Contact: Katrina Abarcar
Coordinator, Katarungan: Center for Peace, Justice and Human Rights in the Philippines
Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA), her husband, and an entourage of around seventy members of congress, cabinet officials, lawmakers, and Filipino business leaders have begun their 10-day visit to the US. Filipino-American activists with organizations that convene GMA Watch, a national grassroots advocacy network concerned about the human rights crisis in the Philippines and the Bush administration’s support for the Arroyo government, will greet the Arroyo contingent in each of its stops in Washington, DC, New York, and California.
Washington, DC-based group Katarungan: Center for Peace, Justice, and Human Rights in the Philippines, will be doing an action themed “Airing the President’s Dirty Laundry” on June 25 at 6pm in front of the Willard Hotel. Participants in the action will be holding a ten foot puppet of GMA whose arms will act as clotheslines bearing symbols of some of the President’s most unpopular and not so secret legacies—extrajudical killings, rampant corruption, rice shortage and rising cost of very basic needs.
“We will be fully disclosing to the American public information on how President Arroyo’s policies literally kill, especially since our tax dollars have supported her administration in the form of military and economic aid,” said Katrina Abarcar, Coordinator of DC-based Katarungan.
“We are just making public knowledge what our government and institutions like the UN already know and are concerned about. That the Philippine military has used dirty tactics like execution, abductions, illegal arrests, just to name a few, to silence government critics. Despite the over 1000 cases of extrajudicial executions and disappearances and credible evidence of military involvement in these cases, there have been zero convictions of military personnel.”
One of the cases that Katarungan is following closely is that of missing activist and agriculturalist Jonas Burgos, the son of the late Filipino press freedom-fighter Joe Burgos. Katarungan had a rare opportunity in March to host his mother, Edita Burgos, and to hear first hand how the Arroyo administration created legal barriers in her search for her son.
“Jonas has been missing for over one year now. As a commitment to his mother, we will be talking about Jonas to our community and to our legislators until he is surfaced.”
Exact details on the whereabouts of the President from day-to-day have been limited and were not publicized or made available by the Philippine Embassy.
“I personally believe limiting the information released on the President’s visit was deliberately done to avoid being faced with public protests. The critiques President Arroyo’s administration has received from human rights organizations and institutions worldwide are extremely damaging,” said Abarcar.
During the action, Katarungan will also be talking about the economic policies in the Philippines that have worsened the living conditions of the poor majority, including trade agreements that have favored rich countries like the US, and the corruption scandals that have resulted in millions of dollars being amassed by government officials through bribes, money laundering, and overpricing of contracts.
“Our vision of human rights includes basic economic rights like the right to food, shelter, work, and a just wage, just to name a few. Unfortunately, instead of working to eradicate poverty, the Arroyo administration is working to eradicate those fighting poverty to remain in power. The administration has more readily distributed bribes than land to the majority of farmers who have none. So we understand the rage people are feeling towards the President in the Philippines and feel she better clean up her act or risk getting dumped,” ended Abarcar.