Protesters react after tear gas was fired by security forces in an attempt to disperse them during a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon on March 4, 2021.
MANILA, Philippines — Several civil society groups, labor groups, and non-government organizations on Friday pressed the Philippine government to join them in an effort to “intercede” for the citizens of Myanmar who are resisting the military takeover of their democratically elected government.
This is according to a joint statement from regional advocacy institution Initiatives for International Dialogue and the Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO).
The groups wrote Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., seeking “a dialogue on how to best consolidate the efforts of the Philippine government and other non-state actors in support of the Burmese.”
“While we welcome the pronouncement of the Philippine government to stand by the people of Myanmar and will only accept the status quo ante, we were however expecting a more forward position in condemning the illegal coup and ongoing violence perpetrated by [Myanmar’s military] and its increasingly bloody response on the peaceful protesters of the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM),” their letter to the DFA reads.
They further recalled that the Philippines “has always been regarded as a citadel and champion of democracy in the region if not in all of Asia, particularly since the peaceful People Power revolution at EDSA in 1986.”
“[T]he group is hoping that the Secretary, himself a key part of the EDSA revolution, would take a personal interest in addition to his official capacity as DFA’s Secretary, in assisting the Burmese people in securing their fledgling democratic institutions.”
After the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos was ousted in 1986, Locsin served President Corazon Aquino as both speechwriter and legal counsel.
The following is a list of other groups who co-signed the letter to the Department of Foreign Affairs:
- Akbayan Citizens’ Action Party
- Akbayan Youth
- ASEAN SOGIE Caucus (ASC)
- ASEAN Youth Forum Philippines
- Center for Migrant Advocacy (CMA)
- Center for Youth Advocacy and Networking (CYAN), Inc
- Coalition Against Trafficking in Women – Asia Pacific (CATW-AP)
- Gaston Z. Ortigas Peace Institute (GZOPI)
- NAGKAISA Labor Coalition
- Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan (SPARK)
- Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (SCAP)
- Tindig Kabataan
- Partido Manggagawa (PM)
- Peace Women Partners (PWP)
- Philippine Women’s Network for Peace and Security
- Philwomen on ASEAN
- WomanHealth Philippines
- Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau, Inc (WLB)
- World March of Women – Pilipinas (WMW)
Myanmar has been in turmoil since February 1 when the military ousted and detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, ending the nation’s decade-long experiment with democracy and sparking daily mass protests.
The military junta has met the protests with violence. UN envoy to Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener told reporters that Thursday was the “bloodiest” day of the crisis, counting some 38 dead within 24 hours.
What has the Philippines done so far?
While it has called for Suu Kyi’s release and the return of “status quo” in Myanmar, the DFA has stopped short of condemning the Tatmadaw, the official name of Myanmar’s military.
Even as tensions escalated and reports of deaths piled on, the Philippines maintained its measured tone, calling on the junta “to exercise restraint and refrain from using excessive force against unarmed demonstrators.”
Locsin has scorned many of the tools often used to exert international pressure, dissociating the Philippines with a United Nations Human Rights Council resolution demanding the release of Suu Kyi and other democratic leaders.
He has also refused to work with any Western country on the issue, ranting on several occasions that they “destroyed” Suu Kyi and left her vulnerable to a military takeover.
Locsin was referring to the widespread criticism of the human rights and democracy icon for her defense of the military amid the Rohingya crisis which saw the rampant perpetration of atrocities against the minority Muslim population in the predominantly-Buddhist Myanmar.
Myanmar is accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice while the International Criminal Court is investigating the nation for crimes against humanity.
— Bella Perez-Rubio with reports from Agence France-Presse
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