Campaigners hold prayer vigils as Filipino president visits UK

 Human rights activists, peace advocates and members of the Filipino community are conducting prayer vigils, urging action to end political killings in the Philippines, as President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo visits the United Kingdom today. The President is visiting the UK as part of a brief European tour, and will use the opportunity to promote her record in power. However, there are real concerns about the actions of her government with regard to human rights abuses, most notably the government's inability to protect the right to life of every individual under its jurisdiction regardless of political affiliation. The main prayer vigil is taking place outside Westminster Cathedral to commemorate the many social and political activists, indigenous leaders, students, trade unionists, church workers and journalists who have recently been murdered in the Philippines. It will call for decisive action to end the killings. According to a report issued by Amnesty International on 15th August entitled, Political Killings, Human Rights and the Peace Process, there had already been 51 political assassinations, compared with 66 for the whole of last year. So far no one has been brought to justice. Amnesty is concerned that the pattern of killings, which have included prior death threats, and the political profile of the victims, most of whom are associated with left-wing groups, suggests they are not an unconnected series of murders but a politically motivated pattern of killings. Furthermore, the killings have become an obstacle to renewed peace negotiations between the government and the armed communist insurgency within the country. It has also meant that indigenous and community leaders are increasingly afraid to speak out and assert their legal right to oppose inappropriate mining or logging projects.

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