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Statement of the all-women US lawyers' legal mission,

by Pesante-USA Saturday, Jun. 03, 2006 at 4:21 AM
magsasakapil@hotmail..com 213-241-0906 337 Glendale Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90026

Pesante-USA printed the statement of the all-women US lawyers legal mission to the Philippines from the Gabriela website. This is to inform the US public of the human rights situation in the Philippines. We, the all-women US lawyers' legal mission, came to the Philippines in response to growing international concern over the extrajudicial killings and political persecution of women's rights activists, political leaders, members of the opposition and the Batasan 6. Our presence in the Philippines is an affirmation of international sisterhood and the imperative for women to help each other amid worldwide growing repression and political persecution. In this country, such deliberate constriction of public space for women is symbolized by the persecution of women's organizations and their leaders, such as GABRIELA and Gabriela Women's Party, and Congresswoman Liza Maza, the representative of the women's sector in Congress.


PRESS STATEMENT
May 31, 2006


We, the all-women US lawyers' legal mission, came to the Philippines in response to growing international concern over the extrajudicial killings and political persecution of women's rights activists, political leaders, members of the opposition and the Batasan 6.

Our presence in the Philippines is an affirmation of international sisterhood and the imperative for women to help each other amid worldwide growing repression and political persecution. In this country, such deliberate constriction of public space for women is symbolized by the persecution of women's organizations and their leaders, such as GABRIELA and Gabriela Women's Party, and Congresswoman Liza Maza, the representative of the women's sector in Congress.

During this mission, we had the opportunity to:

• Hear the first hand accounts of victims of human rights violations and their families. They courageously shared their experiences of tragedy, violence and suffering. With barely any hope for justice, many continue to live in fear;

• Observe court proceedings, study legal documents and examine the charges and the so-called evidence against the Batasan 6, all of which we find baseless and violative of provisions in the Philippine Constitution and international instruments ratified by the Philippine government;

• Be informed of the actions and the positions taken by the Philippine government on the extrajudicial killings and political persecution. In the midst of a situation that persists and escalates, we find the government's response to be purely perfunctory, insignificant and calculatedly confusing.

The condition has become increasingly dire with the abdication of responsibility by those in power. It appears to be the Arroyo government's policy to criminalize dissent, including by denying critics and opposition parties access to the legislative process.

The government's conflation of legal political dissent with the armed revolutionary movement does not bode well for the growth and development of true democracy and democratic processes in the Philippines.

On another level, the rebellion allegations implicating members of the Joint Monitoring Committee undermine whatever progress has been made on the peace process and violate the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).

Our conclusion is that democracy in the Philippines is threatened by this erosion of civil, political and human rights—which are the hard-won legacy of the struggle against the Marcos dictatorship.

We return to the U.S. determined to help focus international attention on the Philippines situation, to help mold public opinion and thereby contribute to efforts to end political killings and persecution.

We will actively seek various international venues, including the United Nations, to ensure that those who have made violations of human, civil and political rights for the people of the Philippines be held accountable.

Furthermore, as citizens and taxpayers of the United States of America, we intend to question our government's propensity to pour military aid to this distressed country, to the detriment of aid to the more critical areas of health, housing and education.

We thank GABRIELA and Gabriela Women's Party and all the women and men who made our mission successful. We are also appreciative of the invaluable assistance of Gabriela Network USA and the Vanguard Foundation.

Tina Monshipour Foster
Center for Constitutional Rights

Rachel Lederman
National Lawyers Guild

Vanessa Katherine Lucas
National Lawyers Guild

Merrilyn Onisko
National Lawyers Guild
International Association of Democratic Lawyers

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