May 16, 2009
Reference: Valerie Francisco, Chairperson, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE), firstname.lastname@example.org, 925-726-5768
NY FilAm Women Support Vanessa, Point to Jones and the VFA as
National Security Threats
New York, NY- Filipino American Women of Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE) express their disgust with the continuing rapes and crimes that U.S. Marines perpetrate on women in the Philippines. As Filipinas in New York City, we denounce the rape of “Vanessa,” another 22-year old woman victimized by a U.S. Marine, “John Jones”. Jones, a member of the Joint U.S. Military Assistance Group (JUSMAG), created under the Balikatan (literally translated as “shoulder to shoulder” exercises in the Philippines, must be held accountable for this despicable crime.
The exercises count up to 6,000 US troops deployed to a Philippine province, Bicol, among others. They have and continue to pose a threat to the welfare of Filipino women, as exemplified with this past rape case. News of Vanessa’s rape comes just weeks after the Subic Bay Rape Case of “Nicole” was overturned in April 2009 and LCPL Daniel Smith, her convicted rapist, was set free. Smith’s release and the manipulated case of Nicole gives US military servicemen in the Philippines free reign to do whatever they want without any consequence.
The Philippine government surrendered sovereignty and justice to appease US-RP relations and unwittingly set a precedent for US military troops in the Philippines. Gloria Arroyo, along with the Court of Appeals, has sanctioned the abuse and violation of Filipino women by setting Daniel Smith free. And now, the people are feeling the repercussions.
Unlike Nicole, Vanessa has not decided to wage a legal battle because she is afraid that the government, especially the Philippine judicial system, will only rule in favor of “Jones” and, indirectly, an untarnished U.S. image in the Philippines. The protection of assailants like Smith, and now Jones, under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) proves that the Philippines’ priority is their political relationship with the U.S. instead of their human relationship with its citizens. The VFA has kept military personnel under U.S. jurisdiction allowing them to commit and ultimately get away with offenses towards Filipinos, a complete insult to Philippine sovereignty.
The VFA has historically compromised the safety, justice, and security of the Filipino people, and has wreaked havoc on the lives of Filipino women and children. On February 19, Rafaela Polborido, a 16-month old girl was killed in a province in Bicol, after government soldiers bombed her home with grenades in preparation for the Balikatan exercises. The local human rights chapter of KARAPATAN stated that 8 civilians, including 5 children, were wounded in alleged government offensives preparing for BALIKATAN. From 1981 to 1988, there have been 3,272 cases of abuse against women and children by U.S. servicemen in Subic Bay and Clark Airforce bases, of which no convictions have been made. Since the adoption of the VFA in 1999, cases by US military against Filipinos have been absorbed in the protective measures of the policy. The VFA can count Nicole and Vanessa on its list of victims, and the count is growing. The VFA is an overbearing agreement that has favored the U.S. military over the welfare of Filipino women.
This upcoming May 27 marks 10 years of the VFA in the Philippines and GMA has yet to cease singing its praises. She has allowed the VFA to shrink Philippine independence, sovereignty, and autonomy at the cost of Filipino women’s bodies, respect, and dignity. The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) released a fact sheet about the VFA that claims it is the “backbone of the soft approach to combating terrorism” and that promises the agreement will “directly benefit the Filipino people through its civil-military and humanitarian component.” But the absolute opposite is happening. In reality, the VFA and Jones are the real threats to national security.
Along with the VFA anniversary coming up, the 2010 budget proposed by President Obama mentions that there will be an increase of $24.1 million to the Philippines’ development aid, which is a total of $118.7 million for 2010 compared to $94.6 million of 2009. The Philippines receives the highest level of International Military Education and Training (IMET) funds in East Asia and the Pacific and the 12th biggest share of U.S. Foreign Military Financing (FMF) in the world. As aid and military exercises continue in the Philippines, it is undeniable that crimes against women and children will increase.
As Filipino Americans in the U.S., we are furious at the increase of budgetary allowances for military aid in the Philippines considering the amount of abuse that continue to surface as a result of militarization. We Fil-Am women in New York City witness the increasing foreclosures in our community, the decreasing services for our community and others and the increasingly difficult times in employment and survival here. We wonder why those millions of dollars are going to another country endangering a whole population of women and children at the same time as women and children here are suffering. We cannot ignore the fact that maddening logic only endangers the Filipino people through militarization also endangers communities here in New York.
Sisters of Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment in NYC denounce the VFA that allows U.S. military servicemen to run amok with sex crimes and rapes. We condemn Gloria Arroyo for supporting such an imbalanced policy that has blatantly threatened the security and safety of Filipino women and children. We call for the Obama administration to precisely examine the conditions under which US military aid is going and the consequences of this aid on the Filipino people.
We extend our deepest in solidarity with Vanessa and her family at this hard time. We stand with GABRIELA Philippines in their call to repeal the VFA and restore sovereignty to the Philippines through genuine democracy. On May 27, FiRE NYC and other members of GABRIELA-USA in the United States, in concert with members of GABRIELA Philippines, will be holding actions against the VFA internationally.
No to Another Generation of Comfort Women!
US Troops Out of the Philippines!