Category: BAYAN USA

BAYAN USA condemns illegal arrest of US activist Dave Pugh in India

Contact: Berna Ellorin
Secretary-General, BAYAN USA

The US Chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, or BAYAN USA, an alliance of 12 Filipino organizations in the United States, vehemently condemns the political harrassment, illegal arrest, and torture of US activist and our good ally David Pugh. Pugh, along with two local anti-displacement activists in Orissa, Ms. Promita Das and Mr. Pradeep, were arrested and detained by Orissa police while traveling to Bhubaneswar last week. They were taken to Badchan Police station near Chandikol. Pugh was detained for five hours, where he was also mentally tortured. He was eventually released and asked to come in for another interrogation session on August 13th in the afternoon. As of the writing of this statement, Pugh has been released and will be returning to the US soon.

Pugh, an activist with Collision Course Video in the San Francisco/Bay Area, has been a longtime friend to BAYAN USA and the Filipino people’s cause for national liberation and democracy for many years. Completely in his character, Pugh was in India this month attending a People’s Tribunal on Displacement, SEZ, and Corporate Violence in Orissa organized by Bhubaneswar by Visthapan Virodhi Jan Vikas Andolan, an anti-displacement front of movements from various parts of India including that of Orissa.

In lieu of Pugh’s release, we call for the immediate release of Das and Pradeep. We also condemn the illegal nature of the arrest and interrogation as there was no legal process involved or recognition of basic rights. Pugh, Das, and Pradeep were engaged in mission to understand the conditions in Kaliganagar and Sukinda to see the effects of industrialization on the local people and the local people’s movement against industrialization and mining, issues and concerns the majority of the impoverished in the Philippines share. Their concerns and actions are just, principled, and admirable. To be met with such political repression is a manifestation of neoliberalism’s intended state violence against the poor peoples of the world as well as principled resistance.


Filipino-American stand with the people’s SONA in rejecting Gloria’s lies and deception: BAYAN USA calls on U.S. taxpayers to demand the end to U.S. military and political aid to Arroyo’s regime

Contact: Berna Ellorin
Secretary-General, BAYAN USA

BAYAN USA Statement on Arroyo’s State of the Nation Address ’08

Today, in several cities across the US, Filipinos and solidarity allies will be convening in front of Philippine consulates and community centers to register their opposition to the rotten, corrupt, and morally bankrupt regime of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. We do so on the same day Arroyo delivers her  deceptive version of the so-called State of the Nation Address or SONA and the same day hundreds of thousands across the Philippines are taking to the streets to reject another year of lies, deception, and treason from a government that continues to fail them, and us. They will also be telling the true state of the nation through vibrant protest and struggle.

Today, the Arroyo government will boast of so-called economic growth and progress for the Filipino people, but the streets and countryside will tell a different story. The streets of Manila and other cities in the Philippines will tell the story of long lines to buy the basic staple food of rice from the National Food Authority, it will tell the story of long power outages and brownouts due to skyrocketing energy rates, it will tell the story of squatter children picking garbage to find food, and of families from the countryside moving into the cities because they can no longer afford to pay rent to their landlord, for whom they till the soil.  It will also tell the story of long lines at the Overseas Worker Welfare Administration (OWWA) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) for visa processing for those looking to find work abroad. Behind government corridors backhanded deals will be made, and corrupt politicians will count the money they have plundered from public funds. The countryside will tell stories of civil war, US and Philippine militarization, human rights violations, hunger and forced displacement. These sights, not the speech of President Arroyo, paint the true state of the Philippine nation.

For the over 4 million Filipinos in the United States, the largest Filipino population outside of the Philippines, much as not improved under the Arroyo administration. For the most part, migration to the US has increased considerably since neo-liberal policies imposed on the Philippine economy by Arroyo have eradicated the potential for industrialization and employment in the Philippines. Because of the need to survive deepening poverty in the Philippines, Filipinos in the US have no choice but to make ends meet for them and their families in the US by any means necessary, including living under the shadows as undocumented immigrants without any rights if need be. We are also subject to raids and deportations at the hands of the US Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), human rights violations that occur without any intervention from Philippine consular officers representing the Arroyo government in the US.

