Campaigners hold London vigil for human rights in Philippines

By Frank Nally
December 7, 2007

A cold wind blew through Park Lane, Central London, on Tuesday night as a small group of protesters supporting the Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines (CHRP) held banners for two hours and chanted for the Philippine president to “Stop the Killings in the Philippines”.

The vigil was being held outside the Four Seasons Hotel, Hamilton Place, Mayfair, where President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of the Philippines was attending a meeting.

President Arroyo was in London to meet with British businessmen interested in investing in the Philippines. Britain has the highest trade volume and portfolio investments in the Philippines of any European country.

The president also met with Prince Andrew who has become a special ambassador for the giant mining and energy companies interested in exploiting natural resources in the Philippines. Mining has become a particular focus of environmental and land rights protests since President Arroyo passed new laws opening up mining to foreign investors.

The Philippines is currently considered the second most dangerous country in the world after Iraq to be a journalist, and the second most dangerous country in the world after Colombia to be a trade unionist.

Over 800, church workers, trade unionists, environmentalists and peasant leaders have been murdered since 2001.

Reports by Amnesty International, the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, and the UN Commission for Human Rights have all detailed human rights abuses, the role of the Philippines military, and the failure of the Arroyo Administration to end the 'climate of impunity'.

The CHRP has called for an immediate end to the political killings in the Philippines and an end to British exploitation of natural resources in the Philippines until there are effective environmental safeguards and 'genuine consultation' with affected communities.

Those who speak up for basic human, social and environmental rights are often targeted by death squads. “I know they are going to kill me next, but never will I abandon my duty to God and my ministry to the people,” were words of Bishop Alberto Ramento of the Philippine Independent Church, a courageous advocate of human rights in the Philippines, who was shot dead on 3rd October 2006.

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