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One Year of Martial Law in Mindanao: In the Face of Duterte’s violent attacks, the People’s Resistance Grows Stronger

Image credit: Maybelle Guerrero

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Year of Martial Law in Mindanao: In the Face of Duterte’s violent attacks, the People’s Resistance Grows Stronger

May 23rd, 2018 marks one year that martial law in Mindanao was declared by Duterte under the guise of fighting terrorism, in line with his U.S. master’s “War on Terror.” Despite Duterte claiming victory in Marawi City against the Maute group  in October 2017, the regime has kept martial law in full effect, to continue violent political repression across the whole island. The impacts on the Filipino people have now been amplified with the start of the U.S.-Philippines Balikatan exercises this month, for which Duterte has welcomed more than 8,000 U.S. and Philippine troops to conduct war exercises and training side by side. BAYAN-USA calls for the immediate lifting of martial law in Mindanao and an end to U.S. imperialism in the Philippines!   

Mindanao is one of the largest and most strategically situated and resource-rich islands of the 7,000 islands of the Philippines. It is home to the largest concentration of Bangsamoro people asserting their right to self-determination in the country, as well as a stronghold of the Provisional Revolutionary Government represented by the National Democratic Front (NDF), which is waging a revolution for national democracy. Well aware of this, Duterte has continued martial law in an attempt to impose his power against his strongest opposition. Far from succeeding in crushing the opposition, Duterte’s tyrannical rule has instead driven nearly half a million people from their homes in Marawi and indigenous communities throughout Mindanao, subjected children and families to the occupation of their schools and residences, imprisoned hundreds of activists on trumped up charges, and killed dozens of peasants, farmers and Lumad organizers.

Duterte’s maneuvers towards dictatorship are becoming more and more evident, with the recent forced removal of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno–a critic of Duterte’s Drug War–now consolidating his control over all three branches of government. This comes on the heels of the U.S.-Duterte regime’s declaration of a ludicrous “terror list” of 600 people including priests and other faith leaders, a U.N. special rapporteur, and former lawmakers. Duterte’s troll army, attacks on independent media outlets like Rappler, and media blackout continue to be used to control public opinion and propagate a false sense of his popularity. Time magazine recognized Duterte as one of the “strongmen” profiled in their front page story “Rise of the Strongman,” alongside Vladimir Putin and Viktor Oban. Duterte’s self interest in gaining more power and extending his presidency has been his number one objective since he came into power, at the expense of the Filipino people he is supposed to serve.

In the face of Duterte’s vicious attacks, the people’s resistance only grows stronger.

BAYAN-USA calls on all member organizations, allies, and advocates to take a stand against Duterte’s dirty wars against the people. Stand up to defend human rights and democracy, and demand an immediate lift of martial law in Mindanao! Take action in the streets! Hold community forums! Join the phone barrage by MALAYA: U.S. Movement Against Killings and Dictatorship, and for Democracy in the Philippines!

 

Lift Martial Law in Mindanao NOW!

Stop the Killings in the Philippines!

Resist the Crackdown on Activists!

 

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Jerome Aba Tells His Truth, While Uncovering CBP Lies

For Immediate Release

Contact:  Jessica Antonio, Secretary General, BAYAN-USA, secgen@bayanusa.org

May 7, 2018

BAYAN-USA joins Jerome Aba’s demand for an investigation into his detainment and torture at the hands of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Agents last April 17-19 at the San Francisco International Airport. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its agents in the CBP must be held accountable for what they did to Jerome. Moreover, Jerome’s experience raises serious questions about the treatment of all detainees while in CBP custody and fits the despicable trend of the use of migration policies and border enforcement tactics to repress activism and terrorize the masses. We must continue to expose what happened to Jerome on U.S. soil and reveal the inconsistent and false comments and statements made by the DHS and CBP.

Aba was detained for 28 hours, held incommunicado and treated as an “enemy combatant” by CBP officers who repeatedly questioned him about his political activity and human rights advocacy all while denying Aba access to a lawyer. These are facts that even the CBP eventually has admitted. However, at the time Jerome was detained, the CBP commented to media that his detainment and removal back to the Philippines was due to an “unspecified problem with his visa — which is relatively common — and said that foreign nationals do not typically have access to an attorney until after they’ve been allowed entry.” They also stated that “U.S. Customs and Border Protection does not consider country of origin or human rights activism to be determining factors for admissibility.”

