Twenty five Filipino advocates attended the official launching of HOPE (Honest, Orderly and Peaceful Election) awareness campaign last November 30, 2009 at the Pfarre Breitenfeld in Vienna.
In his opening prayer, Fr. Mars Sahulga, a Filipino priest based in the city, prayed for the families and relatives of the victims of the mass murder in Maguindanao. The priest also summoned all migrant Filipinos abroad to continuously monitor the situation and contribute to the effort to address the culture of impunity and make those responsible for these atrocities and human rights violations accountable.
The organizers of the awareness campaign presented to the participants a historical background of the electoral process in the Philippines.
Manny Sarmiento of the Pinas First Movement in Austria said that election fraud, violence and political dynasties are the major factors in getting manipulated or rigged elections results in the country.
“As a response to these atrocities, people‘s political movements and parties have been exerting their effort to bring fundamental social changes,” Sarmiento explained.
Ben Repol, one of the speakers of during the launching, pointed out that that the economic situation has worsened, i.e. unemployment and underemployment has reached an unprecedented level (estimated at 4.3 million jobless and 7.0 million underemployed) and that approximately 61 million or 70% of Filipinos are struggling to survive on P86 or less per day.
“The politics of terrorism is in place. The level of criminal deceit and malice under Arroyo's regime has surpassed the Marcos fascist dictatorship. We take for instance the Oplan Bantay Laya which is dastardly preying on unarmed social activists, including workers, peasants, women, youth, priests and pastors, human rights advocates and journalists,” Repol recounted.
Since it has been officially launched, the organizers of the HOPE awareness campaign in Austria said they are already planning to start its programs and activities in preparation for the May 2010 elections.
An Ecumenical Mass and Service is scheduled on December 27, 2009 which the organizers said would ask God’s blessings to the aims and activities of HOPE. Other important programs of HOPE that were enumerated are: public discussions and educational campaigns, HOPE News Bulletin, petition campaign via Internet and individual signatures.
HOPE Austria said it wishes to announce this message to all democracy loving Filipinos worldwide: “Now is the time for us to struggle shoulder to shoulder and carry forward our campaign toward Honest, Orderly and Peaceful Election (HOPE). Let us make this the kind of HOPE that will kindle the genuine aspirations of Filipinos, the kind of HOPE that will uphold the democratic values for which so many have given their lives and their freedom to achieve.”