New Zealanders lit candles for freedom, justice and peace in the Philippines NDFP

IN solidarity with the 6th November protest actions marking 9th month of illegal arrest and detention of Filipino health workers known as ‘Morong 43,’ peace and human rights advocates in New Zealand lighted candles and signed Free Morong 43 international petition during a public meeting to support the quest for justice and lasting peace in the Philippines.

Luis Jalandoni and Ms. Coni  Ledesma, representatives of the
National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Peace Negotiating
Panel, spoke at the public meeting in Whangarei organised by
Philippines Solidarity Network of Aotearoa (PSNA). They presented the
12-point NDFP program, stressing, “Peace will be the fruit of social
justice, when the small landed elite and foreign multinationals will
no longer monopolize land ownership in the country. Land reform is a
principal issue that must be addressed to pave the way for just and
lasting peace in the Philippines.”

While Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda stated that Aquino’s
preference was for the NDFP leaders to visit Malacanang with a signed
peace agreement, Jalandoni declared, “There’s no short cut to a peace
agreement, solving fundamental problems of landlessness and
joblessness of the vast majority is crucial to resolving the
decades-old conflict. Pres. Aquino promised change but he has yet to
resolve the long disputed Cojuangco-Aquino owned Hacienda Luisita
covering 6,453-hectares of land that could benefit thousands of poor
families if redistributed justly.”

“We lit candles with the hope that Philippine President Benigno Aquino
III will end the darkness of injustice suffered by the 43 community
health workers and all political prisoners unjustly detained in the
Philippines,” Tim Howard, PSNA local organiser of the Whangerei peace
forum stated.

Noting that it has been nearly 6 years since the 2004 Hacienda Luisita
massacre, Howard says, “At this time we also remember and demand
justice for the 7 Hacienda Luisita massacre victims, union president
Ricardo Ramos, clerics Bishop Alberto Ramento, Fr. William Tadena and
all who have been brutally murdered in this decades-old land dispute.”
Howard, one of the 5 New Zealanders who joined the August 2005
International Solidarity Mission to probe human rights abuses under
the Arroyo presidency, expressed disappointment that the
Cojuangco-Aquino family maintains the Stock Distribution Option (SDO)
scheme instead of the outright distribution of the vast sugar
plantation to the 10,000 farm workers.

According to Jalandoni, “The continuing detention of Morong 43 and the
killings related to the Hacienda Luisita dispute highlight the
importance of pursuing peace talks that address the problem of
landlessness and persistent human rights violations such as illegal
arrest, torture, enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings
committed by state forces against Filipinos who aspire for
socio-economic reforms but are unjustly labeled as ‘enemies of the
state’ and ‘terrorists.’”

“With the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and
International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) formally signed by both
principals of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP)
and the NDFP in 1998, Filipinos can file complaints on abuses and
demand justice based on this agreement and other existing human rights
instruments,” Jalandoni noted.

While in Whangarei, Jalandoni and Ledesma were interviewed in a major
Radio NZ (national public radio) programme, 3 Maori regional radio
programmes, and a local community TV station’s news (in Maori and
English) – to get the word out to large numbers of Maori and other New
Zealanders about land issues and other matters that Filipinos and
Maori have in common.

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