This speech was delivered on July 25th at the 2022 People’s State of the Nation Address, or SONA ng Bayan, in Toronto at Bathurst-Wilson Parkette.
Good evening. My name is Olivia Blahuta. I am the Toronto regional coordinator for ICHRP, the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines.
For almost a decade, ICHRP has connected human rights defenders, peace activists, academics, human rights organizations and all freedom loving peoples to come together in solidarity with human rights defenders and victims of human rights violations from the Philippines.
In the past year, ICHRP has launched two large-scale international investigative activities in the Philippine human rights situation.
The first was InvestigatePH, which collected testimonials from dozens of victims of human rights violations in the Philippines in order to produce three detailed reports. We heard from mothers whose children were gunned down by policemen, from families displaced by a Philippine military siege of their home city of Marawi. We heard from workers and urban poor facing inhumane conditions in their workplaces and in the community. We heard from migrants who were forcibly displaced by poverty, milked like cash cows, and abandoned during the pandemic.
These stories were hard to hear. They touched our hearts and called us to action. They expose the absolute rottenness of the ruling system in the Philippines. But none of these stories are new. Our work with InvestigatePH was part of an ongoing process, in front of the United Nations Human Rights Council and the International Criminal Court, to hold the sick and cruel individuals who are responsible accountable for their crimes! The attention of the whole world is needed in this ongoing effort. So we support the Filipino people’s call to Hold Duterte Accountable!
The second large-scale activity was something that I had the privilege to participate in directly. This past April 2022, I traveled to the Philippines to take part in the International Observer Mission for the 2022 Philippine Elections, initiated by ICHRP. For three weeks leading up to election day, we interviewed teachers, church people, farmers and fisherfolk, market stall workers, journalists, politicians and others to learn about the conditions of the people in the context of the elections.
We learned about massive red-tagging, voter fraud, and vote-buying. We learned about politically motivated forced surrenders and killings. All these point to the main conclusion of the International Observers Mission as summarized in its final report: that no free or fair elections were held in the Philippines.
This is why we support the Filipino people’s call to Reject the Fake President! Reject Marcos!
In consideration of the appalling human rights records of the Philippine Presidents past and present, we must demand that the Canadian government take action.
In 2019, the Government of Canada issued a document called Voices At Risk, which details their commitments to defending human rights. This includes meeting with human rights defenders, issuing public statements, attending court hearings.
Despite these guidelines, Canada’s embassy in Manila has completely failed to act. Our communications to the embassy have gone unanswered. Our continued encouragement for them to act has been ignored.
For example, they ignored our request to send observers to hearings of trumped-up charges against human rights activists of KARAPATAN Human Rights Alliance, whereas the European Union, Belgian, and Swiss embassies did.
Instead of holding to their own guidelines on protecting human rights defenders, the Canadian state is directly complicit in human rights violations in the Philippines. They provide military and financial aid to the Philippine government.
This so-called “aid” is weaponized by the Armed Forces of the Philippines against churches, people’s organizations, human rights defenders, and political opponents through tools like the anti-terror law and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict. The Philippine government is terrorizing the Filipino people, and they are doing it in our name!
ICHRP Toronto calls everyone concerned about human rights to hold the Canadian government accountable to their commitments and to their complicity!
Not another loonie, not another dime, no Canadian aid for fascist crimes!
No justice, no peace, stop the killings in the Philippines!
The time to act is now. Talk to me to join ICHRP. Support ICHRP’s campaigns for the Canadian government to apply individual sanctions against the Dirty Dozen. Support ICHRP’s campaign for Canadian participation in the ICC investigation against Duterte. Support ICHRP’s campaign to stop Canada’s direct financial and military support to the Marcos II regime.
Stand with the Filipino people in their rejection of Marcos Junior. And above all, support the Filipino people’s fight for true freedom, democracy and development!