Monday, May 28, 2007

NZ: Filipino unionist to protest at Parliament in cage against President Arroyo

Filipino unionist to protest at Parliament

Monday, 28 May 2007
Press Release: National Distribution Union, New Zealand

NZ: Filipino unionist to protest at Parliament in cage against President Arroyo

A Filipino trade unionist will be protesting in a cage against the Filipino President on the steps of Parliament today at 12.30pm in Wellington as the President attends a state lunch in her honour, says the National Distribution Union.

National Distribution Union Wellington Secretary Sheryl Cadman says the protest was to draw attention to the 858 extra-judicial killings that have occurred since the President took power and to call for the release of Crispin "Ka Bel" Beltran.

Mrs Cadman says that "Ka Bel" is an ailing 74 year-old opposition congressman and trade union leader who was jailed 16 months ago on trumped up charges of sedition and who has not been released despite calls from the Inter Parliamentary Union.

The cage represents the imprisonment of Congressman Crispin 'Ka Bel' Beltran.

"President Arroyo and her public relations machine have arrived in New Zealand with a smile on her face and a wreath for our unknown soldier – but back home humanitarian groups, the media, independent watchdogs and international observers are slamming the recent Filipino election as being rife with fraud, intimidation, killing and coercion of voters," she says. "The number of election related deaths since campaigning began in January has reached 130 - the Philippines is the 'Columbia of the Pacific - only Iraq is more dangerous for journalists."

Filipino trade unionist and President of the "Free Ka Bel" movement, Dennis Maga, said that the President is visiting New Zealand and Australia over the next four days to expand diplomatic relations, expand trade, and counter the negative international concerns around the extra-judicial killings of mainly leftist activists, church members and politicians at an inter-faith dialogue in Waitangi.

"Ka Bel is just one of many victims of increased political repression in the Philippines under President Arroyo's administration," he says. "Besides intimidating and silencing political opponents through their imprisonment, 858 extra-judicial killings have been documented since her rise to power."

"We are concerned that New Zealand will be offering financial assistance to the very government whose military have been convincingly attributed to the extra judicial killings by United Nations Special rapporteur Professor Philip Alston."

"Any support should be given to independent bodies to investigate the state-sanctioned murders," he says.#


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