Clark should raise plight of jailed Filipino MP

As Prime Minister Helen Clark prepares to leave for the Philippines for a meeting of Asean leaders, Green Party Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Keith Locke has sent her a letter urging her to raise with Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo the dire human rights situation in that country.

“In my letter, I stated my concerns about the extent of human rights abuses in the Philippines. Leftist members of Congress are being arbitrarily jailed or threatened by the authorities, and their supporters are being killed,” Mr Locke says.

“Since President Arroyo took office in 2001, scores — and by some counts, hundreds — of trade unionists, political organisers, priests, lawyers, judges and journalists have been systematically murdered in a wave of extra-judicial killings.

“In particular, I have urged Helen Clark to raise with President Arroyo the jailing of the 73 year old parliamentarian and former trade union leader Crispin Beltran, who has been held in detention for nearly a year now, on trumped up charges of political conspiracy.

“Calls for Mr Beltran’s release have come from all round the world, notably from the Interparliamentary Union Conference in Geneva last October. Since Ms Clark has accepted the hospitality of Crispin Beltran’s jailers, she shouild be just as willing to convey her concerns about the way that he, and other MPs threatened with bogus criminal charges, are being treated.

“Last year, Amnesty International condemned “the political motivations behind reportedly selective arrests and launch of criminal proceedings, particularly against leftist suspects.” As Amnesty also said in the same report, ” the failure to investigate political killings effectively and to prosecute the perpetrators risks perpetuating a cycle of human rights violations, not least by sending a message of de facto tolerance of such practices.”

“It is now up to international leaders, such as Helen Clark, to make it clear to President Arroyo that people cannot continue to kill and intimidate their political opponents with impunity. Ms Clark has spoken out strongly on the situation in Fiji. Surely, it is possible for her to be similarly forthright about the climate of fear and intimidation being fostered by her hosts in the Philippines.

“The immediate release of Crispin Beltran and the dropping of all charges against his parliamentary colleagues is the necessary first step by President Arroyo, if she is to restore the international credibility of her administration.”