|Lawyer calls Philippine killings an 'attack on liberty'|
Edre Olalia is an officer for the
Counsels for the Defense of Liberties, a group of legal professionals
advocating for human rights in the Philippines.
A UMNS photo by Kathy L. Gilbert.
Fourth in a series
By Kathy L. Gilbert*
Nov. 20, 2007 | MANILA, Philippines (UMNS)
Victims of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines include more
than 30 lawyers and judges whose deaths amount to an "attack on
liberty," says one attorney fighting for justice in his homeland.
Those casualties from the law profession are just a small part of a
larger evil in which peasants, farmers, church workers, doctors and
other human rights advocates are being killed, said Edre Olalia,
international officer for the Counsels for the Defense of Liberties.
"The Counsels for the Defense of Liberties was formed because the
conveners realize that the killings and attacks on lawyers — a
significant number of which are human rights lawyers — are not separated
from the larger human rights situation," Olalia said.
More than 800 people have been killed and hundreds are missing since President Gloria Arroyo took office in 2001.
Philippine Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno, a life-long
United Methodist, called a summit in Manila in August to shine a
spotlight on the crisis. During the subsequent months, the rate of
killings has decreased, but disappearances are on the rise, according to
"There’s a perceptible shift after the worldwide condemnation and concern and especially after the summit," he said.
Olalia was part of a delegation to the United States for the National
Council of Churches' Ecumenical Advocacy Days and the International
Conference on Human Rights in the Philippines, both held last March in
Washington. The National Council of Churches in the Philippines has
produced a report "Let the Stones Cry Out: An Ecumenical Report on Human
Rights in the Philippines and a Call to Action," which has been
The Philippine delegation, which also included United Methodist
Bishop Solito Toquero and other United Methodist clergy, met with the
U.S. Senate Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs and with
staff of the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Relations.
The delegation asked senators and representatives to review U.S.
military aid and development assistance being sent to the Philippines to
ensure that Arroyo is not using the assistance to violate human rights
and commit extrajudicial killings.
Human rights for all
Olalia is also part of the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers, which
held its first congress in September. He said this organization is "our
long-term answer to the human rights situation."
"The moment the outside world stops speaking out, that’s the time that the evil will come out again."
"The horrible state of human rights and the continuing political
killings, enforced disappearances, tortures, massacres, illegal arrests
and detention, filing of false charges for political reasons and
violations have created a need for a more organized approach to the
rendering of legal services," the lawyers’ group said.
"There has been an unprecedented increase in violations of human
rights, and the brazenness, brutality and impunity by which they are
being perpetrated by the military, police, paramilitary groups and death
squads under the command, control, inducement or tolerance of the
administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo have reached
alarming proportions," the union added.
Olalia said there are legal complications in arresting those responsible for the murders and abductions.
"History has taught us that no sitting president has been tried ... —
let me qualify that — no sitting president who is an ally of the United
States," Olalia said.
However, one important shift is that more victims are living to tell
their stories. Olalia said it is crucial for churches and other
organizations to continue conducting fact-finding missions in behalf of
"Don’t ever stop speaking out," he said. "The moment the outside
world stops speaking out, that’s the time that the evil will come out
again. People are dying not only because of poverty but because of what
*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in
Nashville, Tenn. She compiled this report based on her trip to the
Philippines in August.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.
A Call for Justice
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Edre Olalie: "People dying for their beliefs."
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