After Aba held a press conference in the Philippines and gave his own account of the psychological and physical torture that happened to him behind closed doors, the CBP continued to repeat its canned line about treating all travelers with “dignity and respect” and deny any allegations of torture or religious discrimination. It was only after the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution to investigate the treatment of Jerome and condemning the inhumane treatment of detainees at SFO, that the CBP changed its public story and cited “Aba’s connection to individuals within terrorist networks” as its reason for detaining and denying entry to Aba.  

BAYAN-USA condemns the CBP’s cover-up and its malicious accusations about Aba.  Not only does this behavior match the agency’s history of abusing people in its custody and attempting to cover it up, but it also demonstrates the collusion between the US and Duterte regime in criminalizing human rights defenders.

There is absolutely no doubt that Jerome Succor Aba was targeted because he is a Moro-Muslim activist from Mindanao, Philippines. Had Aba been allowed to take part in the nationwide Stop the Killings Speaking Tour in the U.S., his public testimony would have exposed the human rights violations of the U.S. and Philippine governments working hand-in-hand in the Philippines, especially under the current political state of martial law in Mindanao.  Obviously, the CBP is trying to cover up what happened to Jerome in an attempt to silence Jerome and the movement for genuine, lasting peace and justice in the Philippines.

BAYAN-USA denounces this dangerous increase in fascist tactics used by both Presidents Trump and Duterte to suppress opposition.  BAYAN-USA calls on all communities fighting for human rights to stand with Jerome Aba’s fight for justice.  We must rise together to demand accountability from the DHS and CBP through an independent investigation into Jerome’s treatment as well as the treatment of all detainees in the custody of the DHS and their agents.  We must defend our right to organize against these fascist Presidents by building a broad anti-imperialist movement that will shake the foundations of imperialism and take back the rights that belong to the people.

JUSTICE FOR JEROME ABA!

FIGHT FOR NATIONAL LIBERATION!

SMASH FASCISM AND EXPLOITATION!

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Justice For Jerome Aba! Stop the Repression & Silencing of Activists!

Justice For Jerome Aba!

Stop the Repression & Silencing of Activists!

[photo by Megan Zapanta, Action @SFO]

The torture and interrogation of Jerome Succor Aba last April 17-19 at the hands of the Customs and Border Protection Agency (CBP) at the San Francisco International Airport is not an isolated case. It is part of a growing pattern of political repression under the US-backed Duterte regime to silence government critics and activists who are speaking the truth of the escalating fascism of the Duterte government in the Philippines.

US-Philippine Collusion

The CBP’s line of questioning of Aba and subsequent denial of any mistreatment not only speaks to US government cover up of the incident– akin to the US government’s denial of its torture practices in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib and routine abuse of migrants at border crossings– but concerted collusion with the Philippine government in its repression of activists who, like Aba, expose the role of the US support to Duterte’s increasingly fascist rule.

Despite having a valid US visa and official invitations by church institutions and community organizations to speak at multiple events in the US, Aba was treated as an enemy combatant and subjected to rendition-style interrogation, including being forced to strip naked in front of an industrial fan blowing cold air. He was repeatedly asked if he was a “terrorist” or “communist,” of his affiliations with renowned mass leaders in the Philippines, and his opinion of US and Philippine political relations by CBP officials, who held him for 28 hours without access to a lawyer.

US Role in Mindanao Human Rights Crisis

Aba came to the US upon the invitation of several church organizations to share the situation in Mindanao under Duterte’s martial law. Aba is a Moro youth leader with Suara Bangsamoro, an organization uniting the Moro people for genuine peace based on justice in Mindanao, and to struggle against foreign incursion as the Moro territories are rich in mineral wealth and natural gas, namely with the Liguasan Marsh situated there. Aba’s human rights work includes exposing covert US military involvement in the Mamasapano massacre in 2015 and how the forced evacuation and government neglect of over 500,000 residents of the Islamic City of Marawi from airstrikes against alleged ISIS militants is paving the way for US and other foreign corporate investors to turn Marawi into a tourist destination and military reservation with the cooperation of the Duterte government.

In addition to pledging more aid to Duterte’s drug war and to the Philippine military, the Trump administration seeks to continue and consolidate the US military stronghold over the Philippines with Operation Pacific Eagle-Philippines, a counter-insurgency operation that allows for an unlimited budget to be set aside for the purpose of armed U.S. operations in the Southeast Asian region.

While the operation purportedly targets terrorist organizations such as ISIS and armed rebel groups such as the New People’s Army, in fact the operations go after leftist organizations and cause-oriented groups such as Suara Bangsamoro and BAYAN. The result has been the brazen extra-judicial killings of over 130 human rights defenders, including the April 29 slaying of Catholic priest Father Mark Ventura in Cagayan, who was a well-known advocate for indigenous people and against destructive mining operations.

