24 July 2015
SONA 2015 Urgent Plea from Women of NZ, Australia to Aquino: FREE MIRADEL TORRES & BABY KARL, FREE ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS
In an open letter, twenty-five (25) rights defenders including 17 women’s rights advocates from various groups along with leaders of solidarity organisations in Australia and New Zealand sent urgent plea for Philippine government to release unjustly detained women activists especially Miradel Torres, a young mother separated from her 8-month old son.
“MIRADEL TORRES is a COMMUNITY ACTIVIST and a MOTHER, NOT a MURDERER. Clearly, the case of Torres, a member of women’s advocacy group GABRIELA who was arrested on fabricated murder charge while she was heavily pregnant, is one of the outstanding reasons why the recent International People’s Tribunal held in Washington DC declared the Philippine government GUILTY of gross and systematic violations of human rights,” May Kotsakis of the Philippine Caucus for Peace stated. GABRIELA – Australia along with immigrant women associations and Philippines-Australia solidarity groups endorsed the letter sent today to Pres. Aquino, the Department of Justice and the Commission on Human Rights.
From New Zealand, signatories include Laila Harré, Former Minister of NZ Women’s Affairs, Catherine Delahunty, Member of Parliament, Green Party Aotearoa New Zealand. Two filmmakers Dean Hapeta and Abi King-Jones also endorsed the letter in light of the detention of filmmaker Maricon Montajes from the University of the Philippines, currently the youngest of all the 528 political prisoners in the Philippines.
“We send this letter to convey a message to the Aquino government that the world is watching and continues to support the quest for freedom for all Filipinos unjustly detained for their political beliefs,” Helen Te Hira of Auckland Philippines Solidarity (APS) stated.
The letter urges Pres. Aquino: “In the name of justice and humanitarian grounds, we urge you to declare presidential amnesty for all political prisoners as part of your State of the Nation Address. We believe this will be a great honour for your father and a golden opportunity to leave a legacy of meaningful change towards the final year of your administration.”
Full text of letter follows.
Helen Te Hira May Kotsakis
Auckland Philippines Solidarity, NZ Philippine Caucus for Peace
Mobile: +64 0272445764
Political prisoner Miradel Torres with her baby Karl.
24 July 2015
Open Letter to Pres. Benigno Simeon Aquino III from Australia and New Zealand
FREE MIRADEL TORRES AND BABY KARL! AMNESTY FOR ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS NOW!
We are mothers, women’s rights advocates and concerned citizens in Australia and New Zealand. We are greatly disturbed that serious human rights breaches continue to affect many women and children in the Philippines. In particular we are very concerned about the plight of a women’s rights activist and young mother MIRADEL TORRES (27) who was arrested on trumped-up murder charge in June 2014 while she was four months pregnant and suffering threatened miscarriage from profuse bleeding. Upon giving birth this year, Miradel struggled to breastfeed and keep her baby safe from highly infectious diseases within the prison conditions.
We lament that a recent court decision required her baby Karl to be separated from her as soon as the baby turned 6 months. Keeping Miradel in detention means depriving her of opportunity to bond with her baby in the crucial first years. It is so sad for this young mother to be condemned to a life of missed birthdays and other important milestones in family life – a fate that has been suffered by over 500 political prisoners around the country. We cry out for freedom and justice for Miradel and baby Karl. Likewise we cry for freedom and justice for other sisters in unjust detention on trumped-up charges, including:
- ANDREA ROSAL – Arrested while pregnant, Andrea was denied proper medical care while in prison and her baby girl died shortly after birth.
- MARICON MONTAJES – The youngest political prisoner in the Philippines, Maricon is a journalist and film maker from the University of the Philippines who was integrating with rural poor for a film project. She was shot during a military raid then detained soon after hospitalization.
- SHARON CABUSAO – A sister in the women’s rights and trade union movement, Sharon was arrested along with her husband and another companion.
Mr. President, we remember on your visit to Australia and New Zealand in 2012, you declared that the Philippines’ human rights situation has greatly improved when you assumed power. But the fate of Miradel, Andrea, Maricon, Sharon and many others who have been unjustly separated from their families show otherwise. There are now 528 political prisoners and there have been 238 extra-judicial killings under your watch, as of 30 March 2015 report of the local human rights group Karapatan.
You often spoke about your family’s sacrifices when your own father was incarcerated during the Marcos dictatorship. Your nephews and nieces are lucky to have the love of your sisters around them. Please let Miradel enjoy her right to be with her baby too. In the name of justice and humanitarian grounds, we urge you to declare presidential amnesty for all political prisoners as part of your State of the Nation Address. We believe this will be a great honour for your father and a golden opportunity to leave a legacy of meaningful change towards the final year of your administration.
FREEDOM AND JUSTICE FOR MIRADEL AND ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS NOW!
From NEW ZEALAND:
Helen Te Hira
Auckland Philippines Solidarity
Women’s Rights Advocate & Member of Parliament, Green Party Aotearoa NZ
Former Minister, NZ Women’s Affairs
Rev. Dr. Carolyn Kelly
Chaplain, Maclaurin Chapel, The University of Auckland
Matilde Tayawa-Figuracion, Justice of the Peace
Co-Founder, Wellington Women Walk for Peace
Co-Founder, Wellington Women Walk for Peace
Professor of Law, University of Auckland
Christian World Service
Retail and Finance Secretary, FIRST Union
Dean Hapeta aka Te Kupu
Rev. Chris Sullivan
Justice and Peace Group, St Mark’s Pakuranga
Philippines Solidarity Network of Aotearoa
Wellington Kiwi Pinoy
Philippine Caucus for Peace
Chairperson, Gabriela Western Australia
Coordinator – Asian Women at Work
Executive Officer – Immigrant Women’s Speakout Association
Malou Logan, Coordinator
PACIN (Philippines Australia Cultural Interaction Network)
Chairperson – Anakbayan (Patriotic Youth Alliance of the Philippines)
Chairperson – APDP (Australian Action for Peace and Development in the Philippines)
Chairperson, Migrante Australia
Secretary-PAUL (Philippines Australia Union Link)
Co-Chairperson-PASA (Philippines Australia Solidarity Association)
Cc: Department of Justice, Commission on Human Rights
United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders
United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women