Pinoys in Toronto raise concerns to Consulate officials
By Mia Ondo
Representatives of some Toronto-based Filipino organizations recently met with Philippine Consulate officials to express their concerns over some developments happening back home, and some of which affect Filipinos in Canada.
The groups, led by Migrante Canada and the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines-Canada (ICHRP-Canada), also presented open letters to Philippine President Benigno Aquino, on the occasion of his 5th State of the Nation Address scheduled in Manila on July 28.
The groups said that among the issues they raised with Consulate officials were the recent Supreme Court ruling on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and human rights abuses in the Philippines.
“Our dialogue meeting with the Consulate is a continuing effort to discuss issues and concerns of Filipino Canadians that we want to bring to the attention of the Philippine government,” said Christopher Sorio, vice-chair of Migrante Canada.
He added: “Last year, we met to discuss the pork barrel, Haiyan relief and rehabilitation, and consular services. This year, in time for the State of the Nation next week by Benigno Aquino, migrant groups organized a delegation that included ICHRP representatives to bring three main concerns — worsening human rights violations, the pork barrel and recent developments with Supreme Court ruling on DAP, and improvement of consular services.”
The groups also brought to the attention of Consulate officials some migrant workers issues, including the possible repatriation of temporary foreign workers who might have to leave Canada after their four-year work permits expire early next year. They also reiterated their call for the expansion of consular services outside Toronto, particularly in Alberta and Winnipeg where there is a growing number of Filipinos.
Sorio said the migrant groups are calling for the extension of consular services hours to include weekends and not just extra after-office hours.
For its part, ICHRP-Canada presented its Open Letter to President Aquino, calling for the “immediate release” of peace consultants Benito Tiamzon, Wilma Austria Tiamzon and their companions. They also called for the resumption of peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
The groups said they met with Consulate officials as the channel through which Filipinos in Toronto can communicate their concerns to Philippine officials back home.
“As the official representatives of the Philippine government in Toronto and in Canada, they are the official channel for communicating our concerns to the Philippine government,” said Bern Jagunos, ICHRP-Canada (Toronto).
Jagunos added that ICHRP-Canada will continue to raise awareness about these issues to the public, including the Canadian government.
Appeal to Canada
The ICHRP-Canada has raised concern to the Canadian government on the sale of military equipment to the Philippine government.
Under a Memorandum of Understanding between the Canadian Commercial Corporation and the Philippine Department of National Defense, the Canadian government has facilitated a contract for eight specialized helicopters worth US$105 million to the Philippine military.
ICHRP-Canada has asked the Canadian government to “suspend military-related assistance and sale to the Philippines” as they are concerned that some of the recent counter-insurgency measures by the Philippine government have caused deaths among both armed combatants and unarmed civilians.
In an Open Letter to President Aquino and submitted through the Consulate, Migrante Canada, Anakbayan-Toronto, BAYAN and Gabriela Canada said: “We will continue to call for government action and hold the government responsible. We will continue to monitor and be vigilant on these issues that beset Filipinos everywhere. On this, the true state of the nation under the present dispensation, we continue to call for speedy and effective resolution until justice is served for our people.”
For its part, Toronto Consul General Junever Mahilum-West said the Consulate will bring up the issues raised in the meeting to the attention of the Philippine government back home, after coordinating with the Embassy in Ottawa.
“We exchanged views; we heard their concerns and what we have promised … is we will convey everything to Manila, after informing Ottawa, of course, because all the consular posts in Canada are operating under the one-country team approach,” said Mahilum-West.
Note: Please refer to this press release about the helicopters: http://www.international.gc.ca/media/comm/photos/2014/07/21b.aspx