NEW YORK–Over 40 concerned Filipinos, human rights advocates, and cause-oriented activists gathered last Thursday, June 16, 2005 at the United Nations Church Center in Manhattan to listen as members from the New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines
(NYCHRP) delivered a comprehensive situationer on the record-breaking rate of human rights violations under the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) regime.
“Blood” was the word that soaked into the audience’s minds as NYCHRP member Berna Ellorin reported back on her recent stay in the Philippines. The blood of activists, human rights lawyers, journalists, and priests to be exact.
“Political killings and targeting of activists are on the rise,” Ellorin presented. “In 2005 alone, 39 members of cause-oriented groups, human rights lawyers, priests, and human rights advocates have been killed by military and para-military groups. All of these victims were members of or affiliated with Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, or BAYAN, a national, multi-sectoral alliance of people’s organizations fighting for social change,” Ellorin explained, also pointing to the big blue BAYAN flag on the wall, of which NYCHRP is also a member organization. “GMA has driven the country deeper into a chronic fiscal crisis, and dissenting voices are apparent. But with the US-backed mandate touting ‘a war against terror’, GMA has the used the rhetoric of Bush’s war to quash all vocally critical of her administration by conveniently equating the work of genuine and sincere leaders for social change with terrorism.”
NYCHRP cited examples of rising state terror in areas such as Hacienda Lusista, a sprawling sugarcane plantation and sugar mill factory located in Tarlac, where a massacre resulted last November 2004 when military forces sprayed bullets towards over 1000 unarmed farm workers on strike, killing 14 and wounding hundreds more. Since the massacre, many more individuals supporters of the ongoing strike have been targetted for assasination, including Fr. William Tadena as well as UN judge ad litem and the Philippines’ preeminant human rights attorney Romeo Capulong.
“The data adds up. This is state terror. This is martial law all over again. Only instead of activists getting locked up like before, they are shot in broad daylight,” stated Rusty Fabunan, a member of the NYCHRP panel who also answered questions from the audience.
Audience members were also keen on relating anti-terrorist measures in the US such as the Patriot Act and Homeland Security Act, as the prototypes GMA has adapted when pushing for her Anti-Terrorism Bill in the Philippines. They also could not avoid drawing the conclusion that state-sponsored terror from US-backed governments such as the GMA administration is the unseen and unpublicized extension of Bush’s so-called war against terror overseas.
“It was a powerful program,” stated Bill Doar of the International Action Center, headquartered in NYC. “It was especially important for us Americans to learn about another war overseas (in the Philippines) that the US government is just as much responsible for as in the war in Iraq. Only this one hardly anyone knows about.”
NYCHRP also pointed out the role of BAYAN in not one, but both People Power ousters that kicked two corrupt presidents out of office. “The Filipino people have proven more than once what the power of the people can accomplish. This is precisely what threatens the GMA administration into resorting to state-sponsored terror tactics to eliminate those who are actively exposing the corruption and inutility of her regime,” Fabunan challenged.
“I left informed AND inspired,” added Dasaw Floyd of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, especially after learning about a developing campaign in the Philippines for the resignation of GMA. “A repressive state that refuses to serves the basic interests of the majority of people, such as that of GMA, is the worst violator of human rights.”
NYCHRP also spoke extensively about the upcoming International Solidarity Mission to the Philippines in August 2005. “BAYAN, along with other concerned convening people’s organizations in the Philippines, are organizing an internationally-coordinated fact-finding mission to expose to the world the real horrors that have accumulated with regards the GMA’s criminal negligence on basic human rights”, Ellorin continued. “The findings of the mission will be made public shortly upon return of the US delegation.”
Audience members also united with the program’s final call for increased and coordinated solidarity action coming from New Yorkers to spread awareness on and support the campaign to stop the killings of activists in the Philippines. In line with NYCHRP’s work locally in New York, a Philippine Solidarity Committee will be developed to involve non-Filipinos with an interest in advocating and supporting human rights in the Philippines.
“Many Americans still remember the days of the old Martial Law under the Marcos dictatorship. It was atrocious then and in many ways even more atrocious now. Reviving the international support coming from human rights advocates from the United States back then is integral to pressuring for substantial change this time around as well.” Ellorin ended.
New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP)