For Immediate Release
September 22, 2009
Reference: Valerie Francisco, Chair, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE-GABRIELA USA), firstname.lastname@example.org
Fil-Ams Look Back at Martial Law by Remembering Today’s Struggle Against Tyranny
New York, NY–September 21, 2009, marked the 37th Anniversary of the Declaration of Martial Law in the Philippines. Members of BAYAN-USA, Anakbayan New York/New Jersey, New York Committee for Human Rights and Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE), commemorated this event by holding an educational forum at Bluestockings Bookstore in New York City. The well-attended forum featured speakers who were activists in the Philippines during the Martial Law era. Ramon Mappala and Ramon Castaneda each shared their experiences as youth in the Philippines during this time. Both men were detained by Philippine military and intelligence forces that sought to quell their organizing efforts as members of opposition groups against the Marcos regime.
Members of FiRE performed an interpretive dance as a tribute to victims of human rights violations. “We want to honor the Filipino people’s resistance against state oppression that continues to this day. We especially want to pay tribute to Melissa Roxas, a Fil-Am activist like ourselves, who was recently abducted and tortured by the Philippine military,” claimed Jackelyn Mariano, a FiRE member. “Despite the Philippine government’s attempt to silence Melissa, she resisted and is today a strong voice of truth.”
BAYAN-USA sought to educate the new generation of Fil-Am youth about the conditions of the Philippines and paint a clear picture of what their parents may have experienced and encountered during their own youth. Valerie Francisco, chairperson of FiRE, stressed the importance of connecting the past to the present. “Filipino people today must recognize the similarities between the conditions of the Marcos Regime during Martial Law and the conditions of the current regime under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Human rights violations are at an all-time high. Violence against women is increasing as militarization of Philippine communities increases,” Francisco said. “Freedom of speech is in as much danger today as it was during Martial Law.”
The forum concluded with a candlelight vigil, as Taospuso sang original songs, to also pay tribute to the late Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino and President Corazon “Cory” Aquino.