Filipino World War II Veterans, who have been fighting for their equity for over six decades now, have little to thank the Arroyo administration for, as the regime used the issue only as a token ruse to cover up its intention to beg for more US military aid as the main reason for it’s recent trip to the United States. The Arroyo government has never advocated or intervened on behalf of the interests of the Filipino veterans, who continue to suffer from a historical wrongdoing of the US government, nor has the Arroyo government advocated or intervened on behalf of the interests of Filipino immigrants suffering from a broken and exploitative US immigration system.

The Arroyo clique, however, has wasted no time in collecting the billions of US dollar remittances from Filipino workers in the US to sustain the failing economy and contribute in giving a “semblance” of economic growth that Arroyo shamelessly takes the individual credit for.  Now she is even taxing us for each dollar we remit! This is to produce another plunderable fund for election season and bribery fund to win loyalty from politicians.

Philippine consular officers in the US not only plunder public funds meant to go to programs for overseas Filipino workers via the OWWA, but they assist the forced migration of Filipinos to the US by implementing corrupt schemes of human trafficking under the radar. Such has been the case with the Sentosa 27 healthcare workers, teachers, and domestic helpers such as Marichu Baoanan.

The answer for Filipinos in the US is clear: the struggle to remove Arroyo, as the President of the Philippines by impeachment, resignation, or ouster is a just and necessary struggle, but we must hold no illusion that it is the only means to end the Filipino people’s suffering. It is only the first step to pressuring for a new type of Philippine government– one that is inclusive of the voices of workers, peasants and urban poor, one that is cognizant of the rights and welfare of Filipino migrants and not just interested in collecting our remittances, one that will industrialize the country for the creation of jobs so Filipinos don’t have to look abroad, one that will redistribute Philippine lands to the hands that till them, and one that will kick all foreign troops out of the country and uphold patrimony. This will take a new and improved type of “People Power “. To save the Philippines from suffering the fate of the sunken MV Princess of the Stars, we must start first and foremost with unseating Arroyo from her seat of power.


New York Fil-Ams launch people’s SONA; call to save the “MV Philippines” by unseating Gloria

Contact: Christina Hilo
Northeast Regional Coordinator, BAYAN USA

NEW YORK– New Yorkers will join Filipino organizations on Monday, July 28th, 6pm in front of the Philippine Consulate (5th Ave bet. 45th and 46th Sts.) in Manhattan to launch a “People’s State of the Nation Address” or “People’s SONA” and expose the lies and deception to be sown by Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on the same day in Manila. According to Filipino-American alliance BAYAN USA, Arroyo will use the day as a platform to desensitize the Filipino people to the true economic and political state of the Philippine nation, which has been undergoing a severe and intensifying economic crisis, manifested by rising prices of oil, rice, and other basic commodities.

“SONA is a time not only for lies from Malacanang, but the largest street demonstrations in the Philippines the whole year round. Social unrest over the true state of the nation is at an all-time high,” states Gary Labao, a member of the NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines or NYCHRP, also a member organization of BAYAN USA. “Even though we are overseas, the call to remove Arroyo from her presidential seat is a worldwide sentiment. She is a traitor to the Filipino people and a failure as a state leader.”

Ironically a US-educated economist, the Philippine economy under Arroyo’s presidency has weakened considerably. High government demand for remittances from overseas Filipino workers has pushed more and more Filipinos to work abroad than ever before. With only these remittances keeping the Philippine economy afloat, more and more overseas Filipino workers are disapproving of Arroyo-style governance and calling for a change in leadership.

Overseas Filipino groups in New York will also highlight the reality of human trafficking by various means, including the case of the Sentosa 27++, illegally recruited Filipino teachers, and domestic helpers.

The New York demonstration will be part of a nationwide day of action for BAYAN USA, with same day actions in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle. BAYAN organizations in Canada will also be launching coordinated actions.

The US-based mobilizations will feature visuals such as the the sinking of the MV Princess of the Stars, which tragically sank last month when a major typhoon swept through the Philippines, killing hundreds and devastating thousands more. The US groups will liken the tragedy to the state of the Philippines as a country sinking under the throes of the Arroyo government, while the Arroyo herself ignores the crisis and goes to the US looking for more financial aid, as she did last month during the ship’s sinking.

BAYAN USA member organizations in New York include NYCHRP, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE) and Anakbayan New York/New Jersey.

Fil-Am alliance disappointed over Obama’s lack of “change” for Philippine-US relations: Genuine platform for change comes only from people’s struggle, not candidates

On the heels of Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s US tour this month, the national alliance of Filipinos in the US known as BAYAN USA expressed disappointment over US Presidential Candidate Barack Obama’s statement of high appreciation over the controversial Arroyo visit.

