From the NZ Herald 13.03.06 By Paul Smith
Prime Minister Helen Clark is being urged to raise human rights abuses with the Philippines government during a meeting there this week.
President Gloria Arroyo declared an effective state of emergency last month, saying it was necessary to prevent a coup.
There are reports that one of the leading opposition figures, Crispin Beltran, has been arrested as part of the latest crackdown.
Professor Jane Kelsey, of Auckland University’s law faculty, has written to Helen Clark asking her to “convey, publicly, to President Arroyo’s representative the New Zealand government’s condemnation of the state of emergency and the Philippine government’s breach of its international human rights obligations“.
Representatives of the Catholic Church in New Zealand have backed the call and have highlighted a wide range of alleged abuses in the country.
David Tutty, justice and peace worker for the church in Auckland, last week encouraged people to write to Helen Clark’s office asking her to take up these issues with the Phillipines Government.
Mr Tutty hosted a meeting in Ponsonby on Friday night at which Audrey Beltran, a member of the Cordillera People’s Alliance, showed documentaries on the plight of indigenous people in the Philippines.
Green Party MP Keith Locke also wrote to Helen Clark last week. In his letter he stated: “I would like you to bring to the attention of the President and her government that New Zealand sees the repression as a setback for human rights and democracy in the Philippines, and in our region.”
A spokesman for the Prime Minister said he was not aware of Professor Kelsey’s letter or the wider calls for Helen Clark to raise the issues with President Arroyo.
However, he added: “As a general rule, the Prime Minister is concerned about human rights in a country and she raises those when she meets heads of state.” He said she had done so, for example, with the Chinese leadership.
Helen Clark today arrives in the Philipines, where she will meet President Arroyo and attend the Asia-Pacific Regional Interfaith Dialogue.
David Tutty is a member of the Philippines Solidarity Network of Aoteoroa, an organisation sympathetic to and supportive of the Communist Party of the Philippines and their “New Peoples Army” armed wing. He has been to the Philippines at least twice, including in November 2003.
Keith Locke is a former national co-ordinator of the Philippines Solidarity Network and in October 2002, wrote to the Dutch government in defence of Communist Party of the Philippines leader, Jose Maria Sison.
Jane Kelsey is a member of the ARENA group, an organisation sponsored by the Philippines Solidarity Network of Aoteoroa.
Audrey Beltran’s Cordillera People’s Alliance is a well known front for the Communist Party of the Philippines.