Filipino migrant organizations in the United States and Canada condemned what they called the “brutal” treatment of activists marching to the US Embassy in Manila on Feb. 25.
BY AUBREY MAKILAN-DELA CRUZ
Filipino migrant organizations in the United States and Canada condemned what they called the “brutal” treatment of activists marching to the US Embassy in Manila on Feb. 25. The violent dispersal by anti-riot police left several hurt ralliers, including student activist Jonathan Jimenez. Jimenez was rushed to a nearby hospital after police hit him in the head with their shields, which left him bloodied.
“We condemn the Philippine authorities for their brutality against the protesters exercising a legitimate right to assemble and march on the streets. The VFA is a legitimate issue that even Philippine Senators are opposing,” said New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP) spokesperson Ramon Mappala. “Having been a student activist protesting the Vietnam War in the 1970s and having lived through the fascism of martial law under Marcos, this incident rings disturbingly familiar and should sound-off as an alarm to all patriotic Filipinos worldwide,” he added, noting that the violent dispersal was an irony of the celebrated EDSA Revolution where people power peacefully toppled a dictatorship.
Meanwhile, Anakbayan New York/New Jersey called the violent dispersal of Anakbayan Philippines members “a blatant attack on the people’s right to assemble and march on the streets.”
Jimenez was part of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance)-Anakbayan contingent that marched toward the US Embassy in Manila to oppose the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), an agreement between the US and Philippine governments which they characterized as “onerous and unconstitutional”. The protest was staged following a recent Supreme Court ruling that convicted rapist and US Marine L/Cpl. Daniel Smith be transferred to a detention facility under Philippine jurisdiction upon re-negotiations between the US Embassy and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA). The ralliers also protested the alleged intensive military operations and grenade firing by the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) 901st Brigade on Feb. 18 in Ligao City, Albay killing a 1-year old girl, Rafaela Polvorido, and leaving nine more civilians wounded, six of whom were children.
More US troops
Mappala said that the presence of US soldiers in the country has resulted in “gross indignities” including rape, killings, and indiscriminate shootings.
On Dec. 29, 2006, Smith, who was convicted of raping a Filipina in Subic, Zambales, was handed over to the US Embassy for detention. Both the US and Philippine authorities cited stipulations under the VFA on the handling of US soldiers convicted of crimes on Philippine territory. Aside from the conviction, mounting protests have been calling for the abrogation of the VFA, the treaty which oppositionists equated to “the trampling of Philippine sovereignty and dignity”.
Despite reported human rights violations, over 6000 US troops are scheduled to be deployed to Bicol in April for the Balikatan 2.
Thus, “the abrogation of the VFA and upholding Philippine sovereignty is the human rights solution,” said Mappala.
Meanwhile, Filipino-American youths expressed their vigilance despite living miles away from their parents` homeland.
“Following the recent events in the Philippines in which total disregard for the Filipino people’s rights has been non-stop, we, the Filipino youth here in the US will not remain silent. It is only fitting to remind the US government that the `help` it plans and continues to extend to the Philippine government in extinguishing its own people comes from our pockets — the taxpayers’ pockets,”`said Anakbayan NY-NJ statement. “We, neither our parents, did not come to this country to work and witness our hard-earned money turn into truncheons and bullets only to be fired at our fellow Filipinos back home — helpless, young and innocent — ending up in ashes, raped or beaten. Sadly, the dream of books, classrooms and basic social services for the Filipino youth, now more than ever, seemed too far-fetched with the current US-Arroyo regime still in place.”
Meanwhile, Bayan-Canada reminded the Filipino people that there is no limit to the number of EDSAs and “we need now more than ever to oust Arroyo and the system she represents.”
Joey Calugay, secretary general of Bayan-Canada, called on fellow Filipinos to reflect on the lessons of EDSA I, where four days of people’s power and military rebellion toppled more than two decades of the Marcos dictatorship. He said that Marcos’ removal brought great hopes of genuine independence for the country and freedom and development for the people. “But these hopes have been dashed again and again by one successive president after another. The country has only deteriorated further as the same policies that Marcos followed so diligently have been followed by those who have come after him,” he said.
In 2001, Calugay added, EDSA II ousted then President Joseph Estrada for “vulgar displays of corruption and violence.”
Under his successor Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Calugay said, the country has suffered “a great decline and regression of its economy.” He cited, among others, the US$71-billion foreign debt and about P2.2 trillion of domestic debt.
Calugay also mentioned the labor export policy as another sign of economic regression. There are now 11 million Filipinos abroad, and “there will be no let up in the flood of Filipinos exported because remittances are the country’s biggest foreign currency earners,” he said. Remittances now run at US$15 billion a year.
In Canada, Calugay said, Filipinos have now become the largest source of migrants, surpassing gigantic countries like India and China. Even more revealing, he said, 45 percent are temporary workers.
Other issues haunting the Arroyo government, Calugay said, are the “illicit” drug trade, “shameless obsequiousness to US imperialism,” and human rights violations.
Arroyo said on Feb. 23: “The world embraced EDSA I in 1986. The world tolerated EDSA II in 2001. The world will not forgive an EDSA III, but it would instead condemn the Philippines as a country whose political system is hopelessly unstable.”
But as proven by her repeated promises to not run again for election, her word means nothing, said Calugay. “’Hello Garci’ proves she stole the office of the President. Her state of emergency declaration in 2006, to preempt EDSA protests, proves she is no democratic leader. So what legitimacy can she have to make such claims? We can understand why Arroyo hates people power, but why should the Filipino people hate their own power?”
According to Calugay, Bayan had proposed a national unity government made up of all forces that had taken part in the overthrow of Estrada to take the mantle of leadership and steer the country to national salvation, “but a schemer who had nothing to do with ridding the country of Estrada and who by hook or by crook clings to power landed in Malacañang.”
Calugay said Arroyo’s claim of no more EDSAs rings hollow. “There is no limit to the number of EDSAs as long as the Filipino people are limited by foreign, mainly US imperialism, local feudalism, and bureaucratic capitalism and fascism of which Arroyo is its chief representative. Freedom is what makes our lives human. As long as the millions of workers and peasants, the women, youth, migrants, fisherfolk, the national minorities, professionals, the religious, scientists, and all the other sectors of the Filipino people long for freedom and a better tomorrow the road of EDSA remains viable,” he said.
“This much is certain: we need, now more than ever, to oust Arroyo and the system she represents,” he also said. (Bulatlat.com)