Tañada, Filipinos in NYC Challenge the Notion of Philippine "Independence"
Link US Military Aid to Ongoing Human Rights Violations, Roxas Case


New YorkI


June 17, 2009



Berba Ellorin of Bayan - USA Philippine Congressman Lorenzo "Erin" Tanada III

Photos courtesy of New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines


News Release
June 17, 2009
Reference: Peter Arvin Jabido, NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, email: nychrp@gmail.com

To view more pictures from this event, visit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nychrp/?saved=1

Tanada, Filipinos in NYC Challenge the Notion of Philippine "Independence"
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 Independence?"
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 House.

"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 this year.

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 Rockland County.

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 www.nychrp.org

 or email nychrp@gmail.com.

New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines
email: nychrp@gmail.com