One Year Later, Filipinos Still in Crisis Under Aquino– BAYAN-USA

Press Statement
July 25, 2011

Reference: Bernadette Ellorin, Chairperson, BAYAN-USA, email: chair@bayanusa.org

One Year Later, Filipinos Still in Crisis Under Aquino– BAYAN-USA

Filipino-Americans, under the banner of BAYAN-USA, are taking part in actions across the US and in Manila during the scheduled State of the Nation Address (SONA) in the Philippines to register strong condemnation and disappointment over the failure of the administration of Philippine President Benigno Simeon “P-Noy” Aquino III to facilitate significant changes to improve the lives of the burdened Filipino people after one year in office.

Citing continuing subservience to foreign dictates and a worsened economic situation as measures of the Aquino’s failure to deliver upon promises made during the election and during last year’s SONA, BAYAN-USA and its allies in the US remain adamantly unconvinced that the administration is genuinely for change.

Shameless US Puppetry

At the heart of Aquino’s failure is unrelenting loyalty and puppetry to US foreign policy.

Within his first year, Aquino has willingly allowed the US to use the Philippines as its puppet state to take advantage of the regional territorial dispute over the Spratly Islands and provoke profit-making military aggression in Asia, and particularly against China.

As war and arms production has become the most profitable industry for the US ruling elite, the US government has in turn been able to rely strongly on the compliant Aquino administration to continue with a sugar-coated version of Arroyo’s deadly Operation Plan Bantay Laya by implementing Operation Plan Bayanihan, per the US State Department’s Counter-Insurgency Guide (US COIN). The objective of this counterinsurgency program is the same as it was for Arroyo’s administration and as utilized by repressive regimes worldwide: to suppress dissent and eliminate opposition using a combination of deceptive and increasingly violent tactics. The end result is the protection of imperialist economic and political interests at the expense of human lives.

The Poor Get Poorer Under Aquino

Under the thumb of US foreign dictates, Aquino has further pushed a neoliberal economic framework that has made life more miserable for the majority of the Filipino people. Landlord families, such as Aquino’s, remain in control of the country’s natural resources and push for privatization. Liberalization continues to hike up the prices of basic commodities such as food, gas, and water out of the reach of Filipino families. Contractualization hurts workers by decreasing wages, sowing job insecurity, and busting unions. Under Aquino, there are over 11 million unemployed Filipinos in the country with virtually zero job growth.

Privatization schemes such as the so-called Public-Private Partnership (PPP) not only serve to bulk up the pockets of wealthy and powerful multi-national corporate investors at the expense of ordinary Filipino citizens and workers. They also widen the gap between the few Filipino families that control the majority of the country’s wealth and political power and the burdened majority who must pay from their own pockets for the risks of private investors. It is the impoverished majority who suffer the most from the Philippine state’s abandonment of its public responsibilities.

Filipinos are left with no choice but to seek opportunities abroad, like in the United States. But in these desperate economic times, many Filipino workers fall prey to human trafficking schemes to the US.

Philippine Government: #1 Human Trafficker

The cases of the Sentosa 27 healthworkers, the Florida 15 hotel workers, and hundreds more similar cases of Filipinos duped into coming to the US under the auspices that they would have contract work waiting for them only to have their money taken, passports confiscated, and be left by their recruiters to fend for themselves as undocumented migrants are another clear measure of the Philippine government’s failure to address the country’s economic woes.

In addition, the Aquino government continues Arroyo’s non-accountability to overseas Filipino workers in distress by not providing adequate social services and protection from abuse, maltreatment, and exploitation abroad.

Last Names Do Not a Great Leader Make

Though he was able to capitalize on his last name and the dirty record of his predecessor to win the election, it is clear that none of these things actually translated into making Aquino a great leader or any improvement to the state of the Philippine nation.

Like Obama, Aquino has proven that he is not much different than his predecessor, particularly with his human rights record. In one year of the Aquino presidency, 45 activists have been slain in politically-motivated killings, 5 have been victims of forced disappearance and over 300 political prisoners remain behind bars. The perpetrators of the 1,206 extra-judicial killings, more than 300 forced disappearances, and over 1,000 cases of torture committed under the previous administration of President Gloria Arroyo remain at-large, including those guilty of abducting and torturing renowned Filipina American poet, artist, and BAYAN USA member Melissa Roxas.

