Group urges NZ Prime Minister John Key to raise human rights issue

PHILIPPINE President Benigno Simeon Aquino III is coming to New Zealand on 22-23 October 2012 reportedly to sign new trade agreements with NZ.

According to PHL Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Albert
del Rosario, “New Zealand is looking at trade opportunities in the Philippines as it sees the country as the third largest market for its dairy exports.”

“When the previous President, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, came to New
Zealand in 2007, Helen Clark raised the human rights issue with her. We challenge John Key to do the same with President Aquino.  Considering that the Philippines is one of New Zealand’s trade and economic partners, we believe that the attainment of political stability and resolution of the human rights crisis in the Philippines should also concern the New Zealand government,” Murray Horton, Secretary of Philippines Solidarity Network of Aotearoa (PSNA) stated.

When Pres. Aquino’s predecessor, former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, visited NZ in May 2007, she was greeted with protests because of the appalling Philippine human rights situation.

We take note of the case of UCCP Pastor Berlin Guerrero who was abducted and detained in a military camp on 27th May 2007. The significance of this is that, out of the numerous political murders and disappearances since Arroyo came to power in 2001, this one was highlighted by an NZ union press release during her State visit to NZ. At that stage the pastor’s whereabouts were unknown.

With media scrutiny and no less than Helen Clark raising the issue with Arroyo during their talks, Arroyo was pressured to call Manila to order Police authorities to sort it out. The pastor was suddenly surfaced, he lived to tell about his torture in the hands of state security forces. His captors/torturers told him “you have powerful friends abroad.”

Philippine solidarity groups enjoined New Zealand political leaders and media to raise concern on outstanding human rights issues when they have the chance to meet Pres. Aquino on 22nd October in Auckland or on 23rd October in Wellington.



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