Saturday, October 30, 2010

Philippines Peace Advocates Visit Whangarei

Two high ranking Filipino peace advocates – Luis Jalandoni and Coni Ledesma - are to visit Whangarei, New Zealand in the next days. Luis is the Chair, and Coni a member, of the National Democratic Front’s Negotiating Panel at the peace talks with the Philippines Government, facilitated by Norway.

In New Zealand, little is known about the four-decade long war and peace process in the Philippines. At a Public Meeting in Whangarei, Luis and Coni will share first-hand knowledge about the peace negotiations they are involved with. They were both arrested under the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, spent time in jail as political prisoners, and lived in The Netherlands since 1976.

The National Democratic Front (NDF) is the coalition of several underground groups, including the Communist Party of the Philippines and its New People's Army, which has been waging a war of liberation throughout the Philippines for more than 40 years, making it one of the longest running armed struggles in the world. The basis of the conflict has is the huge social and economic injustices faced by the majority of people in the Philippines.

“The Philippines desperately needs peace and security. Resolving the people’s war by addressing the injustices that are at the root of this conflict is central to achieving peace,” said Tim Howard, local convenor of Luis and Coni’s hosts in Whangarei. “This is a great opportunity for us to hear first-hand about the peace negotiations.”

The speaking tour is hosted jointly by Philippines Solidarity Network Aotearoa, Auckland Philippines Solidarity, and Wellington Kiwi Pinoy.

“This Public Meeting is also a chance for us to consider what role New Zealand might play assisting the peace process,” said Tim Howard. Our previous Prime Minister sent a strong message to the Philippines President, indicating that New Zealand is concerned with the continued reports of killings, disappearances, unjust detentions and more human rights violations. There were 1100 assassinations under the previous President Arroyo. Prime Minister John Key has so far taken one side of the conflict, the Government’s, and labeled the opponents as ‘terrorists.’ Many of us look to New Zealand taking a more useful role in supporting human rights and the peace process.”

The Meeting will consider a petition in support of the peace process, and will hold a vigil as part of an international campaign in support of the ‘Morong 43,’ a large group of community health workers arrested 9 months ago this Saturday at a professional development course. 26 of the detainees are women, two having given birth since their arrest. They are still imprisoned illegally, subject to torture, in a military camp.

Whangarei people interested in justice in our country and our region are warmly welcomed to the Public Meeting at 7pm on Friday 5 November, at Manaia PHO rooms in Rust Avenue in central Whangarei.

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