June 4, 2008
Reference: Rico Foz, National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), email: email@example.com
REPRESSION AT THE PIDC! PARADERS ARRESTED, HARASSED FOR CELEBRATING INDEPENDENCE DAY!
NEW YORK– Approximately 100 parade marchers from the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) and BAYAN USA were met with repetitive harassment by the New York Police Department (NYPD) and security forces of the Philippine Independence Day Celebration (PIDC) Committee last Sunday during the annual Philippine Independence Day Parade. The joint contingent was projecting issues of the rice crisis in the Philippines and protesting the local commercialization of the annual Philippine Independence Day parade and fair along Madison Avenue. Constant harassment from the NYPD, in connivance with the PIDC organizing committee and Philippine Consulate, ended with the arrest of two members of the Filipino community fraternity, Kapatirang Pilipino, or Kappa Pi.
35 year-old Rusty Fabunan and 18 year-old Wilfred Recaido of Kappa Pi were stopped from playing music in the middle of the crowded fair. The two members were playing makeshift drums out of buckets and entertaining onlookers when they were dragged by NYPD off to a corner and arrested for alleged “failure to disperse”. Onlookers who had been entertained by the street music quickly rallied for the NYPD to let Fabunan and Recaido go. A crowd of youth gathered and confronted the NYPD with loud chants shouting, “Just music… What’s wrong with that?” and “Is this how we celebrate independence?”
Robert Roy, Executive Director of the Philippine Forum, who was also physically harassed by NYPD, recounts,”They were just arbitrarily grabbed in a very violent way. Why? They were only playing music, beating drums, and making the crowd happy. There is no policy in the PIDC guidelines that prohibits playing drums in the fair or convening a crowd while playing music. This was a targeted act against us led by the PIDC committee and the Philippine Consulate. Both been targeting our contingent with harassment for years now. They are threatened by the message we bring to the PIDC and want to censor us.”
As early as 10am last Sunday, while the NAFCON-BAYAN parade contingent was assembling along 39th Street at 6th Avenue and rehearsing their chants, Roy believes the officers of the PIDC committee were already planning their measures to censor and disrupt the group, including calling on NYPD to escort the contingent throughout its walk down Madison Avenue.
After a well-received march down Madison Avenue chanting “Habang si Gloria ay nasa itaas, masyadong mataas ang presyo ng bigas!” and “How on earth can we be free, with a thousand dollar booth fee? How on earth can we be free, change your ways PIDC!”, NAFCON-BAYAN paraders were obstructed from entering the main fair area by a blockade of NYPD. After holding an impromptu rally calling for an end to the local commercialization of the annual parade and fair, NAFCON-BAYAN marchers were eventually let in and then continually harassed when they carried their placards inside. Finally, after hours of listening to non-patriotic (American) songs from the fair’s main stage, Filipino youth seeking genuinely Filipino cultural performances started playing street music that convened a small crowd of onlookers. It was at this point that the NYPD grabbed the buckets from Fabunan and Recaido and arrested them.
“Sa sarili nating Independence Day Celebration, hindi kami free,” (On our own Independence Day Celebration, we’re not free), stated Recaido.
“We’re not here to make trouble. We just don’t want to listen to loud American music all day on this celebration of Philippine Independence. We’re just calling for positive change, and for that, we are harassed,” Fabunan stated. “It’s ironic that in this celebration of our so-called independence, we are not afforded our democratic right to freedom of speech and expression.”
History Repeats Itself, and Gets Worse
In 2005, the same contingent was stopped from marching the parade route by the NYPD for carrying placards calling for Philippine Consul General Cecilia Rebong to move out of her $10,000 a month condominium in the Trump Towers in Manhattan. In 2006, marchers protested the state of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances of activists in the Philippines. In 2007, police stood guard as NAFCON marchers criticized the Philippine Consulate for it’s collusion with SentosaCare LLC, a healthcare management company in New York that has been known to illegally recruit nurses from the Philippines. This year, NAFCON and BAYAN USA marchers joined forces to protest the local commercialization of the PIDC, carrying placards denouncing the $1000+ rental fee for a fair booth. Many believe the local commercialization and high rental fees for booths is another local corruption scheme by the Philippine Consulate to pocket more money out of the Filipino community.
Philippine Consulate Still Behind the PIDC
“It is becoming more and more evident that the PIDC committee, which is led by the Philippine Consulate, is responsible for this. How ironic that on the website of the Philippine Consulate, it states its mission is to protect and serve the rights of overseas Filipinos in the US. But the history of the PIDC shows us that most of the time overseas Filipinos in New York need to protect themselves from the Philippine Consulate, a significant violator of our basic rights to speech and assembly,” Roy added.
“Despite the PIDC’s disapproval of our message, the vast majority of parade and fair goers were in support of us,” states Christina Hilo of Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE), also part of the NAFCON-BAYAN contingent. “The PIDC should be a venue for all Filipinos to express themselves truthfully and enjoy their rights, not a day of repression and censorship.”
Release from Arrest, and Continued Indignation
As for Fabunan and Recaido, they were eventually released on the spot due to pressure from street protesters and issued a summons. Fabunan quickly thanked the crowd of supporters. “If not for the united voices of chanters pressuring the police, I would have spent tonight in jail,” Fabunan stated. “Organized community members fighting on the streets is always a powerful force that can shift the situation to the unexpected.”
In an emergency NAFCON-BAYAN last night, an indignation rally will take place in front of the Philippine Consulate this Friday at 5:30pm. The contingent will continue on with its campaign to dismiss the charges against Fabunan and Recaido, as well as pressure the Philippine Consulate to lower the rental fees of fair booths for the PIDC, including a thorough audit of all accumulated PIDC funds from the past celebrations. “These funds should go towards Filipino community projects, not in the large pocket of the Philippine Consulate,” Roy ended.
For more information, contact the BAYANIHAN Filipino Community Center at 718-565-8862. ###