No improvement in human rights under Aquino: PH delegation

Angelina Ipong with Bishop Felixberto Calang (center) and Bishop Reuel Marigza.

“How can the government say there are no political detainees? I was just released last year?”

So scoffed Angelina Ipong, secretary general of the Society of Ex-Detainees Against Detention and Arrest. She was released February 17, 2011 after being held for six years to face charges of rebellion, double murder, arson and robbery. The government eventually dismissed all charges but not before she was subjected to torture, sexual abuse and continuous interrogations.

“They touched my private parts, two, maybe three men,” she told The FilAm. “I told them don’t do this to me. They were just laughing at me.”

Ipong was in town this week as part of a delegation campaigning to dispute the Philippine government’s human rights record. The Philippines will undergo a review by the United Nations Human Rights Council in May, and the delegation wanted to present data to support its claims that killings, disappearances and arrests remain rampant under the government of President Benigno Aquino.

Also in the delegation were Bishop Reuel Marigza, vice chairperson of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines; and Bishop Felixberto Calang of the Protestant Philippine Independent Church.

From New York, they will proceed to Washington D.C. for meetings with congressional leaders.

There are 347 political prisoners all over the country, the delegation said.

“The government denies they are political prisoners because they slap them with criminal charges like murder, arson, robbery that are non-bailable,” said Ipong.

The delegation presented more numbers.

By the end of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s nine-year term in 2010, there were a total of 1,206 victims of extrajudicial killings, 206 cases of disappearances and 2,059 arrests, according to a report by the ecumenical network Philippine UPR Watch.

Today, after one-and-a-half years of Aquino, there have been 67 extrajudicial killings, nine disappearances, 55 cases of torture and 78 political arrests, they said, citing a report prepared by the human rights group Karapatan.

“With President Aquino being the son of a martyr during the Marcos dictatorship, and the son of our People Power icon, you’d think that human rights situation would improve under his administration,” Ipong said. “But human rights abuses under his government did not stop.”

As secretary general of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, Bishop Marigza, led the church in filing court cases against Arroyo and her top military officials for the killing, disappearances and detention of UCCP clergy.

“Since 2001, more than 20 UCCP clergy and members have been killed,” he said. The case remains pending.

The delegation made an appeal to the international community.

“Help us in holding the Philippine government to its promise to improve the human rights situation,“ said Bishop Calang. — With Cristina DC Pastor

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