Saturday, October 27, 2007

HR Advocates Protest Ermita's Visit to NYC as Arroyo's Lead Spin Doctor for HR Situation

News Release
October 25, 2007

Reference: Jamie Mapa, NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, email:

HR Advocates Protest Ermita's Visit to NYC as Arroyo's Lead Spin Doctor for HR Situation

New York-- The NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP), Anakbayan NY/NJ, and Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment staged a solemn prayer vigil outside the Philippine Consulate last night during a public forum between Malacanang's Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita and the Filipino-American community.

Ermita, along with members of the Presidential Commission on Human Rights Purificacion Quisumbing and Coco Quisumbing, was deployed to New York to answer serious queries made by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) after a disturbing and implicating report drafted by UN Special Rapporteur for Extrajudicial Killings Philip Alston after conducting a deep fact-finding mission with communities and various victims of human rights violations in the Philippines earlier this year.

From the very beginning of the Q & A session, it was clear the audience members were highly critical of Ermita's sanitized "spin" of what is happening in their homeland. He regarded extrajudicial killings as simply "unexplained" killings where the Arroyo government is doing all that it possibly could to catch the perpetrators.

NYCHRP's Jamie Mapa and her mother, Malu T. Mapa, asked particularly pointed questions regarding the competancy of the Philippine government and refuted Ermita's earlier claim that oftentimes the killings remain unexplained because the families of victims do not cooperate in the investigation. Both mother and daughter are the cousin and aunt of Jonas Burgos, son of the late press freedom fighter Joe Burgos, and a peasant organizer abducted by military forces last April, and who remains missing until this day.

Other critical questions came from Christina Hilo of Anakbayan, who asked Ermita what that Philippine government's stand was on the recent ruling of the prestigious Permanent People's Tribunal in the Hague, which found the Arroyo regime guilty of the killings and various other crimes against humanity. Valerie Francisco of Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment echoed the position of Gabriela Philippines, in that the Philippines has become a dangerous country for women and children. Finally, Berna Ellorin, Secretary-General of BAYAN USA, and also a member of the NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, pointedly confronted the panel on why she was included in controversial blacklist issued by the Department of Justice of over 500 names of individuals overseas who have ties to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

"Is it because I have participated in fact-finding missions with Karapatan?" Ellorin stated point blank to the panel. "I can assure you Mr. Ermita, I am not a member of Al-Qaeda or the Taliban, nor do I know anyone from those organizations. Most of the people on that list are people I highly respect and have spoken out against the killings and abductions in the Philippines. How can we trust that your National Security Advisor Bert Gonzalez knows what he's doing with fabrications like that?"

The contingent inside urged the rest of the audience members to join the prayer vigil outside. As the audience members walked out, some joined the ranks of those praying. Jamie Mapa, her mother Malu, and her aunt who took over the leading of the rosary outside for all victims of human rights violations, including their beloved Jonas. ###