November 13, 2008
Contact: Cris Hilo, Bayan NE Coordinator – firstname.lastname@example.org
Fil-Am Youth Call Arroyo on Her Sham Prayers for Peace in Mindanao
Queens, NY- On November 12, over 50 Fil-ams gathered in the bitter cold streets of New York City to pray for genuine peace in Mindanao.Several organizations, including Anakbayan NY/NJ, FiRE (Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment), and NYCHRP (New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines) from BAYAN USA openly criticized the Arroyo regime for her backward steps towards peace. At the same time of the vigil, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) was at the United Nations attending an interfaith forum for states that are supposedly under “religious conflict”.
Although GMA attended to obviously put forth this notion that she prayed for peace in Mindanao, specifically between the Islamic secessionist movement and the Christians, who are engaged in an armed conflict that threatens peace thein Mindanao. Her actions to continue efforts of US and Philippine militarization of Mindanao, which is the root of the armed conflict and the biggest obstruction of peace in Mindanao, goes against any route towards peace.
During the peaceful vigil, BAYAN USA, clarified who and what are the real obstructions to a lasting peace in Mindanao. Anakbayan NJ member Kat Dy, originally from Davao,Mindanao stated, “While I was living in Mindanao, Muslims, Christians, and non-Christians lived and worked together peacefully. If GMA wanted genuine peace in Mindanao, she should remove the U.S. and Philippine troops from Mindanao. If she wants to really help relieve poverty in the Philippines, she must reduce her military funding and increase the funds towards social funds especially education and healthcare.”
In 2001, the Bush-Arroyo pact sent US troops to Southern Mindanao to train Philippine military to fight terrorism, particularly the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).In 2008, not a single member of the Abu Sayyaf Group has been captured and convicted. However, the intensification of militarization of both Philippine and US troops conducting military exercises remains.
This militarization is the cause of massive, widescale displacement of communities. Today, over 500,000 Mindanaoans have been displaced from their lands and require immediate relief.
The movement from the MILF to cede from the Philippine Republic is not a terrorist operation. Today, it is more of a defense operation for their ancestral domain in Mindanao. One must also remember that this domain houses the largest gold, oil, and other natural deposits in the entire Philippines, and US government control of these reserves is important to the US and Philippine governments. This is the reason for intensification of US militarization in Mindanao- control over vast natural resources for plunder, not fighting terrorism.
Berna Ellorin from Bayan USA concluded during the service, “For a just and lasting peace in Mindanao, we look not on the so-called “Muslim-Christian” conflict as the obstruction of peace, but the neoliberal dictates of the US government and subservience of the Arroyo regime to those dictates. Today, we pray that Arroyo, now hugely unpopular, step down, the ancestral domain of the Bangsamoro people must be respected, and that the US government withdraws its military presence in Mindanao for peace to reign.”
BAYAN-USA, an alliance of progressive Filipino groups in the U.S. representing organizations of students, scholars, women, workers, and youth. To learn more about this overseas chapter of BAYAN, and the other organizations in our alliance, please visit http://bayanusa.org/