June 17, 2009
Reference: Peter Arvin Jabido, NY Committee for Human Rights in the
Philippines, email: email@example.com
To view more pictures from this event, visit:
Tanada, Filipinos in NYC Challenge the Notion of Philippine
Link US Military Aid to Ongoing Human Rights Violations, Roxas Case
New York--- Philippine Congressman Lorenzo "Erin" Tanada III was amongst
the guest speakers last Saturday at "Sa Paglaya: An Evening of Culture
Challenging the Notion of Philippine Independence" at the Brecht Forum in
Lower Manhattan. The event was sponsored by the NY Committee for Human
Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP) as a challenge to the 111th
commemoration of Philippine Independence Day last June 12th. It also
featured strong performances by Filipino-American artists Taospuso, Lolan
Sevilla, Valerie Francisco, Ramon Mappala, and hip-hop artist Koba.
Sa Paglaya, which in English translates to "Towards Liberation", also
comes at a critical moment in Philippine politics with the Obama
administration's support and renewal of the Visiting Forces Agreement
(VFA), a military pact between the US and Philippine governments that
allows for the temporary basing of US troops in over 20 ports throughout
the Philippines. Another critical point is the controversial passage of
House Bill 1109 in the Philippine House of Representatives that approves
the convening of a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) to review and make
amendments to the 1987 Philippine Constitution per the strong Charter
Change (Cha-Cha) campaign of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The said bill was
apparently railroaded by Arroyo cronies, believed to be bribed, while the
opposition was given very little opportunity to air its views before a
vote was taken.
Not Really Independent
Arroyo's version of Cha-Cha targets nationalist elements of the Philippine
Constitution that promote sovereignty, including lifting provisions that
prohibit the establishment of foreign military bases and restrict foreign
ownership of Philippine territory. It also includes a shift from the
traditional presidential system of government to a parliamentary system.
If appointed as Prime Minister of the Philippines, Arroyo manages to
extend her term indefinitely past 2010.
"The relevance of your theme – 'Sa Paglaya: An Evening of Culture
Challenging the Notion of Philippine Independence' seeks deeper
re-examination of Philippine self-government and self-determination,"
Tanada stated as he greeted the audience after a short screening of the
documentary "This Bloody Blundering Business" by Peter Davis. "But are we
really independent? Is there really a reason to celebrate Philippine
Tanada spoke eloquently in his critique of Arroyo's Cha-Cha as a campaign
to de-nationalize the Philippines and open it up to foreign control,
particularly to the interests of the US government. Tanada also has a
track record of opposition to the VFA from inside the Philippine Lower
"No one has to be intelligent to discern how our government bows
uncompromisingly to the U.S of A.," Tanada stated when discussing the
unequal character of the VFA to favor the United States as seen through
the Daniel Smith rape case.
"The damage was done. Our government sacrificed our country’s honour,
dignity and self-respect in order to please the United States," Tanada
remarked over the release and acquittal of convicted rapist Smith earlier
Erin Tanada is the grandson of the late Senator Lorenzo Tanada Sr., a
well-known nationalist inside the Philippine Congress and the son of
former Philippine Senator Wigberto "Bobby" Tanada, also an ardent
nationalist whose 1991 speech calling for the termination of the former
permanent US military bases Subic Naval and Clark Airforce Bases is cited
as one of the greatest speeches in Philippine history.
US-Sponsored Torture & Human Rights Violations Via Military Aid
Later in the evening, NYCHRP members delivered a presentation on the
abduction and torture case of Melissa Roxas, a Filipino-American from Los
Angeles and human rights advocate in the Philippines. In relation, the VFA
was cited as "giving a policy framework for the continued generous sending
of US military aid to the Philippine military. In turn, the Philippine
military uses these funds from the US government to perpetrate rampant
assassinations, kidnappings, and torture against civilians like Melissa,"
one NYCHRP member stated.
In a sworn statement, Roxas-- who is back in the United States-- reported
she was blindfolded for the six days she was in captivity, and subjected
to torture by way of physical beating and asphyxiation.
June is recognized as Torture Awareness month in the United States.
Tanada, who chairs the House Committee on Human Rights, met with Roxas in
Los Angeles to hear from her directly before flying to New York.
A legislative advocacy campaign to cut US military aid to the Philippines
was discussed as well as an appeal to sponsor a Filipino-American
delegation to visit US Representative Nita Lowey of New York, who chairs
the US Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and
Related Programs, the committee that decides in military aid packaging to
the Philippines. Lowey represents New York State's 20th District, which
includes most of Westchester County, as well as part of Yonkers and
Congress will make a final decision on US military aid to the Philippines
by mid-July this year. Amongst the objectives of legislative advocacy
NYCHRP supports is a placing of human rights conditions on the total
amount and/or a bigger cut from the total amount of the pending aid
package to the Philippines.
For more information, visit
New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines