Category: BAYAN USA

Filipino-Americans join solidarity pact with African-American trade unionists in support of immigrant rights; call for May 1st rally in Union Square

New York– In a press conference held on the steps of New York City Hall yesterday, the militant Filipino-American alliance known as BAYAN USA joined over 30 African-American trade unionists, New York City Councilman Charles Barron, and immigrant leaders in expressing firm worker solidarity with the massive tide of immigrants rights demonstrations demanding comprehensive immigration reforms from the US Congress.

“We workers, particularly black workers and trade unionists fighting a racist and exploitative system against all working people in the US, are in full solidarity with our immigrant sisters and brothers who are actively steering what is evidently a new civil rights movement,” stated Larry Holmes of the International Action Center.

“We fully understand and embrace that the struggle of our immigrant sisters and brothers is not separate from the struggle of all working people, and we will not let ourselves be divided, by those in power who will opportunistically use the power of the immigrant rights movement to pit black worker against brown worker. Immigrant rights are worker rights.” Holmes continued.

NY City Councilman and black nationalist activist Charles Barron also acknowledged that the American working people understand that it is the onerous economic policies of the US government with other countries such as the Philippines that causes forced migration of peoples in the first place.

Speaking from the Filipino community, BAYAN USA representative Berna Ellorin affirmed Barron’s statement by pointing out that the Arroyo government’s subservience to US economic dictates over the Filipino people’s interests sets the condition that pushes at least 3000 Filipinos abroad to find work abroad because of rampant joblessness and non-industrialization in the Philippines.

“For most immigrants it was never a matter of choice to migrate. It is a matter of survival. Now that we are here, and sustaining the Philippine economy with our remittances, our struggle as immigrants to reform the racist and anti-migrant US immigration system cannot be separated from the struggle of all working people of color. As immigrants, we are also fighting for what Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X were fighting for– basic civil rights,” Ellorin stated.

Among the demands supported by speakers were legalization, not criminalization of undocumented workers, swift family reunification for immigrant families, full workers rights and protection for immigrants, and no to enforcement-type immigration legislation.

The Congressional debate on immigration reform is currently ongoing amidst pressure from immigrant groups in massive outpouring on the streets. A nationally-coordinated immigrant rights rally last April 10th gathered over 250,000 alone in Manhattan and millions more in other US cities. Immigrant groups have signified the demonstrations will only escalate.

Other speakers included black labor unionists Brenda Stokely and Chris Silvera of the Million Worker March.

BAYAN USA and the Million Worker March also openly supported the call for an immigrant and worker rights demonstration on Monday, May 1st, 4pm at Union Square Park, as an extension of the storm of protests that has erupted across US cities.

“In countries around the world, May 1 is traditionally a day of action as international workers day. This May 1st, immigrants and workers will affirm this tradition in New York City,” Ellorin ended.

As a member of the NY May 1 Coalition Steering Committee, BAYAN USA and other Filipino organizations are organizing a Filipino contingent. For more information, send an email to the New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines at nychrp @ yahoo.com ###

Images of the press conference available at www.maniwalaya.org/images/bayanusa/index.htm

References:
Kawal Ulanday, Chair, BAYAN USA, email: chair @ bayanusa.org;
Berna Ellorin, Media Officer, BAYAN USA, email: mc @ bayanusa.org

A Gloria-free Philippines is a better Philippines to come home to, say US Filipinos outraged over DFA remarks

References:
Kawal Ulanday, Chair, BAYAN USA, email: chair @ bayanusa.org
Berna Ellorin, Media Officer, BAYAN USA, email: mc @ bayanusa.org

Now that Department of Foreign Affairs has broken its silence on the immigration debate in the US Congress with a simple “Come home na” to Filipino illegals in the US, Filipinos are responding with a pointed message– “We’d rather go home to an Arroyo-free Philippines.”

According to DFA Spokesperson GIlberto Asuque, Filipinos in the US staying in violation of US immigration laws should come home. “All we can do is advise them to follow US immigration laws, the same way that we want foreigners to follow our own laws,” Asuque stated recently.

“This is a major slap in the face for Filipinos in the US, considering this is a government that cannot even arrest and prosecute foreigners who rape Filipino women,” stated Berna Ellorin of the Filipino-American alliance BAYAN USA.

In response to Asuque’s advise, BAYAN USA asserted it is the Philippine government, in subservience to the US government, that places Filipinos in the US under such dangerous predicaments as TNT’s (Tago-Ng-Tago).

“The mere fact that Filipinos, even in the face of such repressive laws, still opt to risk their lives in the US to work rather than return to their homeland proves how rotten, intolerable, and unsurvivable the conditions are in the Philippines.Over 80% of Filipinos live below poverty levels alone. No Filipino chooses such a life of hiding in the US. They are forced into it by economic circumstances. We challenge Asuque to back up his piece of advise with the concrete promise of jobs and an economic future for our families if we go back home from the US,” Ellorin continued.

