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PHILIPPINES HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS UNDER ATTACK
Marlene Garcia Esperat, 45 years old, mother of two, journalist, died on March 24, 2005. Cause of death: courage to expose government officials’ and military officers’ involvement in graft and corruption in the Department of Agriculture. Marlene was shot in the head while having dinner with her son at their home. She is the 13 th journalist to be silenced in the last two years under Arroyo administration.
Victor “Tatang Ben” Concepcion, a 66 years old peasant leader of the KMP -National Peasant Movement of the Philippines, died on March 17, 2005. Cause of death: commitment to the land struggle. Tatang Ben was shot inside his daughter’s house.
Marlene and Tatang Ben are the latest to fall in the recent spate of killings of political activists and human rights defenders in the Philippines. Since January this year, 32 leaders and members of left political organisations have been executed, and five made to disappear. Military and police officials have been implicated in the killings. However, no one has been made responsible for these. Even in the violent dispersal of the picket staged by peasants and agricultural workers in the Hacienda Luisita, the sugar plantation owned by the family of former Philippine president Corazon Aquino last November. Seven peasants were shot dead, hundreds were injured as the military and private guards launched an attack against the unarmed protesters.
Justice and end to the killings. These are the calls of Carmen Buena of AMIHAN (National Peasant Women Federation in the Philippines) on her 3 day fasting, along with other leaders of political organisations. Nanay (Mother) Carmen, in her 60’s, a landless peasant leader of AMIHAN, herself a victim of various forms of harassments, held this fasting in front of the Philippine Congress building to call attention to the “creeping act of terrorism not only against activists but against the Filipino people.”
Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, reacting to the killing of Marlene, said that she “will not tolerate any crime or any violation of human rights.” But Arroyo’s inaction, beyond issuing media quotes, is a crime in itself. Arroyo’s inaction breeds impunity and suspicions of conspiracy.
APWLD calls on the Philippine government to stop the killings of human rights defenders and bring to justice the masterminds of the killings.
Nanay Carmen, first person on the right, on the 2 nd day of fasting in front of the Philippine Congress building (photo by: arkibong bayan)