“I welcome the visit this week of Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her delegation to the United States. President Arroyo’s visit is an opportunity to strengthen our historic alliance, and to discuss a host of issues of mutual interest,” stated Obama in a press statement of Arroyo’s visit to Washington DC last week.

Issues of “Mutual Interest”

Among the ‘issues of mutual interest’ Arroyo and President Bush took up were the continuation of the Balikatan joint military exercises, the future of the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), financial assistance from the US-based Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), the global food crisis, and the Veterans Benefits Enhancement Act of 2007. Obama also spoke of “shared values” between the US and Philippine governments.

“While we don’t pin our hopes on one leader to usher in radical change for society, Obama’s remarks of so-called ‘shared values’ paint a deceptive picture of perfect and equal cooperation between the US and the Philippines. He should be reminded that this relationship is a starkly unequal, one-sided, neo-colonial one, born out of war and genocide. Perhaps he should re-study history,” states BAYAN USA Chair Chito Quijano. ,

Last February, several of Obama’s staff members met with and were brought to tears by Edita Burgos, mother of abducted Filipino agriculturalist Jonas Burgos, a known critic of the Arroyo government. Ms. Burgos was in the US appealing to US Congressional representatives on behalf of the hundreds of Filipinos abducted by Arroyo’s military. The Burgos case has been acknowledged and widely-documented by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and by UN Special Rapporteur on Extra-judicial Killings Philip Alston.

People vs. Politicians

“Although the people need better politicians, and we certainly see the significance of the first black male US Presidential candidate in history, change won’t come from one leader or administration. Change will only come from people in struggle, just like Obama’s candidacy was made possible from the mass movement of Black people in the US decades ago,” Quijano added.

Quijano stressed that the real change for Philippine society must start with the initial step of uniting to remove Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from office, by resignation, impeachment, or popular ouster. He also stated that so-called “People Power Fatigue” is a myth being used by the Arroyo clique to prevent massive demonstrations in Manila.

No Such Fatigue

“Ousting Marcos and Estrada did not mark significant change in the Philippine government and for the Filipino people because the same system of elitist, traditional, bureaucratic politics was allowed to pervade,” Quijano added. “When we demand a change in the Philippine Presidential seat this time, we need to continue this massive pressure to hold our leaders accountable to our legitimate demands, and push for adequate government representation from the basic sectors of Philippine society– the urban poor that lack jobs and the agricultural sector that lack land reform– not the same old wealthy families with narrow interests the Arroyo clique represents.”

Arroyo’s national US tour and demand for more financial aid from the US government is widely-believed to be programmed into failing counter-insurgency tactics, wide-scale militarization, extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, and rampant government corruption.

“The key for real change is the mass movement on the ground, not who’s President of the United States,” Quijano declared.

The Fil-Am Vote

Quijano added that Filipino-American voters should also exercise their vested interest in US foreign policy and it’s agenda for the Philippines when selecting a US president. “While we stand with the democratic American public in calling for major social reforms within US borders, at the forefront of which is accessible healthcare, affordable housing, bringing the US troops back home, immigration policy reform, and more federal funds for social services, we have an extra responsibility to care about what’s happening in the Philippines, the second front in this so-called War on Terror. We cannot afford to be apathetic just because we are in the US. The more US government intervention there is on Philippine economic and political affairs, the more poverty will remain widespread in our homeland and more Filipinos will have no choice but to migrate to survive. We need to hold ALL US government officials accountable to this agenda as US taxpayers,” Quijano ended.

Extravagance in a Time of Poverty and Disaster

Bringing each of her 10 Cabinet members and some representatives of the Philippine Congress with her, Arroyo’s US tour is perhaps among the most expensive and lavish yet. This also comes at a time of high economic crisis in the Philippines with the skyrocketing prices of basic commodities such as oil and drastic shortage of food, such as rice.

During her tour, a major typhoon hit several regions in the Philippines, wiping out whole communities. Striking a parallel with the US government’s inaction when Hurricanes Katrina and Rita displaced thousands along the Gulf Coast in 2005, the touring Philippine diplomats decided to remain in the US rather than cut their trip short to attend to the victims.


Contact: Berna Ellorin
Secretary-General, BAYAN USA