Filipino-Americans in New York say:

 "10 years is enough! Junk VFA!"

 

New York CityI

 

May 29, 2009

 

 

"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.

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Photos courtesy of BAYAN - USA
           
           

 

News Release
29 May 2009

Reference: Jonna Baldres, BAYAN USA North East Co-Coordinator, jonnabebeh@gmail.com

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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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 27, 2009
Reference: Rhonda Ramiro, 415-377-2599, secgen@bayanusa.org, www.bayanusa.org

10 Years Too Long, 200 People Too Many: Filipinos Across the U.S. Call for the Termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement and Justice for the Disappeared

In the wake of the abduction of Filipino American human rights advocate and health worker Melissa Roxas and her companions Juanito Carabeo and John Edward Handoc one week ago in the Philippines, BAYAN-USA launches actions against the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) today, the 10th anniversary of the VFA's ratification. BAYAN-USA demands the termination of the VFA and justice for victims of abduction and all human rights violations, which have climbed to record levels in the Philippines since the VFA was ratified on May 27, 1999.

“Human rights violations have escalated to unprecedented heights since 2001, when Gloria Macapagal Arroyo became president and the U.S. launched its ‘war on terror.’ It is no coincidence that the Visiting Forces Agreement was ratified just two years earlier in 1999,” stated BAYAN-USA Secretary General Rhonda Ramiro. “The VFA paved the way for U.S. military advisers, troops and equipment to flood the Philippines and to train and equip the Philippine military which has been implicated in 1,017 extra-judicial killings and 1,010 cases of torture. Melissa’s abduction adds an American citizen to the list of over 200 victims of enforced disappearance under Arroyo.”

Roxas, Carabeo, and Handoc, all members of a volunteer health worker team preparing for a medical mission in La Paz, Tarlac, Philippines, were reportedly abducted at gunpoint on May 19 by at least eight heavily-armed masked men riding motorcycles and in a van without license plates. The circumstances of their abduction typify the pattern of dozens of politically-motivated abductions of activists critical of the Arroyo administration, and evidence points to the military as responsible for these acts. Roxas and Carabeo were officially surfaced on May 24 and 25, respectively; unconfirmed reports of Handoc’s surfacing were received as of the writing of this statement. Because the vast majority of abductions and enforced disappearances remain unresolved, BAYAN-USA believes their surfacing was a direct result of rapid community response and an international campaign by BAYAN Philippines, BAYAN-USA, and the human rights organization Karapatan.

“While we are elated that Melissa and Juanito have surfaced and that John Edward might also have been found, we are outraged that they were even abducted in the first place,” said Ramiro. “We call for justice for all three, including a full investigation and prosecution of the abductors.”

“The abduction of Melissa, Juanito and John Edward is directly linked to the VFA and U.S. military aid to the Philippines,” continued Ramiro. “The U.S. government cannot claim ignorance or wash its hands of responsibility, when it is U.S. advisors who are training the Philippine military, U.S. aid that is funding the military training, and U.S. guns and bullets that are being used to threaten and kill innocent civilians.”

 

BAYAN-USA claims that despite its rhetoric of “change,” the administration of President Barack Obama has clung to Bush’s foreign policy when it comes to the Philippines. Earlier this year, President Obama phoned Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to express support for the VFA and continuing the annual joint military exercises known as “Balikatan” (“Shoulder-to-Shoulder”). The estimated total expense borne by U.S. taxpayers for U.S. militarization in the Philippines since the VFA was enacted in 1999 is a lofty $1 billion. An additional $660 million—up from a reported $400 million just one month ago—is reportedly set to be granted to the Philippines in the coming year.

The VFA also provides justification for the basing of U.S. troops throughout the country, in what is widely perceived as an affront to national sovereignty. Moreover, witnesses have observed U.S. troops participating in combat operations, which is in violation of the VFA itself. In the months of February-May this year alone, the “Balikatan” exercises also led directly to the killing of a young girl and wounding of four more children, the rape of 22 year old Filipina “Vanessa,” and the forced displacement of tens of thousands of residents in Bicol where the exercises were held. No one was held responsible for the killing of the child, and although there was clear evidence that “Vanessa” was raped by a U.S. marine, she refrained from pressing charges because she did not believe she could obtain justice. “Vanessa’s” rape was committed just weeks after the acquittal of U.S. Marine Daniel Smith, who was the only American ever convicted of raping a Filipina despite reports of thousands of rapes committed by U.S. military personnel.

“The VFA fosters a culture of militarization and violence, and both the U.S. and Philippine military are guilty of committing human rights violations with impunity,” stated Ramiro. “Melissa’s abduction should give Congress and the Obama administration even more impetus to terminate the VFA and stop pouring billions of dollars into a regime that abducts and kills innocent people. In the face of a budget deficit in the trillions, it is unconscionable to continue providing aid to the Arroyo government and to perpetuate the costly VFA. Congress should cut both during the budget appropriations process this spring and summer.”

BAYAN-USA is an alliance of progressive Filipino groups in the U.S. representing organizations of students, scholars, women, workers, and youth. As an international 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. BAYAN-USA’s online petition against the VFA can be found at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/JunkVFAnow/
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The online petition to demand justice for Roxas, Carabeo, and Handoc can be found at http://www.gopetition.com/online/28021.html.
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