December 10, 2007
Reference: Katrina Abarcar, National Coordinator, GMA WATCH, email: email@example.com
Human Rights Groups in the US Launch GMA WATCH, Citing Arroyo the Most Significant Violator of Human Rights in the Philippines Today
E-Letter-Writing Campaign Launched to Pressure US Congress to Further Restrict US Military Aid to Arroyo Government
Several Filipino-American human rights advocacy groups are banding together this International Human Rights Day (December 10th) to launch a broad coalition called GMA WATCH: A Network for Human Rights, Government Accountability, and Justice in the Philippines. The initiative also comes upon the pledge of former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark as well as several labor and church officials to pay close attention to the grave human rights crisis in the Philippines under the administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA).
Clark and others in the network were branded and watchlisted as terrorists by the Philippine Department of Justice for their outspoken condemnation of the leadership of GMA and human rights crisis in the Philippines by way of over 886 extrajudicial killings and nearlty 300 enforced disappearances since 2001.
"We convened and named our network GMA WATCH, instead of referencing the entire Philippines because the human rights campaign is not sharp if we do not isolate the commander-in-chief of the Philippine military-- the biggest obstacle to human rights in the Philippines today-- and that is GMA herself," stated GMA WATCH national coordinator Katrina Abarcar. Abarcar also serves as coordinator of the DC-based Katarungan: Center for Peace, Justice, and Human Rights in the Philippines, a grassroots advocacy group that has been participating within the Ecumenical Advocacy Network (EAN) formed last Spring after the US Senate hearing on the extrajudicial killings in the Philippines chaired by Senate Foreign Relations Committee head Barbara Boxer of California.
Membership to the network have also been integrated in broad advocacy initiatives to restrict more US military aid going to the Philippines, a campaign that led to the inclusion of restrictive language and distinct pre-conditions set on the Philippines to improve its human rights record before the release of Foreign Military Financing (FMF) the country, tagged as the 4th largest recipient of US military aid in the world. The pre-conditions were also significantly placed after the release of the country report of United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings Philip Alston earlier this year.
This week, members of Congress are attempting to finalize several appropriations bills that could affect US military aid to the Philippines. GMA WATCH is also appealing to others across the US to continue urging key lawmakers in Congress to restrict more US military funding to the Philippines, which are being used to fund human rights violations in the country. An e-advocacy campaign can be accessed at http://citizenspeak.org/node/1187
Other GMA WATCH members and conveners include Fr. Benjamin Alforque of the US-Filipino Catholic Ministries in the Archdiocese of San Bernardino, the NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP), United Students Against Sweatshops, Teamsters Local 763, ML King County Labor Council in Washington State, the San Francisco Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, the Portland Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines and Seattle's Philippine US Solidarity Organization (PUSO). Popular Filipino-American hip-hop artists Kiwi (formerly of Native Guns) and the Seattle-based Blue Scholars are also part of the network.
Other planned upcoming activities of GMA WATCH include a February speaking tour of Edith Burgos, mother of Philippine labor activist and high-profile abductee Jonas Burgos, and a peace delegation to Mindanao in May 2008 to investigate the character of US military presence in the Philippines which have already generated positive responses from groups such as Human Rights Watch. ###
Monday, December 10, 2007