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Philippines - STOP POLITICAL PERSECUTION AGAINST CONGRESSWOMAN LIZA MAZA, Gabriela Women's Party Representative
The political persecution by the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration against incumbent Gabriela Women’s Party List Representative to the Philippine Congress, Liza Largoza-Maza and her colleagues, Bayan Muna Representatives Satur Ocampo and Teodoro Casiňo and former Anak Pawis Representative Rafael Mariano continues….
Congresswoman Maza, duly re-elected in the 2007 elections representing the Gabriela Women’s Party and now Assistant Minority Leader in the 14th Philippine Congress, is a staunch advocate and defender of women’s and people’s human rights. Her track record speaks of more than 20 years of active and continuous service to the marginalized women under the GABRIELA National Women’s Coalition. An advocate of new and progressive politics, she carries inside and outside the Congress the agenda of the Gabriela Women’s Party of promoting the rights and welfare of marginalized and under-represented Filipino women and harnessing their potential, initiative, skills, and leadership towards empowerment, justice and equality.
However, the efforts of Congresswoman Maza and the Gabriela Women’s Party are perceived by the Arroyo administration as threats to its political and economic agenda. Thus, the Arroyo administration fabricated rebellion and criminal charges against her and Bayan Muna Representatives Satur Ocampo and Teodoro Casiňo and former Anak Pawis Representative Rafael Mariano in its bid to put them to prison, remove them from Congress, and deny the people of their representation.
Notwithstanding the two successive defeats in its efforts to persecute and put behind bars Congresswoman Maza and her colleagues and to disqualify the Gabriela Women’s Party, Bayan Muna and Anak Pawis from participating in the 2007 elections, the Arroyo administration is once again maneuvering and pressuring the courts to issue warrants of arrest against them.
On April 18, 2008, the Nueva Ecija Provincial Prosecutor’s Office filed an information in the Guimba, Nueva Ecija Regional Trial Court and two others in the Palayan, Nueva Ecija Regional Trial Cout on ressurected trumped up charges of murder and kidnapping against Congresswoman Maza, Congressmen Ocampo and Casiňo and former Anak Pawis Representative and peasant leader Mariano. These charges against them are the very same concocted charges brought before the Commission on Elections by the Arroyo administration’s Department of Justice in its effort to disqualify the Gabriela Women’s Party, Bayan Muna and Anak Pawis Party Lists in the 2007 national elections, and dismissed by the Commission on Elections in January 2007.
The charges, filed in Nueva Ecija was strongly refuted by Congresswoman Maza and her colleagues: the identities of the complainants, who appeared before the COMELEC with covered faces throughout the investigation phase, could not ascertained and there are stark inconsistencies in their statements. However, this was denied and glossed over by the prosecutors in Nueva Ecija Court, seriously violating the due process rights of the parliamentarians.
It will also be recalled that on June 1, 2007, the Philippine Supreme Court, likewise, dismissed the rebellion charges brought by the Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG) against Congresswoman Maza and her colleagues, Bayan Muna Representatives Satur Ocampo, Teodoro Casino and Joel Virador and Anak Pawis Party List Representatives Crispin Beltran and Rafael Mariano. They are better known as the Batasan 6, the five of them including Congresswoman Maza, having been under the protective custody of the House of Representatives for 71 days.
The IALAG is an agency set up by the Arroyo administration with the purpose of targeting what they perceive as enemies of the State including those who are strongly opposing the foreign and elite inspired policies of the administration and those who are staunch defenders of human rights. Congresswomen Liza Maza and her colleagues have earned the ire of the Arroyo administration because they protested against human rights abuses, the imposition of the value added tax, oil price increases, the changing of the Philippine Constitution, against graft and corruption in government, landlessness of peasants, unemployment and poor working conditions in the country. But most importantly, because they supported the impeachment case against President Arroyo who was accused by the people of cheating, lying and stealing her way to the presidency.
