Trade unionists, social activists, farming organisers, journalists and priests are all being targeted, according to the Philippines' leading human rights group, Karapatan. "We think the government is trying to terrorise people so they will cower in silence and be driven to inaction," said the group's spokesman, Ruth Cervantes.
The Philippines' President, Gloria Arroyo, is one of the West's most loyal allies in US President George Bush's "war on terror". In the eight years to the end of this year, her government will have received more than £230m in direct military aid from America to target Islamic extremists linked to al-Qa'ida in the south of the archipelago. Activists say that the money is funding a war against organisations campaigning for better conditions for workers.