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Colmenares in Vancouver: Trust, hope and struggle

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Colmenares in Vancouver: Trust, hope and struggle

By Malaya Canada

VANCOUVER, B.C. — Neri Colmenares, human rights defender, the Adviser for Human Rights for the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, former member of the Philippine House of Representatives from 2007-2016, and a former political prisoner under the Marcos martial law regime visited Vancouver from Oct. 16 to 18 as part of his Canada-wide speaking tour on human rights and Philippine diaspora concerns. The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) and the Malaya Movement in Canada were the lead organizations in Neri Colmenares’ multi-city Canadian tour and were joined by different community organizations in each city.

By the time Colmenares reached Vancouver, he had already met the Filipino communities and the Canadian public in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Calgary, and Edmonton; this was no mean feat considering that as he travelled across the wide expanse of Canada, he also travelled through several time zones. From east to west, Colmenares spoke at more than 12 public forums, luncheons, and meetings and reached hundreds of our kababayan. He also met with several Canadian Members of Parliament and with members of different political parties.

Filipinos, and Canadians as well, came to hear and discuss with him the worsening national situation under Marcos Jr. and Sara Duterte — the economic crisis, worsening human rights situation, the trouble with the West Philippine Sea, the Philippine debt, etc. But Colmenares also talked about pushing back, speaking out, and resisting in the streets, in the courts, and in the halls of Congress (the three Ks, according to Colmenares, of Kalsada, Korte, Kongreso). Colmenares did not stop at discussing the big problems of the Philippines, he also followed this with the big solutions that will mean real change for all Filipinos, including overseas Filipinos. These solutions include a genuine agrarian reform and increase in production subsidies, national industrialization as the economy’s cornerstone, and a genuine anti-corruption drive.

At the Interfaith Tea with Atty. Neri Colmenares at the Archdiocese of New Westminster (Oct 16) met several Filipino and Canadian church people, including lay members from the Catholic and Anglican churches and its different programs.   

His public lecture at the SFU Harbour Centre in downtown Vancouver on “Defending Human Rights: Resistance Against the Growing Fascism in the Philippines” was hosted by Sulong UBC/SFU with support from the SFU Department of Geography; the place was packed with young people, students, and members of the Filipino community (Oct 17).

At the Luncheon (Oct 18), hosted by the Lawyers Rights Watch Canada, an NGO with Special Consultative Status by the United Nations Economic and Social Council Colmenares met up with his old friend Gail Davidson, LWRC Founder and past Executive Director, and was introduced to Canadian and Filipino lawyers.  It must be noted that Colmenares received the 2020 International Bar Association Human Rights Award for his “outstanding contribution by a legal practitioner to human rights.”  He is not only a member of Philippine lawyers’ organizations (the IBP and the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers) but also a member of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, the Council of the International Bar Association Human Rights Institute, and the Confederation of Lawyers in Asia and Pacific.

The Bayanihan for Justice: Community Dinner with Neri Colmenares (Oct 18) hosted by the Lakeview Multicultural United Church was organized and supported by Global Pinoy Diaspora Canada, Angat Buhay Para sa Pilipino (Vancouver), Filipino Canadian Construction Network, Mining Justice Alliance, UP Alumni Association of BC, Bayan Canada, Migrante BC, and attended by many Filipino organizations.  Food and politics, and bayanihan for justice brought the community together that night to listen to Colmenares at this last speaking event, have photos and selfies with him, and to bid him safe travel back to the Philippines.

At a visit to the Community office of Mable Elmore, the MLA for Vancouver Kensington, the staff, on Elmore’s behalf presented Colmenares with the certificate of appreciation to a “true patriot.” It was a “thank you for standing up against tyranny and oppression, and for your untiring commitment to build a just and fair society.”

Colmenares always had this message of hope for his kababayan and a vision of our future. He said, “Always trust in the capacity of the Filipino people to change our society for the better. We are not destined to eternal poverty and repression.”  With that is the challenge to get involved, thus he added, “Because we trust, therefore we hope, and because we hope, therefore we struggle.”

It was a privilege to meet Neri Colmenares (also called Ka Neri, NC, Atty.), take a selfie with him, hear where we are as Filipinos in the current national situation, and more importantly, share with us the vision of a free, prosperous, democratic, and peaceful Philippines.

Maraming salamat, Atty. Neri Colmenares, at Ingat lagi.###