Contact: Rhonda Ramiro
Secretary General, BAYAN-USA
Los Angeles, CA — On early Saturday morning, Filipino Americans launched a lightning rally to greet Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her mini-junket at the Sheraton Gateway near Los Angeles International Airport. The lightning rally was one of many demonstrations across the Philippines and around the world in recent days to protest the passage of the House Resolution 1109 to convene a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass), considered the latest move of the US-Arroyo regime to change the Philippine Charter (Cha Cha) and further undermine democracy in the Philippines.
BAYAN-USA & GABRIELA USA’s member organizations began the lightning rally, marching to a rendition of “Bayan Ko” carrying “No to Con-Ass” and “No to Cha-Cha” signs, AnakBayan LA, Habi Arts and Sisters of GABRIELA Awaken (SiGAw) members expressed their anger at the US-Arroyo regime’s desperate Con-Ass maneuver to hold on to power. Fil-Ams were also demanding justice for fellow Habi Arts member, Melissa Roxas, a US Citizen who was abducted and tortured by armed men last May while doing community health work in the Philippines. A street theater piece highlighting the on-going human rights violations was dedicated to Roxas, Jonas Burgos, Karen Empeno, Sherlyn Kadapan, James Balao, Juanito Carabeo, John Edward Jandoc and all other victims of the US-Arroyo regime. With a thunderous outcry denouncing Arroyo, the protestors drowned out the cheers of US-Arroyo supporters as Arroyo was escorted back to LAX. The morning rally was concluded with an “Arroyo, You’re A Jerk” hip hop dance circle led by AnakBayan Los Angeles.
“Con-Ass and Charter Change are lame attempts for Arroyo and her cronies to stay in power. They all hoped that the Filipino people would not care enough to notice, but the public outcry of our people in the Philippines, the US and all over the world prove that the people are wise and keen on her trickery,” declared Daya Mortel, BAYAN-USA Southern California Regional Coordinator and Habi Arts member. “She has tried every trick in the book short of declaring Martial Law. Wherever she may go, there will be people who will protest and criticize her abuse of power.”
“Con-Ass is the biggest threat to democracy and the Filipino people today,” stated Kuusela Hilo, Vice Chairperson of BAYAN-USA and member of AnakBayan LA. “The Filipino people have suffered under the US-Arroyo regime, and for Arroyo to position herself as Prime Minister or declare martial law would only mean more suffering and repression for our people.”
The rapes of “Nicole” and “Vanessa” and the devastation wrought on civilians by the annual Balikatan military exercises under the Visiting Forces Agreement have drawn increasing criticism from all sectors of Philippine society. “GMA has turned her back on Filipina women and all other Filipinos by railroading our Constitution and the democratic process. If Con-Ass and Cha-Cha are pushed through, foreigners will be able to own the natural resources of the country and Filipinas will continue to be violated by US troops in the Philippines,” said Terrie Cervas, Vice Chairperson of GABRIELA USA and founding member of SiGAw. Cervas concluded, “By rewriting the Philippine Constitution, the Philippines will be victim to 100% foreign ownership of industries and re-installation of permanent military US presence, beyond supposed ‘temporary’ posts already in place under the Visiting Forces Agreement.” For the last ten years, the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) has paved the way for US military advisers, troops and equipment to train and equip the Philippine military which has been implicated in 1,017 extra-judicial killings and 1,010 cases of torture.
“The fact that Arroyo tried to visit LA unnoticed is very telling,” said Mortel. “She knew she could not come to LA, the hometown of Melissa Roxas, without facing unanswered questions of why her government has not done a thorough probe into the abduction and torture of Roxas and her companions. Or why hundreds of others have been disappeared and why thousands of other victims have yet to receive justice.”
BAYAN-USA will continue to campaign against Con-Ass and Cha-Cha. BAYAN-USA will also be working with national alliances and human rights organizations in the United States to demand justice for Melissa Roxas and all other victims of human rights violations. “We do not want any of our hard-earned US tax dollars funding Philippine death squads,” said Hilo. “Senator Barbara Boxer sponsored a hearing on the human rights crisis in the Philippines just two years ago in Washington DC, and we will be asking Senator Boxer and other elected officials to take Melissa Roxas’ case seriously, to take a stand to defend a US citizen that has survived abduction and torture, and to require that not one cent of US taxes be used to fund human rights violations in the Philippines.”
BAYAN-USA is an alliance of progressive Filipino groups in the US representing organizations of students, scholars, women, workers, and youth. As an international 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 campaign center for anti-imperialist Filipinos in the US. BAYAN-USA’s online petition against the VFA can be found at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/JunkVFAnow. The online petition to demand justice for Roxas and her companions Juanito Carabeo, and John Edward Jandoc can be found at http://www.gopetition.com/online/28021.html.