As Aquino delivers his formal State of the Nation Address (SONA) to the Philippine Congress today, Filipino-Americans will be amongst those who refused to be deceived and who understand that real change can only come from ordinary people in collective struggle, not from individual politicians with famous last names. ###

BAYAN-USA is an alliance of 14 progressive Filipino organizations in the U.S. representing youth, students, women, workers, artists, and human rights advocates. As the oldest and largest overseas chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN-Philippines), BAYAN-USA serves as an information bureau for the national democratic movement of the Philippines and as a campaign center for anti-imperialist Filipinos in the U.S. For more information, visit www.bayanusa.org

Friday, 5/20: Melissa Roxas Candlelight Vigil in NYC

Candlelight Vigil for Melissa Roxas
Friday, May 20, 2011 from 7:30p – 8:30 p
meet at the Bayanihan Community Center : 40-21 69th St, Woodside, NY 11377
Trains: 69th St (7); 74th St-Roosevelt Ave (7, E, F, V, G, R)
http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=109312942490402

We are inviting all friends and supporters of Filipina-American activist, Melissa Roxas, to join us on May 20th and commemorate the 2 years since her abduction. Your support is vital as the Committee for Human Rights (CHR)’s recent Resolution denies Melissa Roxas is a survivor of abduction and torture, despite the first-hand testimony that Roxas herself has provided in writing and in person to the CHR. This a glaring & disappointing CHR failure to carry out its constitutional mandate to protect human rights.

We need your support more than ever to place public pressure on the PNoy and Obama administrations, as well as the UN! Without your help, we run the risk of having Melissa’s case swept under the rug, never holding her AFP captors accountable.

WE HOPE TO SEE YOU THERE!

Please sign the Open Community Letter here:
https://spreadsheets.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dFRjUXdXUHcxQWQ1ZUhldm1KVGFqQnc6MQ&ifq

And read Melissa’s Personal Statement regarding the CHR Resolution:
http://justiceformelissa.org/2011/04/chr-resolution-only-serves-to-maintain-and-perpetuate-impunity/

Filipinas Denounce Melissa Roxas Resolution by Commission on Human Rights

Click here to sign the Open Community Letter for Melissa Roxas.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 1, 2011

Filipinas Denounce Melissa Roxas Resolution by Commission on Human Rights

Reference:  Irma Bajar, Chairperson,  Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment ; fire.nyc@gmail.com

Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment denounces the resolution set forth by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) granting the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) impunity in Melissa Roxas’ abduction and torture.  This disappointing verdict neither acknowledges the suffering and trauma Roxas has experienced as a survivor, nor does it bring justice to the thousands of others who have fallen victim to human rights violations in the Philippines.  This glaring injustice should compel the Filipino people to become more critical of the CHR, and its sole duty to protect human rights.

This CHR resolution enables the Philippine government and Philippine military forces to continue to commit egregious human rights violations, at the cost of innocent lives in the Philippines.  Despite half a million Filipinos who are known to be victims of torture, intimidation and harassment tactics, enforced disappearances, and extrajudicial killings, the Philippine government has yet to admit its role as the main perpetrator of violence in the lives of the Filipino people. Under the guise of counter-insurgency programs like Oplan Bantay Laya and continued through Oplan Bayanihan, the life of every Filipino civilian is threatened daily.

As Filipina women living in the United States, we must applaud Roxas’ bravery in coming forward, at great risk to her life, and sharing her story as a survivor of torture.  Since her abduction on May 19th, 2009, Roxas has committed herself as a community organizer, sharing her story as a torture survivor across the United States, and raising awareness on the rampant human rights violations in the Philippines.  This CHR resolution is not only an insult to Melissa’s traumatic experiences, but to all women survivors who have been silenced, and all people robbed of their human rights.  Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment stands by Melissa Roxas until justice is served by holding her AFP captors accountable for her disappearance and torture.

JUSTICE FOR MELISSA!

JUSTICE FOR ALL VICTIMS OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS!

STOP THE KILLINGS!

SURFACE ALL DESAPARECIDOS!

Click here to sign the Open Community Letter.

