Joe Hendren

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Two visitors from the Philippines

Next week New Zealand will host two visitors from the Philippines. One is responsible for the extrajudicial killings of 837 Filipino people. She has jailed members of parliament for the crime of opposing her.

Philippines President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will co-host an “interfaith dialogue” with Prime Minister Helen Clark and the Indonesian Government at Waitangi. Clark will host a state lunch in Arroyo’s honour in Wellington.

Dennis N. Maga is the spokesperson for the Free Ka Bel Movement. He is visiting New Zealand at the invitation of several NZ trade unions to bring attention to the systematic human rights violations carried out by arms of the Phillippine state. Dennis is calling for the release of Crispin “Ka Bel” Beltran an ailing 74 year old congressman and trade unionist arrested in February 2006. Too sick to be sent to jail, Ka Bel has been held in hospital detention for 16 months, awaiting trial on trumped up charges.

Dennis Maga says “The case of Ka Bel is an outstanding case of political repression under the Arroyo watch. We denounce the agents of the Arroyo government who now threaten to arrest Ka Satur Ocampo on fabricated murder charges just as they arrested Ka Bel on rebellion charges using fabricated evidence.”. Philip Alston, United Nations Special Rapporteur reported to the UN that “virtual impunity” prevails in the Philippines with regard to the extrajudicial killings which are “convincingly attributed” to the military.

Who is Ka Bel?
Crispin “Ka Bel” Beltran is an ailing 74 year old Congressman arrested in February 2006 on charges dating back to the era of Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos. This very same case against Ka Bel was quashed in 1988. Recently Ka Bel has also faced trumped up charges of sedition.

Ka Bel was elected to the Philippine Congress in 2004 as Anakawis Partylist Representative. As the chair of the trade union federation Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), he is recognised in at least 83 countries, as well as the International Labour Organisation and various trade secretariats of the United Nations.

On 24 February 2006 Ka Bel joined others to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the people’s uprising against the Marcos dictatorship. Earlier that day, President Arroyo declared a state of emergency and banned all demonstrations, on the pretext that a coup was imminent. Ka Bel was arrested the following day.

Another Congressman faced charges for murders in Leyte he could not have been responsible for, as Marcos had him in jail at the time. A total of six Congressmen face charges.

Helen Clark raised her concerns about the human rights situation in the Philippines with Arroyo, including Ka Bel’s detention, during the last East Asian Summit in Cebu. Arroyo assured her that “all proper legal and judicial processes were being followed”. Since then, the situation has only got worse.

Why is Helen Clark welcoming to New Zealand a political leader who jails her Parliamentary opponents and is complicit in hundreds of killings?

What is Sedition?
Sedition is broadly defined as speaking, writing or behaviour intended to encourage rebellion or resistance against the government. During the First World War Peter Fraser, later to become New Zealand Prime Minister, faced similar charges for speaking out against the war.

In May 2007 Helen Clark acknowledged the need to abolish the crime of sedition in New Zealand, as such a ‘crime’ is widely regarded as inconsistent with a free and democratic society. The Greens, The Maori Party, United Future and Act all support removing ‘sedition’ from New Zealand law.

What can I do?
Come to a public meeting to hear Dennis Maga. Write to Helen Clark, your local MP and your local paper. Call talkback. Talk to your friends!

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