By David Robie
Migrants and overseas Filipinos in Aotearoa New Zealand today called on the governments of both Australia and New Zealand to halt all military and security aid to the Philippines in protest over last month’s “fraudulent” general election.
At simultaneous meetings in Auckland and Wellington, a new broad coalition of social justice and community campaigners endorsed a statement pledging: “Never forget, never again martial law!”
“Bongbong” Marcos Jr, the son of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr, was elected President in a landslide ballot on May 9 and will take office at the end of this month.
His father ruled the Philippines with draconian leadership — including 14 years of martial law — between 1965 and 1986 until he was ousted by a People Power uprising.
Marcos Jr – along with his mother Imelda – has long tried to thwart efforts to recover billions of dollars plundered during his father’s autocratic rule.
“Police and military forces should be investigated for their participation in red-tagging, illegal arrests on trumped up charges, extrajudicial killings, and all forms of human rights abuses,” the statement said.
“We call on the International Criminal Court to pursue investigation and trial of outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte for massive human rights breaches in its drug war and systematic attacks against political activists, human rights advocates and anti-corruption crusaders.”
Call for ‘transparent government’
The statement called for “transparent government” and for all public funds to be accounted for.
“We specifically call for realignment of the national budget in favour of covid aid, public health and social services instead of wasting billions for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and other government machineries that aim to suppress critics of its corruption and human rights abuses.”
The statement urged the “dismantling” of NTF-ELCAC.
The Supreme Court of the Philippines was called on to “act on the petitions lodged by various persons and groups regarding the disqualification of Ferdinand Marcos Jr to run for office due to his conviction” for tax evasion.
The Bureau of Internal Revenue has confirmed that the court-ordered Marcos family’s tax bill remains unpaid and news reports say this is estimated to now total about 23 billion pesos (NZ$670 million).
The statement called on the Department of Justice and Supreme Court to provide for immediate and unconditional release of the unjustly jailed Senator Leila de Lima — an outspoken critic of Duterte — “following the recantation of the testimonies of three key witnesses”, and also freedom for more than 700 political prisoners “languishing in jail on trumped-up charges”.
The gathered Filipino community also sought an official Day of Remembrance and Tribute for all the victims of Marcos dictatorship to mark the 50th year commemoration of the declaration of martial law on 21 September 2022.
‘Truth army’ to monitor social media
“We call on all Filipinos to remain vigilant as a truth army, to tirelessly monitor and report social media platforms in serious breach of community standards, and to push for stronger laws in place for disinformation to be punished,” the statement said.
Filipinos in the two cities — Auckland and Wellington — pledged support for the Angat Buhay cause of defending Philippines “history, truth and democracy”.
Speakers included Filipino trade unionist Dennis Maga; Mikee Santos of Migrante Aotearoa; an unsuccessful Filipino Labour candidate in the 2020 NZ elections, Romy Udanga; and speaking by Zoom from Manila, Senate candidate Luke Espiritu, who said the new Marcos regime would be able to achieve virtual “martial law” without declaring it.
“All Marcos needs to do is suppress dissent, and he has all the sophisticated technology available to do this that his father never had,” Espiritu said.
Northland Kakampink coordinator Faye Bañares said the new Angat Buhay NGO should not take over the responsibility of providing for the poor in the community, although the aim is to help them.
“The NGO should push the Philippine government to face their responsibility and be transparent about what they do,” she said.
Many speakers told how shocked they were in the general election over a “massive breakdown of vote counting machines and voter disenfranchisement” and the “incredibly rapid count of COMELEC transparency servers” to award the “unbelievable final tally” of 31 million votes in favour of Ferdinand Marcos Jr as president and Rodrigo Duterte’s daughter Sara as vice-president.
Social media troll farms
Denouncing the social media troll farms, the meeting critics said “all the worst lies, disinformation and red-tagging were committed against [outgoing vice-president] Leni Robredo, opposition candidates and parties who stood up against [Rodrigo] Duterte and the Marcos-Duterte tandem.”
In November 2021, the Philippines and New Zealand agreed to boost maritime security cooperation during the 6th Philippines-New Zealand Foreign Ministry Consultations hosted by the Philippines.
Both sides acknowledged the growing breadth and depth of Philippines-New Zealand bilateral cooperation, particularly in the areas of defence and security, health, trade and investments, development cooperation, people-to-people and cultural engagements.
Trade between both countries is worth about trade in goods and services is worth about NZ$1.15 billion.
Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz