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Helen Clark should help free Filipino MPs

Prime Minister Helen Clark should take the opportunity during her visit to the Philippines this week to help six Filipino parliamentarians accused of rebellion, Green Party Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Keith Locke says.

In response to an alleged coup, the Philippines Government accused six elected Filipino parliamentarians of rebellion. Five are holed up in the House of Representatives threatened with arrest if they leave, and the sixth, former union leader Crispin Beltran, has already been detained.

"Yesterday I sent a letter to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, protesting the persecution of the six parliamentarians, three of whom — Liza Maza, Rafael Mariano and Crispin Beltran — I have previously met in the Philippines," Mr Locke says.

"Last year, at an Interparliamentary Union conference in Manila, Liza Maza, who represents the Gabriela Women's Party in the House, and Rafael Mariano, from the Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) Party, complained to me about the assassination of several members of their parties in the provinces.

"It is clear that those two parliamentarians, along with Crispin Beltran, who I met on an earlier occasion, are in the House to promote peaceful change, particularly in the interests of the poorer section of Philippine society.

"Last week I appealed to Helen Clark, when she visited the Philippines, to express New Zealand's concern with the President's clampdown on human rights in the wake of the alleged coup.

"This week Ms Clark is speaking at a Philippine-hosted Regional Interfaith Dialogue Conference, which favours dialogue over violence and repression as the way to solve disputes. In the spirit of that conference she should ask the Philippine President to free Crispin Beltran and end the threats against the other five members of the House," Mr Locke says.

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