BAYAN USA asserted that these words verify what many have felt all along, that the Arroyo administration is turning it back on the struggle of Filipinos in the US who are fighting for basic human, civil, and economic rights amidst the flurry of repressive immigration legislation, such as the controversial Sensenbrenner Bill, that the US Congress is deliberating on.

Moreover, the Arroyo administration should at least educate themselves properly on bills such as Sensenbrenner since the provisions seek not only to criminalize undocumented persons, but ALL Filipinos in the US, greencard-holders and citizens included, as long as they “assist” undocumenteds in any form.

“Gloria Arroyo has done her part generating the one of the highest unemployment rates in our economic history, securing a record-breaking fiscal crisis, and now boasts of sending off one million more Filipinos abroad as ‘modern-day heroes’ to rake in billions of dollars worth of remittances to save the Philippine economy. Asuque’s remarks prove not only useless to the plight of overseas Filipinos, but reveals the government’s criminally negligence that enables the intensification of abuse and exploitation of Filipinos abroad to continue,” Ellorin continued.

“If Filipinos stand to be jailed and deported as felons because of these laws, then let us just register now that we want to see a Philippines is free from Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo when that day comes,” Ellorin stated.

BAYAN USA pointed out that Filipinos in the US generated 60% of the total $10.7 billion in remittances to the Philippines in 2005 alone. In fact, without the critical intake of remittances from Filipinos in the US, the Philippine economy would not survive. It is estimated that 1 Filipino in the US provides for at least 3-4 family members in the Philippines.

BAYAN USA and allied organizations in the US are projected to intensify their national campaign against the Sensenbrenner Bill and generate critical Filipino community work for just and humane immigration reforms. Of the 4 million Filipinos in the US, over 1 million are undocumented, one of the largest undocumented populations in the country.

The alliance also promised that as it intensified its campaign for comprehensive immigration reforms in the US, it would continue to heighten its call to oust the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo regime.

Filipinos across the US participate in peoples actions denouncing anti-immigrant legislations, slam Malacanang’s silence on issue; keep the pressure on as US Congressional debate continues

“For Filipinos in the US right now, the struggle for immigrant rights is being waged against the proliferation of anti-immigrant legislature in US Congress in the form of repressive bills such as the Sensenbrenner Bill, and at the same time the culpability of the anti-migrant Arroyo administration that has done absolutely nothing to assert protection for Filipinos in the US if these bills become law,” stated Chito Quijano, labor union organizer and vice-chair of BAYAN USA, a! s he marched along with other Filipinos in the over one million-strong “Grand Marcha” in Los Angeles last Saturday for immigrant rights.

The recent Los Angeles demonstration, recorded as the largest in the history of California, was one of several continuing to spark rapidly across the US as various immigrant rights groups are taking urgent measures to mobilize in droves while the Senate debate over the controversial Sensenbrenner Bill and other proposed immigration bills peaks early April with a vote.

Filipinos in several cities, under BAYAN USA and allied organizations, took action as early as late December, when the Sensenbrenner bill passed in the House of Representatives. BAYAN USA member organizations from New York to San Francisco have been active in creating critical Filipino community opposition to the said bill and demanding more comprehensive immigration reforms absent from the majority of Congressional bills such as a concrete path to legalization, workers rights, and swift family re-unification for those painfully separated because of visa backlogs.

They also highlighted how Filipinos remain an open target for such blanket repression in host countries abroad because the Philippine government has no real program of protection for overseas Filipinos. In fact, as the debate in Washington DC ensues, at least 11 labor-sending countries in Latin America have already sent representatives to Washington to lobby for immigration reforms. To the misfortune of the 4 million Filipinos in the US, factoring the undocumented population, the Arroyo government has remained silent on the issue.

The Philippines is currently the third highest labor-sending country with the largest percentage of its nationals, over 10%, living abroad. This 10% generates the $10.7 billion in annual dollar remittances that sustain the Philippine economy that would otherwise crumble.

The largest popul! ation of overseas Filipinos can be found in the US, as an average of 60,000 migrate from the Philippines each year. Earlier in 2006, the US House of Representatives passed a resolution commemorating 100 years of sustained Filipino migration to the US.

“It’s sustained because the economic crisis in the Philippines remains unresolved,” stated BAYAN USA chair Kawal Ulanday, who participated in hunger strike called by the Bay Area Immigrant Rights Coalition in protest to Sensenbrenner. Ulanday made no qualms about accounting the Arroyo factor into the plight of Filipinos in the US today.

“Just as the inutility of the Arroyo administration plays a key role in creating national conditions so economically and politically unlivable that 3000 Filipinos leave the Philippines as a means of basic economic survival, it is also the culprit as to why overseas Filipinos as partly so vulnerable to such grave human rights violations from repressive laws abroad– l! ack of initiative from the Philippine government to protect OFW’s,” Ulanday explained.

BAYAN USA vowed to nationally-coordinate Filipino opposition and action in the US as part of the broader struggle for immigration reform in the coming months. It also vowed to intensify its call for the “the US-subservient Arroyo regime” to step down.

