Category: BAYAN USA

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.

Stand Up for Human Rights Activists in the Philippines: Stop Duterte from Silencing Critics!

BAYAN USA Logo - Large Red.png

For Immediate Release

March 13, 2018

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

BAYAN-USA condemns the US-Duterte regime for its latest act of repression on activists and criminalization of activism in the Philippines. The Duterte administration recently filed a list of almost 600 individuals in a Justice Department petition to proscribe the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) as terrorist organizations, baselessly tagging the individuals therein as “terrorists.” In fact, many of those listed are simply courageous people who have consistently voiced their criticism of the Philippine government’s broken promises, bloody drug war, bombing of indigenous schools, anti-women remarks, and abuse of power.  

The list includes respected human rights defenders who have called on Duterte to end corruption and corporate landgrabbing of the ancestral lands of indigenous people and the end of militarization of communities, and opposed Duterte for his triple wars against the Filipino people, including the Oplan Tokhang “Drug War,” Oplan Kapayapaan counter-insurgency, and martial law in Mindanao.  Notable people on the list include:

  • Victoria Tauli Corpuz, current United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, former Chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples and former Secretary General of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA);

  • Elisa Tita Lubi, current Karapatan National Executive Committee member, former interim Regional Coordinator of the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) and founding Vice Chairperson of Gabriela Women’s Party;

  • Beverly Longid, current global coordinator of the International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL), former CPA Chair and current Advisory Council member;

  • Joan Carling, current Member and Co-Convenor of the Indigenous Peoples Major Group for the Sustainable Development Goals, former Secretary General of the Asian Indigenous Peoples’ Pact (AIPP), and former member of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues;

  • Atty. Jose Molintas, former Asia representative to the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP), former CPA Chair and current Advisory Council member;

  • Joanna Cariño, member of the CPA Advisory Council and Co-Chair of the SANDUGO Movement of Moro and Indigenous Peoples for Self Determination;

  • Windel Bolinget, current Chairperson of the CPA and National Co-convenor of KATRIBU National Alliance of Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines;

  • Jeanette Ribaya-Cawiding, former Chairperson of CPA-Tongtongan ti Umili and current Regional Coordinator of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers – Cordillera;

  • Sherwin de Vera, Regional Coordinator of DEFEND Ilocos, member of the Save The Abra River Movement (STARM) and former Secretary General of the Ilocos Human Rights Alliance-Karapatan;

  • Datu Isidro Indao, Matigsalog-Manobo village chief, council member of the PASAKA Lumad Confederation in Southern Mindanao and an active member of the Parent-Teacher Community Association of the Lumad school run by the Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation, Inc.;

  • Datu Mandayhon Han-ayan, Talaandig village chief in Malaybalay, Bukid and member of the PIGYAYONGAAN Lumad organization;

  • Datu Mandayhon, a Talaandig village chief and member of the PIGYAYONGAAN Lumad organization;

  • Sergio Lumonday, a Manobo and the Tinananon Kulamanon Lumadnong Panaghiusa secretary general;

  • Zara Alvarez, Research and Advocacy Officer of the Negros Island Health Integrated Program (NIHIP) and former Campaign and Education Director of Karapatan-Negros chapter;

  • Romulo Bito-on, Regional Coordinator of Makabayan-Negros and member of the Samahan ng Ex-detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA);

  • Rogina Navarro Quilop, Administrative Officer of the Center for People’s Resources and Services (CPRS)-Negros;

  • Isidro Castillo, former Chairperson of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW); and

  • Arnold Evangelista and Erlindo Baes, officers of the Batangas Human Rights Alliance-Karapatan

According to human rights watchdog KARAPATAN, the Duterte regime has a growing track record of human rights violations including 256 illegal arrests,  113 extra-judicial killings, and 486 political prisoners. Two months ago, the regime arrested 69 year old, Rafael Baylosis, a long-time labor leader and consultant with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).  In December, two young farmers Janry Mensis (age 22) and “Jerry” (age 17), were abducted, illegally detained, and burned alive by elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines AFP).

“This seemingly arbitrary list is really a targeted hit list known as an Order of Battle (OB) list. It will be utilized to file trumped up charges against activists and justify other fascist tactics including surveillance, harassment, disappearances, and extrajudicial killings. This list will further embolden the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines to carry out Duterte’s dirty work and violence against the people,” stated BAYAN-USA Secretary General Jessica Antonio.

BAYAN-USA calls on all member organizations, allies, and advocates to stand with human rights activists in the Philippines in calling for the end of the cynically named Oplan Kapayapaan (Operation Peace Plan) and to stop the killings, harassment, and criminalization of activists.

Stop the Killings in the Philippines!

Resist the Crackdown on Activists!

Activism is Not a Crime!

End State Fascism!

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BAYAN-USA is an alliance of 20 progressive Filipino organizations in the U.S. representing youth, students, women, workers, artists, and human rights advocates. As the oldest and largest overseas 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 center for educating, organizing, and mobilizing anti-imperialist Filipinos in the U.S. For more information, visit www.bayanusa.org