VIENNA, Austria - Several Filipino leaders in Austria came out with a petition letter addressed to the Philippine government, the United Nations, and to the Amnesty International, demanding an end to all acts of harassment against human rights defenders as well as an end to the culture of impunity in the Philippines.
 
Manny Sarmiento of Pinas First, one of the initiators of the petition letter, told ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau that it is high time for the government of President Arroyo to address human rights violations in the country which are all election-related incidents.
 
“As the Philippines prepares to exercise their sacred right of suffrage in the May 2010 national elections, we, concerned migrant Filipinos, condemn and call an end to the Arroyo administration's continuing list of human rights violations of which the gruesome carnage in Maguindanao on November 23, 2009, that took the lives of 57 people, is just the tip of the iceberg,” Sarmiento said.
 
They further explained that the number of human rights violations in the Philippines has significantly increased during the past years.
 
“As of 10 December 2009, its record of human rights violations includes more than 1,118 extrajudicial killings, 204 enforced disappearances, 1,026 victims of torture and the detention of more than 200 political prisoners since 2001. We stand in solidarity with those who seek justice for the victims of the Maguindanao massacre, and with all those who work peacefully for democracy and in defense of others’ rights,” Sarmiento added.
 
They also demanded an immediate, impartial and thorough investigation of human rights cases, and urged that those responsible be brought justice in accordance with international standards.
 
They asked the Arroyo government to put an end to acts of harassment against all human rights defenders, including refraining from involving family members in scare tactics.
 
They urged the government to address the culture of impunity and make those responsible for the Maguindanao atrocities and human rights violations accountable.
 
Fr. Mars Sahulga, Filipino priest in Vienna, challenged all peace-loving Filipinos all over the world to pray for peace and justice in the Philippines, and for all human rights atrocities to come to an end.
 
“We pray especially for the victims of the massacre in Maguindanao. We pray for an end to terrorism in any form. We pray for wisdom that will bring greater peace in our world. We pray for understanding and compassion that will safeguard the innocent. especially the children. As we approach once again the critical moment of our national election in the Philippines in May 2010, we pray that we will be all enlightened to make the forthcoming national election an honest, orderly and peaceful one,” Sahulga said.
as of 03/13/2010 6:42 PM