Lawyer union slams PH gov’t’s ‘coercion, detention tactics’ to please Apec guests
The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) has condemned the alleged acts of coercion supposedly being perpetrated by the Philippine government particularly against foreign protesters to please international delegates of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit in Manila.
In a press conference on Wednesday, NUPL secretary general Edre Olalia said foreign protesters are well within their rights to conduct mass actions against the ongoing Apec summit as an “exercise of the noble right to international solidarity.”
“Foreign nationals and social activists, who have done more good for the downtrodden over time than those in power, are well within their universally recognized right to peacefully assemble and freely express their dissent, legitimate aspirations and just demands. These rights know no borders,” Olalia told reporters.
“As they are likewise entitled to their freedom of conscience and thought as their Filipino sisters and brothers, they may therefore act on their moral outrage over the fact that the Apec has served only as an instrument of economic plunder and aggression of the many who are poor and exploited all over the world,” he said.
Olalia said the foreign nationals’ involvement in protest actions poses no “real and specific” threat to national security and public safety, adding that they should not be intimidated, penalized, arrested, or deported under the “jurassic” Philippine Immigration Act of 1940.
“In jingoist fashion, it invokes local law incompatible itself with the Constitution, unmindful that it is subject to the principle of international law and treaty stipulations,” Olalia said.
“The sweeping and arbitrary prohibition on aliens’ engagement in all political activities in the antiquated cold war is incongruous to the democratic rights of all people, and has been rendered obsolete by subsequent doctrines in international human rights law, namely the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as the Universal Declaration of the Rights of People,” he added.
Echoing Olalia, NUPL assistant secretary general Josalee Deinla maintained that the freedom of people to conduct such movements was recognized by international laws.
“NUPL condemns the acts of arbitrary detention and coercion all in order to please our VIP guests and to prettify the streets of Manila,” she said.
Noting that the administration of President Benigno Aquino III was at the “height of hypocrisy” in flaunting economic growth to world leaders, NUPL adviser and Bayan Rep. Carlos Zarate said the national government should uphold the basic right of people, regardless of nationality, to express their opinion on pressing issues.
“In the past week grabe na ang gamit ng police security (the use of police security has been exaggerated). There were threats to deport foreign guests conducting protests [versus] Apec. The way we are acting now, mas masahol pa tayo sa mga police states na nire-recognize ‘yung mga ganitong action (we are worse than the United States police which acknowledges these kinds of actions),” Zarate said.
The lawmaker also criticized the police response to anti-Apec protest actions at Baclaran church being conducted by lumads, saying that the indigenous peoples of Mindanao who have been camping out in Manila since late last month were technically placed in a “virtual detention facility.”
READ: Indigenous groups plan big anti-Apec protest Wednesday
Olalia said it was such a “shame and embarrassment” for the Philippine government to intimidate its own citizens and foreign nationals for being involved in an activity that they do not agree with.
Meanwhile, NUPL assistant secretary general for campaigns Kristina Conti said protesters particularly the youth are well aware of what they are fighting for, noting that the poor and the marginalized do not feel inclusive growth despite reported increase in gross domestic product and credit rating upgrades.
“When you see it on paper, parang ang saya, parang ang ganda (it would seem very pleasant, it would seem very appealing). The Philippines is indeed growing, but this growth is not translating to growth for all,” Conti said.
“The essence of freedom of speech is to fight hate speech with more speech, not with repression,” she added. CDG