“Will Aquino stand proud before the community of nations giving the red carpet to the high and mighty yet red-tag those who are not?”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – Human rights lawyers said foreign activists have every right to join protest actions against the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit tomorrow.
“Foreign nationals and social activists who have done more good for the downtrodden over time than those in power are well within their universally-recognized right to peaceably assemble and freely express their dissent, legitimate aspirations and just demands,” said National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers secretary general Edre Olalia.
“These rights know no borders,” he added.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) earlier warned foreign activists from joining the protest against Apec. In a news report, Police Chief Inspector Kim Molitas said that foreign activists may be allowed to join a rally, if it is peaceful “but they will be dealt with after the protest,” adding that police have already coordinated with the Bureau of Immigration.
Molitas said the police would exercise maximum tolerance but “if the situation calls for it, yes, we will arrest them and turn them over to the Bureau of Immigration.”
Olalia, in a press briefing today, Nov. 18, said foreign activists are entitled to their freedom of conscience and may act on their moral outrage on how Apec “has served only as an instrument of economic plunder and aggression of the many who are poor and exploited all over the world.”
Tomorrow, Nov. 19, both Filipino and foreign activists will hold a big protest against APEC.
Ephraim Cortez, NUPL assistant secretary general for legal services, told Bulatlat.com they have established five quick reaction team mechanisms not just for the foreign activists who would be observing or joining the rally, but for Filipino activists as well. There are also NUPL lawyers who would be joining the Lumad protest tomorrow.
The worst that the Philippine government may do, he added, is their arrest and deportation. Cortez said foreign activists were briefed on the possible repercussions, but still many have expressed that they would join or observe the anti-Apec protest tomorrow.
Olalia said the exercise of one’s right to peaceably assemble poses no real and specific threat to national security or public safety. He said that foreign activists should not be “dealt with,” which may include the arrest and deportation, under what he referred to as the “Jurassic” Commonwealth Act 613, or the Philippine Immigration Act of 1940.
The human rights lawyer reminded the Aquino government that the sweeping and arbitrary prohibition of foreign nationals in political activities was rendered obsolete by doctrines in international human rights law, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of the Rights of People.
“Or does the BS Aquino government expect our foreign friends to declare their rights at our ports only to be confiscated by government authorities? Is it going to violate the basic rights of the nationals or citizens of the very countries whose leaders it is hosting?” he said.