Carnage and Murder in the Philippines As innocent People Pay The Price of Extremism
Two bombs exploded (27th January) during Sunday Mass in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Jolo, southern Philippines, killing 20 people and wounding dozens more, according to local police.
Deash (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attack, but in a radio interview, Colonel Gerry Besana of the military’s Western Mindanao Command, said that CCTV footage suggested a break-away faction of Islamist extremist group Abu Sayyaf could be responsible.
Abu Sayyaf has pledged allegiance to Daesh.
Since 2000, there have been at least 10 attacks on or near the cathedral, many of which Abu Sayyaf claimed responsibility for.
It makes the point that:
“The violence has left Mindanao one of the poorest regions in the Philippines.”
The Guardian makes the point that:
“Foreign fighters are in the Philippines because they consider the country, particularly Mindanao, as a safe haven, alternative home base and a new land of jihad”
“Many seek the relative sanctuary of the southern Philippines,” he said. “There they can regroup, train and plot attacks. With Isis’s declaration of an east Asia wilayah, the southern Philippines becomes more important because there is enough ungoverned or very poorly governed space.”
The Guardian continues:
“There is also continuing support for Isis-affiliated groups among local Muslims, many who are still displaced from the Marawi conflict or disaffected by widespread corruption and broken government promises of peace and autonomy in Mindanao.”
The threat is already forcing regional powers to collaborate:
The NYT says:
“More than 500 Indonesians have joined the Islamic State in Syria”
Last Thursday, Lord Hylton initiated a debate in the House of Lords about human rights violations in the Philippines. It was an opportunity to highlight appalling human rights violations by the Duterte Government and the exploitation and trafficking of Filipino workers.
To read the full debate go to:
Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
My Lords, I too congratulate my noble friend Lord Hylton on securing this debate. No one in this House needs persuading of his long-standing and tenacious commitment to human rights. It is characteristic of him not to have lost sight of the plight of suffering Filipinos.
I hope the Minister will respond to the recommendations that he has made, and particularly to the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, that the Philippines should be officially designated as a country of concern.
That would be a positive outcome of today’s debate.
I have a non-pecuniary interest as a trustee of the Arise Foundation, an anti-slavery charity with a brilliant team that does superb work in various countries of origin for trafficked people, including the Philippines.
In addition to the human rights abuses in the Philippines itself, we would do well to remember the many thousands of Filipinos working abroad who suffer exploitation.
I was shocked when I first learned that over 10% of the entire GDP of the Filipino economy is remitted back to the Philippines from abroad from an estimated 2.3 million overseas Filipino workers.
The principal countries of destination are: Saudi Arabia, which takes 25.4% of these workers; the UAE, 15.3%, Hong Kong, 6.5%; and Qatar, 5.5%.
I know from work by the Arise Foundation that many of these Filipinos are exploited and enslaved in unimaginably cruel and inhumane conditions.
I go so far as to say that the stories of Filipina women enslaved in the Middle East are the most extreme and unrepeatable I have ever heard.
The situation is Qatar is so bad that the Philippine embassy has a rescue shelter attached to it which is reportedly always full.
Can the Minister tell us whether the dire and well-documented human rights conditions of Filipino overseas workers in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar feature in our discussions with the respective Governments?
While considering the difficulties faced by Filipinos abroad, we also need to look closer to home.
Even if they find work, there is no guarantee that they can remit their earnings back to their families. What measures are in place to ensure that companies do not charge unfair and exorbitant fees to transfer money home?
During the passage of the modern slavery legislation, my noble friend Lord Hylton and I divided your Lordships’ House on the issue of domestic migrant labour.
Many Filipinos are tricked by unscrupulous employment agencies who prey on their hopes for a better life. Some take on huge debts to pay unaffordable agency fees which have to be paid back once work has begun—a well-worn pattern leading to debt bondage in the destination country.
The UK is a significant destination for Filipinos seeking employment as domestic workers; sadly, the Philippines is never far down the list of source nations for modern slavery victims of our own national referral mechanism.
What are we doing to disrupt the unethical recruitment corridor that clearly exists between the Philippines and the UK?
The United Kingdom has a memorandum of understanding with the Government of the Philippines to enable the recruitment of nurses and other health professionals.
In 2018 the number of Philippines-born workers in the National Health Service was 15,400. What guarantees can the Minister give that our recruitment methods are ethical and respect the communities from which these workers are sourced?
Arise works with front-line charities in the Philippines which continue to do superb work in difficult circumstances.
Many of them have stood bravely against Duterte’s Administration, as described so powerfully and so well by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, a few moments ago.
Unfortunately, bilateral funding for work such as theirs has decreased due to lack of confidence in that Government.
Many of the charities working in the Philippines are struggling for support.
I hope the Minister will assure us that, in allocating UK aid, we will not make the mistake of conflating worthy front-line work with a wayward Government, and will not falter in our commitment to the wonderful Filipino people.
In response the Minister, Baroness Goldie said:
The noble Lord, Lord Alton, asked for certain assurances for Filipinos working abroad. It is difficult for the UK to intervene in the affairs of other sovereign states. However, the British embassy in Manila and the Government of the Philippines co-chair a working group on the rights of domestic and tourist workers. The group looks at ways to improve the rights of Filipino workers abroad and fosters collaboration between government and international agencies. That was a point that the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, also sought assurance on.
The noble Lord, Lord Alton, also raised the issue of Filipino workers in this country. We have removed the overseas domestic worker visa tie and will be introducing additional reforms to ensure that workers are even better protected from abuse and slavery. These new measures will include information sessions for overseas domestic workers to ensure that they are aware of their rights as workers in the UK. He will also be aware that the Modern Slavery Act introduced a range of powerful protections for victims, including greater support through legal aid, special measures in court and immunity from immigration enforcement action.
Extremists Urged To End the Violence In Joint Declaration in UAE
Thu 07-02-2019 17:34 PM
Human Fraternity declaration ‘sends strong message,’ says UK Parliamentarian
LONDON, 7th February, 2019 (WAM) —
The Declaration on Human Fraternity signed in Abu Dhabi this week by Pope Francis, Head of the Catholic Church, and Dr. Ahmed el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al Azhar, “sends a strong message to those, on both sides, who seek to promote division and extremist views,” according to British parliamentarian Lord Alton of Liverpool.
Lord Alton, a member of the House of Lords, works actively on human rights and religious liberty issues.
Noting that the Human Fraternity declaration had been “proclaimed in Arabia,” he told the Emirates News Agency, WAM, that “this is hugely important In the Middle East, which has seen so much strife in recent years.”
“The greatest challenge of the 21st century is how we learn to respectfully live together, honouring each other’s traditions and recognising the strength of diversity and difference,” he added.
“The antidote to the horrific persecution of Rohingya and other Muslims or the genocide of Christians and other Middle Eastern minorities must be a new determination by religious and political leaders to promote mutual respect and tolerance. The Pope’s visit should stir us all to denounce and combat violent extremism and visceral hatred wherever it emerges.”
Lord Alton, who is president of the UK Copts Association, a body representing the Egyptian Coptic population in Britain, went on to note that, “The UAE’s proclamation of 2019 as the ‘Year of Tolerance’ and the first-ever visit of a Catholic Pope to the Arabian peninsula – birthplace of Islam – is powerfully symbolic. So too were the frequent references made during the visit by Pope Francis to the UAE’s own heritage of a 1400 year old Christian presence.”
“The UAE has initiated really important interfaith dialogue and respect,” he said. “The country’s willingness to welcome many faiths and cultures, with its own thriving Christian expatriate communities, demonstrates how we can begin to meet the challenge of learning to live together.”