A discussion guide on the Sensenbrenner Bill is available on www.bayanusa.org.

References: Kawal Ulanday, Chair, BAYAN USA, email: chair @ bayanusa.org;
Berna Ellorin, Media Officer, BAYAN USA, email: mc @ bayanusa.org

Arroyo answers complaints filed against her human rights record by stepping up killings, gives Palparan medal of honor; Fil-Ams, allies, human rights defenders outraged

NEW YORK– Less than one week after 3 prominent human rights defenders from the Philippines traveled over 30,000 miles to the United Nations headquarters in New York to file formal complaints of record-breaking human rights violations committed under the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo regime to the UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC), blood continues to spill over the Philippine headlines more than ever before.

This time with the back-to-back killings and attacks of Anti-Arroyo student activist Cris Hugo of the League of Filipino Students in Legaspi City, peasant leader Amante Abelon of the partylist Anakpawis, his wife and their 5-year old son in Central Luzon in less than 24 hours starting Monday. Abelon and his family were victims of strafing when unidentified armed assailants ambushed their home.

While mother and child died immediately, Abelon remains in critical condition at James L. Gordon Memorial Hospital in Olongapo City.

The attacks happened around the same time the Distinguished Service Star was being awarded to Major General Jovito Palparan, who many have come to know simply as “the Butcher” of Mindoro, Eastern Visayas and now Central Luzon, in Fort Bonifacio.

“This is definitive proof that no so-called domestic remedy can be reliably exhausted by the victims of human rights violations and the Filipino people to stop the rampant human rights violations the Arroyo administration is committing at such high frequency other than to oust her from power. Nothing can be more accurate than to deem these killings as good as committed with Gloria’s own hands” states human rights attorney Edre Olalia of the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) in the Philippines.

Olalia was among the three, along with Marie Hilao-Enriquez of the National Human Rights Alliance known as Karapatan in the Philippines, and Father Rex Reyes of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), who stormed into the UN headquarters last week to file the complaints against Arroyo.

Days after, on Saturday morning March 18th, Filipinos and Anti-Arroyo allies in New York gathered in front of the Philippine consulate along Fifth Avenue to register condemnation and demand an answer from the Arroyo administration to the boxes and boxes of complaints issued by over 4500 human rights victims and their families since Arroyo’s ascendance to power back in 2001.

The most outstanding cases called to attention were the extra-judicial killings of Karapatan Southern Tagalog secretary-general Eden Marcellana and peasant leader Eddie Gumanoy, who were tortured and killed by the Philippine military while conducting a fact-finding mission on human rights violations in Mindoro back in 2003. Both deaths were eventually exposed by credible witnesses as having been ordered directly by then-Colonel Palaparan himself.

“We are deeply saddened and outraged that these recent deaths occurred within our ranks in BAYAN with such lightning vengeance from the Arroyo regime only days after official complaints were filed to the UN and Filipinos in New York held an assembly demanding Arroyo be accountable to these complaints. This is Arroyo’s messaging to the Filipino people–our human lives mean nothing, and those who take them, such as Palparan, are awarded rather than brought to justice,” states Dr. Robyn Rodriguez of the NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP).

While in New York, the three visitors left no stone unturned when maximizing their time to publicly expose the human rights situation in the Philippines to the American public.

NYCHRP, a member organization of the Filipino alliance BAYAN, held a vigil outside the UN building gates as Enriquez, Olalia, and Reyes made their cases in front of the UNHRC. NYCHRP also sponsored community forums for the guests who spoke extensively about the resurrected martial law under Arroyo at the International Action Center, Community Service Society, and the Center for Constitutional Rights in Manhattan.

Two important meetings were held between Olalia, Enriquez, and the human rights attorney for the Cuban 5, Leonard Weinglass, who signed a petition calling for an end to human rights violations and publicly condemned the Arroyo regime.

Another was a meeting between Olalia and Sophie Richardson of the Asia Pacific Advocacy Department of Human Rights Watch.

Richardson expressed particular alarm over the political detainment of Anakpawis Party representative Crispin Beltran and the civil rights violations against the Batasan 5, all progressive anti-Arroyo legislators being held inside the Batasan Congressional Complex as Philippine military await to arrest them just outside without warrant and no prospects of due process.

Richardson, who has spent time in the Philippines back in 2004, recalled witnessing the Arroyo-commanded military shoot at innocent, unarmed civilians while in a restaurant in the Abra region.

At the Philippine consulate, allies from various organizations including Nodutdol for Korean Community Development, CAAAV:Organizing Asian Communities, and other non-Filipinos expressed their solidarity with the Filipino people at a time of martial law, and supported the call to oust the number one violator of human rights from Malacanang.

References: Berna Ellorin, NY Representative, BAYAN USA, email: ny @ bayanusa.org;
Robyn Rodriguez, NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, email: nychrp @ yahoo.com