The continuous political persecution against Congresswoman Maza and her colleagues pushed them to file a complaint before the Inter Parliamentary Union Committee (IPU) on Human Rights of Parliamentarians. In the decision adopted by the Committee at its 120th session in Geneva last January 14-17,2007, the IPU expressed deep concern over the various criminal cases which are still pending against the parliamentarians concerned. It also “expressed fears given the political motivation behind the previous rebellion charges brought against the parliamentarians, that all these proceedings are part of an ongoing effort by the government inter alia through the IALAG aimed at eliminating the parliamentarians and their political parties from the democratic political process.“ The IPU also stated that it cannot emphasize too strongly that prosecutors should not allow, and should avoid, giving the impression that their noble office is being used or prostituted, wittingly or unwittingly, for political ends. It calls on the House of Representatives to exercise its oversight power and to closely monitor the proceedings in the cases in question so as to ensure due administration of justice. Moreover, it calls on the Philippine Senate and the House of Representatives to ensure follow-up of the recommendations of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.
Today, considering the worsening human rights situation in the country as shown by 901 cases of extra judicial killings and 186 cases of enforced disappearances under the Arroyo administration, the lives and freedoms of Congresswoman Maza and her colleagues hang in the balance.
Congresswoman Maza sees the latest development on their Nueva Ecija case as part of a pattern of continuous political persecution against the representatives of Gabriela Women’s Party, Anak Pawis and Bayan Muna.
That the information was filed amid the volatile situation of rice crisis, increasing price of rice, oil and other basic commodities and services speaks a lot of the motive of the Arroyo administration- that it is a determined and systematic effort to eliminate the opposition and legitimate protests.
Congresswoman Liza Maza and the Gabriela Women’s Party as well as her colleagues remain steadfast in their resolve to highlight the plight of the people especially the marginalized women and protest against the Arroyo government’s policies that only spawn massive poverty and political repression against the people.
However, their voices to fight against continuing political repression and persecution will be louder and mightier with the support of women and the people. The Gabriela Women’s Party enjoins all freedom loving women and people to thwart the Arroyo administration’s move to detain Congresswoman Maza and her colleagues and deny the women and the people their representation.
STOP Political Persecution Against Congresswoman LIZA L. MAZA and her Colleagues!
We appeal to you to do the following:
- Send letter/ fax messages of protest to:
H.E. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
President of the Republic
JP Laurel St., San Miguel
Voice: (+632) 564 1451 to 80
Fax: (+632) 742-1641 / 929-3968
Cell#: (+ 63) 919 898 4622 / (+63) 917 839 8462
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Sec. Gilbert Teodoro
Secretary, Department of National Defense
Room 301 DND Building, Camp Emilio Aguinaldo,
E. de los Santos Avenue
Voice: +63(2) 911-9281 / 911-0488
Fax: +63(2) 911 6213
Sec. Raul M. Gonzalez
Secretary of Justice
Padre Faura Street, Manila
Direct Line 521-8344; 5213721
Trunkline 523-84-81 loc.214
or log on to http://www.doj.gov.ph/contact.html
Hon. Purificacion V. Quisumbing
Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg., UP Complex
Dilim Quezon City
Fax: (+632) 929 0102
- Hold discussion groups/fora and disseminate information on the state of human rights in the Philippine and the situation of human rights and women rights defenders.
- Send statements or letters of support for Congresswoman Liza Maza. Conduct activities to protest these renewed spate of political persecution against Gabriela Women's Party, Bayan Muna and Anakpawis.
- Organize Mariposa (Butterfly) Support Groups for Cong. Liza Maza and Gabriela Women’s Party. The Mariposa (Butterfly) Support Groups consists of women who want to support Cong. Liza Maza by conducting various advocacy activities and generating resources for the campaign.
For more information and update on the case of Congresswoman Liza L. Maza and her colleagues, you may contact:
Gabriela Women’s Party
Email addresses: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Telefax: 63-2-9316268; 632-929 53 42
Room 309 South Wing Building, House of Representatives
Constitution Hills, Quezon City 1126 Philippines
Gabriela Women’s Party National Headquarters
118 Scout Rallos, Barangay Sacred Heart, Quezon City 1103 Philippines