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Philippines

07 March 2006

Letter from WCC deputy general secretary to HE Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, president of the Republic of the Philippines
7 March 2006

The World Council of Churches is deeply distressed by the recent developments in the Philippines. The peaceful protests and demonstrations against the social, economic and political policies of the government and against corruption in official circles have been on the increase particularly during the last few weeks. The government instead of addressing these genuine grievances of the people decided to deal with the situation as an administrative law and order problem. It ordered the security forces to resort to force to disperse peaceful demonstrations. Such strong-arm tactics have led to needless escalation of violence and human rights violations resulting in further deterioration of an already critical situation.

The government's attempts to curtail civil liberties and bring the situation under control by declaring a state of emergency under proclamation of degree 1017, has further worsened an already tense situation. The proclamation of emergency was challenged before the Court of Law by civil society groups and others critical of the actions taken by the government. However, before the courts could rule on the case, the government wary of mounting criticism in the media and the public was forced to withdraw Proclamation 1017.

Unfortunately the ban on peaceful demonstrations and the continued detentions of the members of Congress and leaders of the civil society movement is not likely to improve the situation but may further embitter relations between the government and the opposition. The country can ill afford this deepening crisis. The Philippines today is faced with a stagnating economy that is likely to suffer a further setback given the present environment of tensions and conflicts. 

The actions of the government are in clear violation of the democratic rights of the Filipino people. As a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the Philippines' government is committed to respect and abide by the international norms and standards of the human rights regime. It can ill afford to indulge in highhanded tactics. It is in everyone's interest that efforts be made to stop the situation from further deterioration. 

We call on Your Excellency's government to release all those under detention and to ensure that no member of the public is detained without the due process of law and the democratic rights of the people are respected.

Yours sincerely,

Georges Lemopoulos
Deputy General Secretary