We Stand with Jerome

BAYAN-USA joins the Filipino and American people in standing with Jerome and all human rights defenders who are up against the fascism of the US-Duterte regime. We support Jerome’s demand for an independent and impartial investigation of the CBP.

We call on the people to be vigilant and not allow the US government to cover up what it inflicted on Jerome at SFO. We hold the Trump and Duterte governments accountable for the illegal detention, torture, interrogation, and forced removal of Jerome Succor Aba from the US.

We are inspired that Jerome is far from silenced by this ordeal. As he fights for justice and accountability for what happened to him, he is even more emboldened to speak louder and fight harder for the oppressed, marginalized and forgotten in Mindanao. He continues to call for an end to martial law in Mindanao, for the return of the Marawi evacuees to their city, and for an end to US intervention in the Philippines.

We take his lead and fight alongside him.

JUSTICE FOR JEROME!

STOP THE REPRESSION OF ACTIVISTS!

STOP US AID TO THE PHILIPPINES!

END MARTIAL LAW IN MINDANAO!

US OUT OF THE PHILIPPINES!

Filipino Americans and Allies Across the US Denounce Department of Homeland Security’s Detention, Torture and Forced Removal of Peace Activist Jerome Aba

BAYAN-USA Demands Accountability for Guantanamo-Style Repression at San Francisco Airport

The U.S. government’s treatment of Mindanao-based peace activist Jerome Succor Aba is utterly reprehensible. Aba was subjected to physical and psychological torture while detained incommunicado for 28 hours inside the San Francisco Airport by U.S. Customs and Border Protection of the Department of Homeland Security (CBP-DHS) from April 18-19, 2018.

There is no justifiable reason for immediately handcuffing Aba upon his arrival at SFO while he was waiting in line at customs. Aba was treated like an “enemy combatant” by the CBP, barking at him that he had no rights, denying him access to a lawyer, shoving him from room to room for interrogation by multiple CBP agents armed with rifles, forcing him to strip naked and sit in a stainless steel room facing an industrial-sized electric fan blowing cold air, depriving him of sleep and adequate water and food, repeatedly threatening to shoot him, and accusing him of being a “terrorist.”

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is trying to cover up what they did to Jerome on US soil. We can’t let them get away with it. Why else would the CBP try to cover up its actions by claiming its denial of entry and removal of Aba was based on technical grounds of inadmissibility? Why else would the CBP force Aba to sign a blank piece of paper and record a video statement saying that he was not tortured?” Stated Bernadette Ellorin, chairperson of BAYAN USA.

BAYAN-USA denounces the CBP-DHS’s treatment of Aba and demands the U.S. government’s accountability for its Guantanamo-style repression of detainees.  These actions fit a pattern of repression aimed at criminalizing and silencing activists by utilizing immigration policies and so-called anti-terror laws—and dismissing the legal boundaries of these laws whenever convenient. We also denounce the CBP’s subsequent cover-up and demand a thorough investigation into the agency’s treatment of Aba. Until then, the CBP’s detention and interrogation operations at SFO should be shut down so that no other detainee will be subjected to such inhumane treatment.

In addition, BAYAN-USA denounces the Philippine Consulate in San Francisco’s response to Aba’s ordeal as feeble and grossly inadequate.  

“The consulate has a responsibility to look after the well-being of its nationals, but they simply accepted the CBP’s claims that Aba was being treated well and did nothing to investigate whether these claims were true. It was only after calls from all over the country and an in-person visit by community members did the Consulate lift a finger to contact CBP to inquire into the situation of Aba.” added Ellorin.

When Aba was detained at the airport, Filipinos, human rights advocates, and church and community organizations conducted an action at SFO for 16 hours, demanding that Aba be released and allowed to enter the U.S. to participate in Ecumenical Advocacy Days and the Stop the Killings Speaking Tour and People’s Caravan for Peace and Justice in the Philippines. When Aba was sent back to the Philippines, many more people across the country protested the U.S. government’s unjustified detention and removal of Aba in New York City, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Portland.

Now that Aba has bravely spoken up about the torture he endured and the denial of his rights at the hands of the CBP-DHS, we can only expect thousands of more people to be inspired to join the movement for Justice for Jerome, justice for all victims of human rights violations, and an end to fascist repression.

Chicago, IL

Los Angeles, CA

New York, NY

 

 

 

Portland, OR

For full video of the press conference held in the Philippines April 21st, 2018, click HERE. For ICHRP US Press statement with quotes from Jerome Aba visit ICHRP US

For Karapatan’s full statement click HERE.