‘Stop the human rights abuses:’ Marcos Jr visit to Australia met with protests
March 1, 2024

Photo by Mick Tsikas/AAP

By DOMINIC GUTOMAN
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – As President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. visits the Australian Parliament, Australian senators and Filipino rights groups staged a protest in the Australian capital outside Parliament Hill today, February 29.

While President Marcos addressed the joint session with a speech, Greens Senator Janet Rice held up a placard stating “Stop the human rights abuses.”

Senator Rice was then escorted out of Parliament for her brave act and later joined the Filipino groups protesting outside.

“President Marcos has continued the legacy of pervasive human rights abuses of his predecessors. Hundreds of political prisoners — including human rights defenders, trade unionists, environment defenders, and community and health workers — are facing trumped-up charges and the so-called anti-terrorism laws are nothing but a legal cover for extrajudicial killings and indiscriminate bombings of rural communities,” said the senator.

Senator Rice also emphasized that it was a grave mistake for the Australian government to invite President Marcos to address the Parliament today.

“Australia’s relationships with other countries must go beyond trade and defense, we must live our values and defend those whose lives are being destroyed by political violence,” Senator Rice said.

President Marcos Jr’s speech centered on trade, security, and defense collaboration between Australia and the Philippines.

“From the very beginning, we knew that our interests are intertwined. The security of Australia is bound by the security of the Philippines,” Marcos said in his speech.

He also proudly mentioned that there is a Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the Australian government, welcoming the Australian defense force in the country’s exclusive economic zones.

Senator Rice pointed out that human rights were not even mentioned in the speeches at the Australian Parliament.

“They are completely whitewashing, sycophantic, towards the President. Human rights matter and they matter for every person in the world,” she added.

Photo by Bayan Australia

By the end of 2023, rights group Karapatan recorded 87 extra-judicial killings, 316 illegal arrests, 12 enforced disappearances, 22,391 bombings, 39,769 indiscriminate firing, 24,670 forced evacuations, 552 fake surrenders, and 1,609,496 threats, harassments, and intimidation, all related to the counterinsurgency program in the Philippines.

The staunch move of the Australian senator was also commended by Kabataan Partylist Rep. Raoul Danniel Manuel, for standing up in solidarity with the Filipino people.

He also echoed the human rights violations mentioned by Senator Rice, underscoring the parallel denial to the atrocities of Marcos Sr. dictatorship.

“The Marcos regime has violated international humanitarian law with its brutal handling of captured combatants — this, while peace talks are supposed to open to lay down a rights-based framework for solving the armed conflict,” he added.

Just recently, the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) gathered accounts of five revolutionaries who were captured alive and tortured before the state forces killed them. This negates the claims of law enforcement that an armed encounter happened, showing discrepancies and possibilities of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) violations.

Read:  Young lawyer, 4 NPA comrades massacred by AFP—CPP

Later on, Senator Rice was joined by other Green members, including Senator Jordon Steele-John and Senator David Shoebridge.

Meanwhile, delegations of progressive organizations led by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) – Australia commended the senators and condemned the recent Philippine government’s efforts to push for charter change.

They underscored that it will further open the Philippines to foreign capitalist exploitation and worsen the economic crisis being experienced by the majority of Filipinos today.

Proponents of charter change seek to ease the restriction on public utility and services in the 1987 Constitution, prompting 100 percent foreign ownership. President Marcos Jr. recently said that he wants to hold the Cha-cha plebiscite before the 2025 elections.

On top of the human rights abuses and push for Cha-cha, the groups called for the scrapping of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and VFA.

“BAYAN Australia strongly condemned US imperialist interventionism and militarisation of the Asia-Pacific region and called for the withdrawal of US troops from the Philippines,” said the group in a statement.

They also called for dismantling the AUKUS military alliance, a trilateral security partnership for the Indo-Pacific Region between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States in 2001. They highlighted that the alliance is only a machinery to instigate geopolitical conflicts.

Rights groups marched towards the Philippine embassy to end their program. Simultaneous protests were also reported in Melbourne, Sydney, and Perth to denounce Marcos Jr’s arrival.

“Marcos Jr. drew the ire of the Filipino community in Australia for his extravagant and lavish trips outside the country while millions of Filipinos are left starving,” said BAYAN Australia. (RTS)

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