For Immediate Release
May 23, 2017
BAYAN-USA, Anakbayan-USA and GABRIELA USA condemn the declaration of martial law by the Duterte administration in Mindanao and call for it to be immediately revoked to ensure the protection of civilian communities from greater militarization and violence.
“The increased militarization and bombings in Marawi City must stop! Martial law will never lead to peace in Mindanao. It will only aggravate the roots of the armed conflict in the region and place thousands of innocent civilians in danger of violent attack,” states Bernadette Ellorin, BAYAN-USA Chairperson.
“With more military operations, women and children will be even more vulnerable to rape, harassment and other sexual abuse,” says Irma Shauf-Bajar, GABRIELA USA Chairperson.
We call on President Rodrigo Duterte to pursue diplomatic and peaceful means to address not only the attacks by the Maute group in Marawi, but also the roots of the armed conflict in Mindanao. This includes implementing urgent social and economic reforms outlined in the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms. Discussion of these reforms is part of the ongoing peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, which include respecting the Moro people’s right to self-determination and respect for ancestral domain.
“The declaration of martial law throughout the island of Mindanao denies the historic right of the Moro people to self-determination, and it puts those who continue to legitimately fight for their right to land and self-determination, including the Moro people and the Lumad, at increased risk of state repression,” states Adrian Bonifacio, Anakbayan-USA Chair.
Crushing Poverty, Landlessness Amidst Natural Wealth
The social unrest and armed conflict in the Bangasamoro region of Mindanao must be placed within the proper socio-economic and historical context. Lanao del Sur, the province where the Maute group operates, has the highest poverty rate in the Philippines, yet remains one of the most resource-rich in the country, a prime attraction for foreign corporations for lucrative investments and large-scale extractive operations.
A February 2006 leaked cable from Wikileaks revealed the Liguasan Marsh in the Cotabato Basin, spanning 288,000 hectares, and stronghold of several armed Moro groups such as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, holds the largest deposits of oil and natural gas in the Philippines and in the region, worth hundred of billions in U.S. dollars.
“The armed conflict in the Bangsamoro territory of Mindanao is essentially rooted in the Moro people’s legitimate struggle for self-determination, including aspirations for genuine sustainable development that would allow for the Moro people’s livelihood off of their own land. It would also mean freedom from over a century of U.S. counterinsurgency (COIN) operations that continue until this day, designed to keep the natural resources of the region under foreign control,” Ellorin continued.
Vigilance Against U.S. Warmongering
“But the U.S.-backed mainstream media and die-hard militarists in the Duterte administration, such as Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, opportunistically distort the narrative into one of so-called Islamic extremism, so-called terrorism, and drumbeat a pretext for greater militarization, especially U.S. military intervention, just as the US-backed Arroyo administration did in 2002. The media’s aggressive highlighting of the involvement of US-CIA trained and armed groups such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda speaks directly to US warmongering,” Ellorin asserted.
In addition, BAYAN-USA, Anakbayan-USA and GABRIELA USA also call for greater vigilance against increasing U.S. intervention in the region, as the Trump administration recently increased the U.S. defense budget by $59 billion, resulting in $639 billion for US-led war and militarization abroad, and especially in Asia. “The Trump administration’s increase in military spending goes hand in hand with a proposed $9.2 billion cut in the national budget for public education, alongside cuts to other social services. We condemn the diversion of funds that should be spent on the people toward war and militarization in the Philippines and around the world,” continued Bonifacio. Mindanao remains the region in the Philippines with the largest deployments of Philippine military and largest concentration of U.S. military personnel.
GENUINE & SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT, NOT MARTIAL LAW, IN MINDANAO!
NO TO US WARMONGERING IN THE PHILIPPINES!
SOLIDARITY WITH THE MORO PEOPLE’S STRUGGLE FOR SELF-DETERMINATION!
ADVANCE THE GRP-NDFP PEACE TALKS TOWARDS A JUST AND LASTING PEACE!
#StandWithMarawi #NeverAgainToMartialLaw #NoToMartialLaw
May 19, 2017 marks the eighth anniversary of the abduction and disappearance of Melissa Roxas, a founding member of BAYAN USA, who was abducted on May 19, and surfaced on May 25, 2009 after international outcry.
Melissa’s case made headlines as the first case of such a human rights violation committed against a US citizen in the Philippines under President Obama’s term. As one of the few survivors of abduction by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Melissa courageously went public with her story, seeking justice not only for herself, but for all victims of human rights violations. Melissa filed her case in the Philippine courts, testified in various venues, and fully cooperated with the investigation undertaken by the Commission on Human Rights. Eight years after her abduction, we are still fighting for justice for Melissa and all victims of human rights violations in the Philippines.
