Canada-Philippines: Working together to protect voices at risk

Community News & Features Apr 26, 2019 at 3:33 pm

ICHRPHuman rights defenders from the Philippines will be coming to Ottawa May 11-12 to participate in the founding of a coalition of HR groups from across Canada.

The conference and the founding are taking place in the context of spiraling human rights violations, killings, massive displacement of populations, arrest and detention of journalists, lawyers and peace negotiators under the Duterte government’s so-called war on drugs.

Participants will share news and analyses from the ground in the Philippines, and from the international solidarity community, and set up the foundations of the new coalition, the Canadian chapter of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP).

The guest speakers from the Philippines include:

Clarizza Singson

Clarizza Singson

Ms. Clarizza Singson Dagatan
Ms Singson is from Negros Island, where the main sugar plantations in the Philippines are found, and landless farmers make up the majority of the population. The area is highly militarized and has been the site of several massacres and extra-judicial killings, including the latest slaying of 14 peasant farmers in coordinated police operations on March 30, 2019.

Claring Singson is a front-line human rights defender and holds several positions in grassroots organizations. She is Chairperson of GABRIELA Negros, and Secretary-General of KARAPATAN – Negros. She is also the coordinator of Sugar Workers’ Solidarity Network.

Gloria 'Ka Bea' Arellano

Gloria ‘Ka Bea’ Arellano

Gloria “Ka Bea” Arellano
Ka Bea Arellano is an urban poor community organizer and national Chairperson of KADAMAY. She became active in the mid-nineties when she was a street vendor, and helped in setting up and coordinating KADAMAY chapters in all city centers, leading the struggle against massive demolitions of their shanties.

Under the Duterte administration Ka Bea and the organization KADAMAY were among the first to call out the regime for its murderous drug war, which targets primarily urban poor communities.

Ka Bea was one of the main spokespersons of the Occupy Bulacan movement, spending sleepless nights at the barricades protecting the people from police intrusion when thousands of homeless and urban poor moved into government housing units left unoccupied for more than five years.

Angie M. Gonzales

Angie M. Gonzales

Ms. Angie M. Gonzales
Angie Gonzales is Global Coordinator of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP).

Angie, an MD by profession decided to tread the less travelled path of serving remote rural communities after she graduated in 1991, and of training students and doctors who want to practice medicine in the underserved communities of the Philippines.

Angie Gonzales has been based in the Netherlands since 2006, where she is currently Chairperson of the board of Stichting voor Filippijnse Kinderen, an organization promoting the rights and welfare of Filipino children both in the Philippines and in Europe.

Rev. Marma C. Urbano

Rev. Marma C. Urbano

Rev. Marma C. Urbano
Rev. Marma Urbano is an ordained minister of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), and has served the UCCP in various capacities, including Executive Secretary of the General Secretary from 2002-2006.

Under threat of abduction, Rev. Urbano went to the United States in 2007 at the height of the extra-judicial killings during President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s term. Thousands of community leaders were killed between 2003-2007, including twenty-six of Rev.

Urbano’s colleagues.
While in the US, Rev. Urbano participated in forming the US Chapter of the ICHRP.

Atty. Edre Olalia

Atty. Edre Olalia

Atty. Edre U. Olalia
Edre Olalia is President of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), the largest private organisation of pro bono/pro deo human rights lawyers in the Philippines.

Olalia has handled many high-profile cases of extra-judicial killings, torture and detentions, as well as challenging the “Hero’s Burial” of Ferdinand Marcos, and Martial Law on the island of Mindanao.

He has filed successful complaints against extrajudicial killings before the UN Human Rights Committee and numerous other international bodies, including against President Rodrigo Duterte for crimes against humanity before the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Edre Olalia has also acted as Legal Consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in the peace negotiations between the Government of the Philippines and the NDFP.

Strengthening the Solidarity movement

Canada has a long history of people-to-people solidarity with the Philippines since the time of the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos and Martial Law in that country in the 1970’s-80’s. Those ties are being renewed and strengthened today, as the Philippines faces creeping martial law and thousands of deaths under the Duterte government’s so-called drug war.

Filipinos make up the fastest-growing immigrant community in Canada and are known for their attachment to their homeland. The largest contingent came in the 1980-90’s under the Live-In Caregiver Program. Close to 100,000 women came as domestic helpers and caregivers, leaving their own families to care for Canadian children and elderly people. Most of them have now settled in Canada, and their families have finally come to join them after many years of separation. Now their children are growing up and are curious about their home country and are reconnecting with it.

Many Filipino youth who visit their country of origin are awakened to the realities of their homeland – the poverty, foreign control of resources, landlord rule and other social ills. They have been inspired to get involved in the movement for change. This has breathed new life into the solidarity groups as well as other community groups.

Hand-in-hand with non-Filipino allies and friends, Filipino youth are helping to build an intergenerational, inter-national solidarity movement to Protect Voices at Risk in the Philippines. This conference will be a place of exchange and learning for all…with a dose of culture, food and good humour that help build lasting relationships.