29 May 2009
Reference: Jonna Baldres, BAYAN USA North East Co-Coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org
FILIPINO-AMERICANS IN NY SAY “10 YEARS IS ENOUGH! JUNK VFA!”
NEW YORK – BAYAN USA, with its member organizations and allies in the New York/New Jersey area, gathered on May 27 in front of the Philippine Consulate in 5th Avenue to call for an end to the 10-year-long Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), a treaty between the Philippine and the United States governments believed by the said alliance to have been detrimental to the Filipino people.
“May 27 marks 10 years of institutionalized atrocities against our people. But in fact, it’s not only 10 years, but more than a hundred years, that we have been suffering in the hands of the US imperialist. The Philippine-American war of 1899 had been the blueprint of the US war of aggression, and the human rights violations inflicted upon our people are much worse than ever to this day,” Gary Labao of the New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP) said.
BAYAN USA also lambasted the Philippine government and demanded its accountability for the abduction of Melissa Roxas, a Filipino-American activist and a member of Habi Arts, a cultural organization and a member organization of BAYAN USA in Los Angeles. Melissa came back to the Philippines in 2007 to work as a full-time health worker and was abducted by who were suspected to be military elements last May 19 in Tarlac with two other companions. Days later, Melissa and her companions were surfaced, but BAYAN USA remains firm in its stand to demand justice for the abducted.
“I personally know Melissa, and I know very well that she does not deserve these acts of monstrosity carried upon her by the Philippine government. This abduction of Melissa and her companions is part of the Philippine government’s anti-insurgency program, Oplan Bantay Laya II, to serve its own economic and political interests. And as binded by the VFA, the US also takes part in this crime by funding the military activities and exercises of the Philippine government through the US tax dollars! And the US, now under the leadership of Obama, had just put one of its citizens in danger by letting Melissa get in the hands of these bloody perpetrators!” Bernadette Ellorin, BAYAN USA Chairperson, exclaimed in outrage.
Aside from the abduction of Melissa and countless other activists and civilians, the VFA has also resulted to the rape of Filipino women by US military elements. “Vanessa”, a 22-year-old Filipina, was victimized by “John Jones,” a US Marine and a member of the Joint US Military Assistance Group (JUSMAG) operating in the Philippines under the guise of the Balikatan (translated as “shoulder-to-shoulder”) exercises.
“The VFA paved the way for the US to exploit the bodies and the dignity of our fellow Filipinas. After Nicole, another rape victim, Vanessa, has come out but decided not to file a case because she was scared that the Philippine government would only favor the US, just like what happened in the case of Daniel Smith, who was acquitted from charges of raping Nicole. This is a clear indicator that the Filipino people has totally lost its trust in the Philippine government, as it only serves the whims of its master, the US imperialist,” said Melanie Dulfo of the New York-based Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE).
Valerie Francisco, Vice Chair of GABRIELA-USA, also added that aside from women, children are also directly being victimized by the VFA, “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. These acts of terrorism against the people, especially children, must be condemned and should not be allowed to continue and prosper!”
Representatives of indigenous organizations who attended the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) in New York City from May 18-29 also joined the protest action. Windel Bolinget of Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) and Dulphing Ogan of KALUMARAN, also shared stories of cruelty that they have experienced under the Visiting Forces Agreement. From North to South, militarization has been rampant in their communities and their self-determination as indigenous peoples has been disrespected in many circumstances.
Yves Nibungco, Deputy Secretary General of Anakbayan New York/New Jersey, also criticized the Philippine government for spending too much on militarization and the Balikatan exercises instead of providing the Filipino youth with the much-needed books and classrooms.
Allies from International Action Center (IAC), Fight Imperialism Stand Together (FIST) and May 1st Coalition were also present and delivered solidarity messages.
After the action at the Philippine Consulate, the Filipino contingent marched towards the US Armed Forces Recruitment Station in 42nd Street in Times Square while chanting anti-VFA slogans. The whole BAYAN USA and GABRIELA USA contingents staged a die-in right in the middle of the famous New York tourist spot to deliver the message that the Filipino people want the US troops out of the Philippines and that they want the VFA scrapped.
Protest actions led by BAYAN USA were also held in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and teach-ins on the VFA were held in Seattle & San Diego.
For more information: http://www.bayanusa.org
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