1) , and reaffirming its support for the peace negotiations between the GRP and NDFP as expressed in its resolutions of 17 July 1997(2) and 14 January 1999(3) ,

– having regard to Rule 115(5) of its Rules of Procedure,

A. whereas several armed groups, notably the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), have been combating government troops in the southern part of the Philippines since 1969, in one of Asia's longest-running insurgencies,

B. whereas the conflict between the GRP and the insurgents of the NDFP has claimed more than 40 000 lives and sporadic violence has continued despite the 2003 ceasefire and peace talks,

C. whereas hostilities between government forces and the MILF in Mindanao resumed in August 2008 after the Supreme Court of the Philippines declared unconstitutional the Memorandum of Agreement between the MILF and the GRP on the Ancestral Domain, which would have given substantial autonomy to the Bangsamoro nation,

D. whereas the renewed fighting has killed over one hundred and displaced approximately 300 000 people, many of whom are still in evacuation centres,

E. whereas Malaysia, the peace facilitator, withdrew its ceasefire monitors from Mindanao in April 2008 due to the lack of progress in the peace process, but is willing to reconsider its role if the GRP clarifies its negotiating position,

F. whereas peace talks between the GRP and the NDFP have stalled since 2004 and whereas the Norwegian Government has made great efforts to encourage both sides to resume formal talks,

G. whereas hundreds of activists, trade unionists, journalists and religious leaders in the Philippines have been killed or abducted since 2001 and the GRP denies any involvement of the security forces and the army in these political killings, despite ample evidence to the contrary,

H. whereas there were several cases in 2008 in which local courts found the arrest and detention of activists to be unlawful and ordered their release, but where those same people were subsequently rearrested and charged with rebellion or murder,

I. whereas the judiciary in the Philippines is not independent, while lawyers and judges are also subject to harassment and killings; whereas witness vulnerability makes it impossible to effectively investigate criminal offences and prosecute those responsible for them,

J. whereas, in the case of most of these extrajudicial killings, no formal criminal investigation has been opened and the perpetrators remain unpunished despite many government claims that it has adopted measures to stop the killings and bring their perpetrators to justice,

K. whereas in April 2008 the UN Human Rights Council examined the situation in the Philippines and stressed the impunity of those responsible for extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, but the GRP rejected recommendations for a follow-up report,

L. whereas in order to put an end to abductions and extrajudicial killings it is necessary to address the economic, social and cultural root causes of violence in the Philippines,

1. Expresses its grave concern about the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people in Mindanao, calls on the GRP and the MILF to do all in their power to bring about a situation which allows people to return home, and calls for enhanced national and international action to protect and to work towards the rehabilitation of the displaced persons;

2. Believes strongly that the conflict can only be resolved through dialogue, and that the resolution of this long-standing insurgency is essential for the sake of the overall development of the Philippines;

3. Calls on the GRP to urgently resume peace negotiations with the MILF and to clarify the status and future of the Memorandum of Agreement after the above-mentioned Supreme Court ruling; welcomes the GRP's announcement that it intends to drop preconditions for the resumption of talks;

4. Welcomes the talks, facilitated by Norway, between the GRP and the NDFP in Oslo in November 2008 and hopes, in this case also, that formal negotiations can rapidly resume; calls on the parties to comply with their bilateral agreements for the JMC, to meet in accordance with the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) and to allow joint investigations of human rights violations;

5. Calls on the Council and the Commission to provide and facilitate support and assistance to the parties in implementing the CARHRIHL, notably through development, relief and rehabilitation programmes;

6. Calls on the European Council and the Commission to support the GRP in its efforts to advance the peace negotiations, including by means of facilitation if requested, as well as through support for the International Monitoring Team responsible for overseeing the ceasefire between the military and the MILF;

7. Suggests that the role of the International Monitoring Team could be enhanced through a stronger mandate for investigations and through an agreed policy of making its findings public;

8. Calls on the GRP to increase development aid to Mindanao in order to improve the desperate living conditions of the local population and welcomes the financial support of more than EUR 13 million in food and non-food aid which the EU has given to Mindanao since fighting restarted in August 2008;

9. Expresses its grave concern at the hundreds of cases of extrajudicial killings of political activists and journalists that have occurred in recent years in the Philippines, and the role that the security forces have played in orchestrating and perpetrating those murders;

10. Calls on the GRP to investigate cases of extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances; calls at the same time on the GRP to put into place an independent monitoring mechanism to oversee the investigation and prosecution of perpetrators of such acts;

11. Calls on the GRP to adopt measures to end the systematic intimidation and harassment of political and human rights activists, members of civil society, journalists and witnesses in criminal prosecutions, and to ensure truly effective witness protection;

12. Reiterates its request to the Philippine authorities to allow the UN special bodies dealing with human rights protection unrestricted access to the country; urges, also, the authorities to swiftly adopt and implement laws to incorporate the international human rights instruments (e.g. against torture and enforced disappearances) which have been ratified into national law;

13. Calls on the Council and the Commission to ensure that the EU's financial assistance towards economic development in the Philippines is accompanied by scrutiny of possible violations of economic, social and cultural rights, with special attention being paid to encouraging dialogue and inclusion of all groups in society;

14. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the President and Government of the Republic of the Philippines, the MILF, the NDFP, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the governments of the ASEAN Member States.

(1) OJ C 74 E, 20.3.2008, p. 788.
(2) OJ C 286, 22.9.1997, p. 245.
(3) OJ C 104, 14.4.1999, p. 116.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Philippines: most dangerous place in Asia for journalists

The Committee to Protection of Journalists (CPJ) and Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists (FFFJ) cordially invite everyone to the launch of CPJ’s 2009 Global Impunity Index in Manila on March 23, 2009.

There will be a presentation of CPJ’s findings in its global analysis of unsolved journalists’ murders over the last 10 years, a briefing on the case of Filipino journalist Marlene Garcia Esperat to mark the four-year anniversary of her killing, and a discussion of impunity in the attacks against the media in the Philippines.

The Philippines is the most dangerous place in Asia to work as a journalist, according to CPJ research. There have been 78 Filipino journalists/media practitioners killed in line of duty since 1986, according to the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, which is a member of the FFFJ and acts as its secretariat.

Speakers include:
Jose Pavia, Chair, FFFJ
Elisabeth Witchel, Impunity Campaign and Journalist Assistance Program Coordinator, CPJ
Shawn Crispin, Senior Representative for Southeast Asia, CPJ
Prima Jesusa Quinsayas, legal counsel, FFFJ

Date: March 23, 2009, Monday
Time: 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Location: Paul Room, Annabel's restaurant,
194 Tomas Morato Avenue corner Scout Delgado,Quezon City

Presentation will be followed by lunch.

Please RSVP:

Lara / Carol
Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility
2/F, 130 H.V. dela Costa St.,
Salcedo Village, Makati City
Telephone: (+632) 894-1314 / (+632) 894-1326 /
(+632) 840-0903 / (+632) 840-0889 (telefax)
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