DROP BASELESS CHARGES AGAINST FILIPINO WOMEN AND ACTIVISTS IN SOUTHERN TAGALOG!

Press Statement
November 26, 2008

Reference: Cris Hilo, Vice Chair, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment, email: fire.nyc@gmail.com

DROP BASELESS CHARGES AGAINST FILIPINO WOMEN AND ACTIVISTS IN SOUTHERN TAGALOG!

New York City based Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE), a member of GABRIELA Philippines condemns the unfounded charges against 72 community members and leaders, workers, lawyers, researchers and activists from the Southern Tagalog region of the Philippines. This recent spate of state repression and violations of civil liberties is a continuation of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s deteriorating administration and governance.

The newly revived vigor in GMA’s 21st century witch hunt stems from a trumped up charge this past September by a major multi-national corporation, Globe Telecommunications (GlobeTelecom), who filed charges of arson, against 27 civilian activists (ST 27). The allegations became questionable when the accused included names of grassroots activists who were tortured and abducted by the Philippine National Police. It seems that the way to get to justice in the GMA administration is to lock up the people who have experienced extreme injustice.

One month later, charges of multiple murders were filed against 72 activists in the same region, including most of the ST 27. Most of the accused members of progressive people’s organizations under BAYAN (New Patriotic Alliance), Kilusan Mayo Uno (Trade Union Center) and progressive party-lists such as Bayan Muna, Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP), and Anakpawis. Of the six who have already been arrested, most are leaders of Southern Tagalog based workers organizations and trade unions.

In the hands of this apparent double team of corporate and state aggressors, community members and leaders are the easiest target. As the initiators of safe workplaces, decent working conditions, livable communities and reliable healthcare, the people among the wrongfully accused ST 72, are those who are fighting for change.

There are 20 women in the ST 72, some of them members of GABRIELA and other’s key leaders in the formation of the progressive GWP. It is explicit that even as a woman, GMA has no motives to protect women’s rights to due process and freedom of speech, much less their basic rights to food, work and healthcare. Women in droves have been catalysts for the change sorely needed for their communities, and more importantly, their children’s future.

“This is a blatant move of the Arroyo government to arrest activists without any form of legal due process. It is a direct attack on people’s civil liberties and human rights,” responded Valerie Francisco, chairperson of FiRE, “Since the start of her presidency in 2001, the Philippine military under GMA’s command have been targeting activists left and right with almost a thousand dead and hundreds missing. Instead of killing one activist at a time, GMA is beginning to sweep up whole batches of leaders all at once.”

The targeting of progressives is sadly sustained in the GMA regime. In 2006, there were charges filed against party list representatives Liza Maza of GWP, and leaders from Bayan Muna, and Anakpawis. And due to lack of probable cause and due process, the Supreme Court of the Philippines ordered the dismissal of these false charges.

The Fil-Am women of FiRE, representing Filipino American and immigrant women in New York City, recognize that these unsubstantiated charges are attached to a long list of state persecution. We know this is a crucial time for women to protect their rights, FiRE denounces these arrests and illegal detentions. We call for the immediate expulsion of the charges against the ST 72! We demand that political persecution of women leaders and their work to advance conditions in their communities be stopped!

DROP CHARGES AGAINST ST 72!
FREE ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS!
UPHOLD THE RIGHTS AND WELFARE OF ALL FILIPINOS!
STOP POLITICAL PERSECUTION AND REPRESSION IN THE PHILIPPINES!

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