FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE FROM Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment
December 10, 2010
Contact: Irma Bajar, Chairperson, firstname.lastname@example.org
Filipinas Demand Basic Human Rights from the United States on International Human Rights Day
NEW YORK CITY, NY – Newly elected President Barack Obama became the symbol of hope for many. The people of the Philippines, along with many other parts of the world, expected a shift towards more humane U.S. foreign policy, after the detrimental consequences of the Bush regime. However, those hopes plummeted when aggressive U.S. policies increasing U.S. militarization in the Philippines came to light. In the sixth decade of International Human Rights Day commemoration, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE) implores civil society to protect basic human rights for all people, and to end torture, death, and militarization on Philippine soil for the sake of the “War on Terror.”
The War on Terror in the Philippines manifests itself under Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL), a national security and counter-insurgency plan responsible for arming and training elements of the Philippine military, and the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), where “war games” are conducted in civilian communities where the Philippine military suspects rebel fighters. U.S. military aid to the Philippines directly funds these activities, and Obama has explicitly given $30 million in 2010. U.S. delegates continue to praise “counter-terrorism” and the VFA, which is a direct violation of the Philippines’ constitutional ban of foreign troops on Philippine soil. With this, the Obama administration has proven that maintaining U.S. military and capital interests trump the basic human rights of the Filipino people.
The U.S. unquestionably supported the regime of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, though her statements conflated human rights advocates, peasant leaders, and opposition politicians with terrorists; as well as denying human rights to Philippines citizens and silenced community organizers; resulting in the tortures, deaths, and disappearances of over two-thousand Filipino civilians, including surfaced Filipino-American community health worker, Melissa Roxas. While GMA is no longer in office as President, under newly elected President Aquino, about 25 community leaders have died or disappeared since July 2010. Filipinos living in the United States must remain hypercritical of these neo-liberal policies’ damaging effects on communities back home, and hold the Obama administration accountable for agreements that deny Filipinos their basic human rights to live free of military violence and state repression.
The effects of a U.S.-backed Philippines are devastating on Filipino communities. The military presence of Armed Forces of the Philippines Marines (AFP), Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU), and the U.S. military is sharply felt by women and children. Rape and assault are common in militarized zones (the case of Nicole and U.S. Lance Corporal Daniel Smith is a prime example), as are harassment, intimidation, and displacement of indigenous Filipino groups. For those of us living in the U.S., it is our tax dollars that finance these interventionist policies and consequential effects on Filipinos back home.
On December 10th, President Aquino called for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to drop all charges against the 43 Health Workers (known as the Morong 43) who were illegally arrested, tortured and detained for the past 10 months on baseless accusations of being members of the New Peoples Army. Aquino’s call does not, however, automatically release them as free citizens, replace the 10 months the Morong 43 spend imprisoned, or provide the lack of medical care otherwise received by the communities the Morong 43 served. The Philippine government propagates this as a strategic act of compassion on International Human Rights day, however, it is the pressure of the international community which has demanded the release of the Morong 43. This, along with the various community campaigns initated by the friends and family of the imprisoned 43, the recent hunger strike, and the mainstream attention of the unjust incarceration are the true foundations of the Morong 43’s path to freedom and justice.
Human rights are not meant to be bartered, or overlooked for capital interests. Violence and political repression in the lives of everyday citizens speaks to the inexcusable corruption of the Philippine state. Any nation providing military support or public funding to the Philippines to enact these crimes in the name of the “War on Terror” is complicit in committing human rights violations against the Filipino people. During these times, it is vital that we remain vigilant of the Aquino administration, the DOJ, and their actions towards all victims of human rights violations. The Morong 43 must be cleared of all charges, and unconditionally released with recompense.
Stop US military funding for the Philippines!
Release the Morong 43!
Surface all the desceparicedos!
Free all political prisoners!