Greetings of peace!
The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) would like to share with you recent developments in Australia and the important work our Coalition chairperson Peter Murphy and member organisations are doing.
An Australian Senate Hearing recently tackled the Philippine human rights situation. ICHRP members and human rights advocates in Australia are working to engage further the Senate and make the necessary follow up. They are also planning actions in the Australian parliament on the human rights issues in the Philippines. Please find here the link of the raw footage from the Foreign affairs and trade estimates hearing last week, March 5. https://youtu.be/LkoSv8DzAWo
Below is the latest statement and letter to Australian senators by Mr. Murphy regarding accusations of Philippine Major General Antonio Parlade, Jr. The series of visits by the Armed Forced of the Philippines in Australian cities threatened the Coalition Chairperson, human rights defenders and local Filipino organisations.
We request you all to share this to your network and help expose the Philippine government’s tours to vilify activists, attack international human rights defenders and whitewash its crimes against the Filipinos.
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ICHRP Global Secretariat
March 12, 2020
Senator The Hon Marise Payne
Minister for Foreign Affairs
PO Box 6100
Canberra ACT 2600
Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds CSC
Minister for Defence
PO Box 6100
Canberra ACT 2600
Protest at recent visit by Filipino Major General Parlade
I have been informed that Major General Parlade, now head of the Southern Luzon Comand for the Armed Forces of the Philippines, visited Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney on February 2-4, 2020, in his role as a member of the National Taskforce to End Local Communist Armed Conflict. One of the slides used in his presentation named me as a supporter and perhaps a financier of terrorism. He did make a presentation to DFAT officers on Monday February 3, 2020.
I have requested a copy of the PowerPoint presentation used by Maj Gen Parlade, from the Philippines Embassy, so that I can assess for myself what he conveyed about me, and in general about the human rights and workers’ rights activities I participate in. But this may never be provided.
I vehemently reject and strongly protest this absurd and dangerous allegation against me personally, the other Australians named and our organisations, as well as the Filipino organisations named as terrorists or supporters of terrorists.
Were either of you aware of Maj Gen Parlade’s visit prior to his arrival? What kind of visa was he travelling on? Did he breach any of the terms of his visa by making the presentations he did?
If he was here at your invitation, I ask that you provide a public apology to me and everyone else who has been smeared and threatened as a result. In any case, I urge both of you to ensure that no other visit such as this one takes place. Would you give me that assurance?
Australia’s military and civilian aid program to the Philippines is substantial, and a significant support to the Duterte government, and its counterinsurgency program, now named Oplan Kapanatagan. In December 2018 this program was significantly escalated by President Duterte’s Executive Order No 70:
Institutionalising the whole-of-nation approach in attaining inclusive and sustainable peace, creating a national task force to end local communist armed conflict and directing the adoption of a national peace framework.
This Order ensures that the Military and Police chiefs are on the task force along with President Duterte, and that all government departments and agencies are required to participate, and initially fund the operation of the task force, including educational institutions and local government. This means that Australian aid to any Philippine government department will contribute to the implementation of Executive Order No 70, and therfore helped to pay the cost of Maj Gen Parlade’s visit to Australia.
Executive Order No 70 created a National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict. and that is what Maj Gen Parlade was representing and promoting during his recent Australian visit. EO70 has led to the murder, assault and arrest of many trade unionists and other progressive civilians in the Philippines. Forty-six union leaders and organisers have been killed during the Duterte Presidency to date.
The invitation issued by the Philippine Consulate General in Melbourne stated that the briefing on February 4, 2020, was for Filipino Community leaders, ‘Updates on Philippine Initiatives for Peace’ and that it would provide updates on the peace efforts of the Philippine Government under President Rodrigo R. Duterte.
But according to some of the Filipino participants, there was nothing about peace initiatives by the Philippine government in the presentation. The title of the briefing was “National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC)” “Briefing for FILCOM (Filipino Community) Leaders on Updates on Philippine Initiatives for Peace”. Some images of the slides are separately attached.
First, Parlade explained why his government does not want peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. He said that the proposed Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reform (CASER), which is the second substantive agenda of the peace talks, would kill businesses in the Philippines, that small businesses will be taken over by the Communist Party and that people will lose their jobs.
Then he attacked and red-tagged organisations, institutions and other groups that advocate for the rights and welfare of the Filipino people, including organisations here in Australia. He called these groups ‘CTG’ (Communist Terrorist Groups). His slides alleged five tracks of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) international solidarity work, which include the UN system, the International League of Peoples Struggles (ILPS), the GPH-NDFP Peace Process, Migrante and International Solidarity Missions. What confusion! Under ILPS, the slides listed several organisations including IBON, a long-established economic research institute in the Philippines; Karapatan, an independent human rights alliance; the Alliance of Concerned Teacher (ACT), the main union for public sector teachers; the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) and Gabriela, a national women’s organisation with a chapter here in Australia. PAUL is a member organisation of ILPS. All of these organisations openly campaign against Duterte’s anti-people policies, and none of them are involved in armed conflict.
The presentation named Len Cooper because he is the new Chairperson of the ILPS. Len is a veteran trade union leader in Melbourne. Prof Gill Boehringer was named “orchestrator of ILPS Philippines”, a really absurd idea. I was named along with Sister Patricia Fox as a member or supporter of ‘communist terrorist groups’. Maj Gen Parlade reportedly said that Sister Fox had given the terrorist group, the ‘Little Communist Schools’ (Lumad Schools), millions of dollars. Parlade supported repression of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines Haran Compound in Davao City. It houses many Lumad evacuees from their villages which were attacked by paramilitaries in recent years. He reportedly said the Haran Compound houses terrorists and teaches terrorism to Lumad children. These malicious claims are both absurd and very dangerous.
Maj Gen Parlade’s Melbourne presentation triggered emotional breakdowns in two young women. One said she cried in frustration that she could not stand and protest. The other cried from fear for her 12-year old daughter who was with her. Several people used question time to strongly reject Parlade’s attacks on their organisations. The President of the Filipino Communities Council of Victoria (FCCV), who hosted the event, apologised and told the audience that their hosting did not mean that they supported the presentation. The Consul General who organised and facilitated the event also apologised.