President of the Oxford Union
7 November 2018
Dear Mr Fyfe,
On Monday 5 November Manny Pacquiao the world champion boxer and Philippine senator addressed students at the Oxford University Union. According to media reports, among other things, he told students that there are no extra-judicial killings in the Philippines.
Within the next 24 hours Benjamin Ramos a prominent human rights lawyer in the island of Negros in the Philippines was shot dead in the street by unidentified gunmen. Ramos was acting as a pro bono lawyer for families in the aftermath of a recent massacre in Sagay, Negros where nine farmers, including four women and two children had been murdered by the military.
The so-called “war on drugs” which Amnesty International has dubbed a war on the poor, has resulted in an estimated 14 – 20,000 extra-judicial killings according to human rights organisations. Even the police’s own figure is around 4,000. Of particular concern is the targeting of human rights defenders like Benjamin Ramos.
These killings have been scrupulously monitored and documented by organisations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch and condemned by the UN Human Rights Commission. The International Criminal Court has launched a preliminary inquiry against President Duterte for crimes against humanity. Duterte has threatened to behead anyone investigating extra-judicial killings and has assured police that no one will be punished for these murders.
The story told by Pacquiao (who Duterte has named as his preferred successor as president) that only those resisting arrest are killed is a familiar one given out by the government, which has been discredited by numerous independent reports, but it is a vital part of the Duterte narrative.
I believe that the Oxford Union has a right to invite controversial speakers to address students. However, Manny Pacquiao is a sporting legend and attracts many people to hear him speak, and this makes him very influential. As a member of the UK Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines, I am concerned that Oxford University students should be given a more accurate picture than that provided by such a close Duterte ally.
I believe it is owed to brave men and women like Benjamin Ramos that the full story is heard, and I hope you will now provide an opportunity for such important information to reach your students.
UK Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines