CIVIL RIGHTS GROUPS CALL FOR CONGRESSIONAL INVESTIGATION INTO BLACKLISTINGOF HUMAN RIGHTS LAWYERS BY THE PHILIPPINES
The civil rights and legal organizations, the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) call on Congress to investigate the Philippine government’s banning of U.S. lawyers who have been active in investigating and reporting on human rights violations. These groups are concerned about what appears to be an attempt to suppress exposure of extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations that are being perpetrated against critics of the regime of Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
On December 6, 2006, International Labor Rights Fund attorney Brian Campbell was detained and turned back at the Manila airport when he arrived from the U.S. en route to Cebu City for an international human rights conference. Campbell had been invited by Philippine organizations to discuss the ongoing extrajudicial killings and meet with victims’ families. While detained, Campbell was able to glance at a list of persons banned from entering the Philippines, on which he noticed not only his own name, but also those of Rachel Lederman and Tina Monshipour Foster. Lederman and Foster were part of a delegation of women lawyers who visited the Philippines earlier this year to investigate political repression there. The delegation garnered much media coverage in the Philippines, and recently released a report, Seeking Answers: Probing Political Persecution, Repression and Human Rights Violations in the Philippines, Report of the Women’s Human Rights Delegation of the Center for Constitutional Rights, the National Lawyers Guild and the International Association of Democratic Lawyers. Rachel Lederman, Merrilyn Onisko and Vanessa Lucas represented the NLG and IADL on the delegation, while Tina Monshipour Foster represented the Center for Constitutional Rights.
The NLG/CCR/IADL report exposes the Philippine military’s role in the assassination of nearly 800 people, including 80 women organizers and leaders, since Gloria Macapagal Arroyo took power in 2001. In addition, the report exposes as a sham the government’s ongoing attempt to prosecute six progressive members of congress for rebellion. The legislators, who include Gabriela Women’s Party representative Liza Maza, have been successful in exposing government corruption and opposing Arroyo- and U.S.-backed repressive measures. For the past year, they have been fighting charges accusing them of conspiring with other above ground left leaders to overthrow Arroyo. The joint organization report recommended that U.S. Congress investigate the use of U.S. funding for Philippine military operations against the legal Left that are being conducted under the guise of the War on Terror.
The NLG/CCR/IADL will not bow to intimidation, and will continue to speak out for the activists, community leaders, lawyers, women and all the brave people of the Philippines who must live under the oppression of the U.S.-sponsored Arroyo government. The “blacklisting” of NLG, CCR and other human rights lawyers concerned with the repression has only made us more determined to call world attention to the increasing threats to Philippine democracy. We call on the United States Congress to look into the banning of Rachel Lederman, Tina Monshipour Foster and other U.S. human rights lawyers, as well as the misuse of U.S. aid to support human rights violations in the Philippines.