Unfortunately, recent moves by President Rodrigo Duterte appear to embolden the hard-core militarist faction in his administration which has denied justice for Melissa all these years. President Duterte recently announced that current chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) General Eduardo Año will be appointed to head the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) at the end of his term with the AFP in October. Año is notorious for orchestrating human rights violations as the chief of the AFP, continuously overseeing the rampant extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances such as Melissa’s case, torture, harassment and intimidation of activists and communities fighting for genuine land reform and national industrialization. Año is most known as one of the perpetrators of the abduction of Jonas Burgos a youth activist abducted 10 years ago on April 28, 2007 under the infamous counter-insurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya II.
President Duterte and Gen. Año’s dubiously named counter-insurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan (Operation Peace) is simply a continuation of all of the previous counter-insurgency programs. Oplan Kapayapaan has already resulted in the extrajudicial killings of dozens of activists, now also being committed under the guise of Duterte’s infamous drug war. From July 2016 to March 2017, at least 47 peasants and indigenous people have been killed in counter-insurgency operations. Año is just one of many former military men Duterte has appointed to key government positions, including former AFP chief Roy Cimatu, who replaces Gina Lopez as Secretary for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and former AFP Major General Delfin Lorenzana as Defense Secretary.
BAYAN USA demands that President Duterte step off the “trapo” path and take seriously the people’s cry for justice by demilitarizing his cabinet and not appointing Gen. Año to the DILG. We urge him to end Oplan Kapayapaan and to focus on the real path towards peace and genuine development through continuing the peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and beginning to implement reforms outlined in the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms. We also demand an end to the impunity which has reigned in the Philippines since before and after Melissa’s abduction, the thousands of extrajudicial killings, abductions and enforced disappearances, illegal arrests and detention of innocent people, torture, violent displacement, and military occupation of schools and churches.
JUSTICE FOR MELISSA!
JUSTICE FOR ALL VICTIMS OF STATE-SPONSORED DISAPPEARANCES AND TORTURE!
For more information on the Justice for Melissa campaign visit: JusticeForMelissa.org
For Immediate Release
May 17, 2017
Contact: Jessica Antonio, email@example.com
This month, the Atlantic published an article, “My Family’s Slave,” written by Alex Tizon, a Pulitzer prize winning journalist, that vividly describes the experiences of torment and abuse of Eudocia Tomas Pulido or “Lola,” a young Filipino woman recruited from her village in the Philippines to work for Tizon’s family in 1943 at the age of 18 and forced to migrate and work for his family in the U.S.
“Unfortunately, Eudocia’s story is a common Filipino story. There are many Eudocias and ‘Lolas’ born into poverty and forced into what is called ‘modern day slavery.’ Even though Tizon revealed his perspective of the story, there is much more to it starting in the Philippines,” said Bernadette Ellorin, Chairperson of BAYAN USA. “From the time Eudocia was enslaved in 1943 conditions in the Philippines have only worsened.” More than 26 million of the population live in poverty rooted in landlessness and joblessness caused by domestic feudalism and underdevelopment, as well as widespread corruption and foreign control over the Philippine economy, military, and politics, due to imperialism, particularly US imperialism.”
“They are stuck in a vicious cycle working and tilling the land that they do not own, and having to owe debts to these landlords. They become victims of feudal and colonial practices such as families being forced to give their women and children as tribute to wealthier families,” Ellorin continued.
The Philippine government has failed to do anything substantial to solve the issues of poverty and landlessness in the Philippines. More than 6,000 filipinos leave the country each day because of the lack of jobs to sustain their families. A majority of those migrant workers are women, just like Eudocia, who are victims of human trafficking, and face many other challenges such as no compensation, low wages, unstable working conditions, contractualization, physical and sexual abuse, wage theft, and exploitation. Many work as “katulongs”, servers or domestic workers and are forced apart from their loved ones in order to take care of the children of other families.
“In honor of Lola Eudocia, we should organize and work together to end human trafficking and the problems of landlessness, government corruption, and foreign control in the Philippines.” said Ellorin. “Only through changing the system can we see an end to modern day slavery and create a world where other Lolas, Eudocia and other women can stay in their homeland and live full and dignified lives.” We call upon all those interested in fighting to end modern day slavery to join BAYAN USA and our many organizations across the U.S. and help to build up the people power needed to genuinely change the system so that slavery no longer exists.
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