[SOCIAL AND PASTORAL BULLETIN No. 145 / Sep., 15,2008]

Abe Keita (Franciscan priest)  
I just attended an International Conference of religious congregations' committees in Cebu (Philippines), with regard to Justice and Peace issues and the Preservation of the Environment. The Conference dealt with a number of problems concerning Human Rights and the Asian environment, but what really caught my interest more was the field study with regard to human rights situations.
I participated in the field study at St. Augustine village, about 1 hour and a half car-ride from Ormoc City (Leyte Province). This was the site of a massacre of village leaders by the military, from the second half of last year to the beginning of this year. Upon our arrival we could clearly notice the fear and anxiety in the faces of the people. The wounds, both psychological and material, of the population, especially the families of the victims were still vivid.
According to the coordinator of our field program, the violations of human rights and executions, because of political motives, continue taking place in the Philippines, from the times of the Marcos regime with the possible participation of the military and national police. We were told that, in fact, such cases are increasing instead of decreasing. The cause of it is that the reconciliation policies taken by the former Ramos regime have been abandoned by the present Arroyo government that promotes strategies of suppressing revolts. Thus, slaughter and human rights violations have lately increased.
In other words, anti-government people are considered anti-democratic, the same as terrorists and under the excuse that they must be punished, all those probed to be terrorists, as well as similar groups of people, will be executed. In 2002, since the start of the Arroyo regime, the definition of terrorist groups has been widely expanded from communists to citizen's groups with similar thinking, to human rights activists, labor unions, rural associations, students' associations and Church organizations. All those became the target of oppression and, as a result, the numbers of victims have increased. In continuation of the policies of the Marcos regime, with regard to land reform and the promotion of economic policies, the lives of the ones opposing corruption and injustices are often in danger.
Although it is not the first time to hear about such situations, the fact that human rights violations had increased took me by surprise. And, as a result of meeting with the families of those massacred and experiencing their anxiety and fear in their faces and testimonies, I could realize the fact that the Filipino government conducts such violations of human rights, as well as the responsibility of Japan providing ODA cooperation to the Philippines.
On May 8, 2007, a Symposium organized by "Human Rights Now" at the Komaba campus of Tokyo University, on "the Role of Diplomacy and Civil Society and the Implementation of Securing Human Rights in Asia" took place. The main speaker, Philip Alston, the Special Rapporteur of UN Human Rights Board, expressed his concern on the serious Human Rights situation in the Philippines. He pointed out that it is not enough for the Japanese government, the most important aid giving country to the Philippines, to continue a quiet diplomacy policy. On the contrary, considering the human rights situation in the Philippines, it is important that Japan, officially and seriously, gets to work with endurance to better the human rights situation there. An examination of the official replies in the National Diet and the exchanges of views with civic groups clearly show that, no matter the hard realities of human rights violations, the Japanese government did never conduct a critical appraisal of the repressive policies of the Arroyo regime to suppress anti-government critics and the consequent violations of human rights. Criticism focuses on the total judgment of the principles to implement official development assistance.
During the field experience in the Philippines I felt, as a citizen of an aid giving country, the responsibility to be interested in knowing the situations of receiving aid countries, especially concerning human rights realities.
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