Read Melissa’s Personal Statement here.

Filipinas Demand Basic Human Rights from the United States on International Human Rights Day

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE FROM Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment
December 10, 2010
Contact: Irma Bajar, Chairperson, fire.nyc@gmail.com

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!

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16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence: The Morong 43

 GABRIELA-USA Calls for Solidarity as the 43 Health Workers Begin Hunger Strike

Day 8 of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence
Contact: Terrie Cervas, 
Vice Chair of Finance – GABRIELA USA
Coordinator for Mass Campaigns – Sisters of GABRIELA, Awaken!  (SiGAw!)
(213) 537-8278
sigaw.la@gmail.com

December 3rd, 2010 marks the first day that the 43 health workers, also referred to as the Morong 43, embark on a hunger strike in protest of their unlawful detention.  Today also marks the 8th day of GABRIELA-USA’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign, on which we highlight the struggle and bravery of the Morong 43.  

Nearly 10 months ago, the lives of the Morong 43 (which includes doctors, midwives, and community health workers) were violently disrupted when they were arrested based on false allegations that they are members and supporters of the New People’s Army.  While under detention, the 43 have endured physical and psychological torture.  Catherine Traywick, journalist and member of Sisters of GABRIELA, Awaken (SiGAw), traveled to the Philippines and personally visited the Morong 43 in the summer of 2010.   The visit to the detention center and the specific experiences of the female detainees of the Morong 43 can be found in the article Traywick wrote for Ms. magazine, entitled “Defending the Rights of Detained Filipina Health Workers”  (see below full article). 

The families of the 43, along with community members from various local and international groups, such as nurses organizations, church groups, human rights advocates, and countless others, have worked tirelessly to demand the release of the 43.  Philippine President Benigno Aquino has the ability to have all charges against the 43 health workers withdrawn, but he has not done so, despite his earlier admission that their arrest was based on a defective warrant.

In light of the fact that the Morong 43 remain unlawfully imprisoned under cruel conditions, they have decided to take on a hunger strike at the risk of their own health.  The Morong 43’s statement notes, “This is the only course of action left us to end our continued illegal detention, there being no clear action by the government for our unconditional release.”

GABRIELA-USA calls on all concerned community members to stand in solidarity with the 43 and demand their immediate and unconditional release.  The campaign calls on all international networks to support the Morong 43 and all political prisoners in the following ways:

  • Join the hunger strike on December 6, their ten month anniversary in jail, and issue a statement of support;
  • Organize a sympathy fast or a hunger strike;
  • Picket the Philippine Embassy and demand freedom for the Morong 43 and other political prisoners especially Angie Ipong, Eduardo Serrano, Eduardo Sarmiento and Sandino Esguerra;
  • Highlight the hunger strike in your commemoration of human rights week and December 10th – International HR Day;
  • Lobby your congress representatives;
  • Write your ambassadors stationed in the Philippines;
  • Encourage international organizations/institutions and those in your network to send support statements to the hunger strike (addressed to Malacanang cc Philippine Embassy in your country, Secretary of Justice Leila de Lima and Karapatan); 
    • H.E. Benigno C. Aquino III

 

President of the Republic

Malacañang Palace,

JP Laurel St., San Miguel

Manila, Philippines

Voice: +63(2) 564 1451

Fax: +63(2) 742 1641 ; +63(2) 929 3968

E-mail: corres@op.gov.ph / opnet@ops.gov.ph

  •  
    • Atty. Leila De Lima

 

Secretary, Department of Justice

Padre Faura St., Manila, Philippines

Direct Line: +63(2) 521 8344 ; +63(2) 521 3721

Trunkline:  +63(2) 523 8481 loc.214

Fax: +63(2) 521-1614

Email:  soj@doj.gov.ph

  • Send postcards;
  • Circulate this and further announcements plus the hunger strike bulletins (visitfreethehealthworkers.blogspot.com) which will be issued from time to time;
  • Solicit financial and material support for the Morong 43, other political prisoners and their families; and
  • Share your ideas with others so there can be a variety of support actions.

Free the Morong 43!
Release Angie Ipong, Eduardo Serrano, Eduardo Sarmiento and Sandino Esguerra!
Free all political prisoners!
###