Tag: VFA

Filipino Americans Continue Mobilizing for Justice in the Wake of Obama’s 2nd Inauguration

News Release
January 21, 2013

Reference: Jackelyn Mariano, Deputy Secretary General, BAYAN-USA, depsec@bayanusa.org

Filipino Americans Continue Mobilizing for Justice in the Wake of Obama’s 2nd Inauguration

As President Barack Obama takes his inaugural oath for the second time, progressive Filipino American organizations under the banner of BAYAN-USA reflect on his next term with a critical eye, especially as this day also commemorates Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and having been critical of Obama’s domestic and foreign policies during his first term.

“Obama’s first term not only continued many of the policies of the Bush administration, it sullied Dr. King’s revolutionary legacy,” stated Bernadette Ellorin, Chairperson of BAYAN-USA. “In 1967, in a famous speech delivered at the Riverside Church in New York City against the Vietnam War, Dr. King warned, ‘A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.’ President Obama’s track record shows disregard for King’s caveat.”

Dwindling Economy, Burden on Working People

Obama began his second term by supporting the dreaded “Fiscal Cliff”, a legislative move that would implement steep cuts to public services and continue shifting the burden of fixing the U.S.’ $1.3 trillion deficit–caused by spending more than the federal budget’s capacity, overwhelmingly on the military–onto working people.

“Obama has done little to alleviate the pain working Americans are feeling in the middle of the worst economic crisis in history,” states Ellorin. “Instead, he has made the pain worse by maintaining a U.S. economy dependent on the big banks and finance firms, and he continues to make working Americans pay for the financial misdeeds of these banks and firms that caused the crisis by funneling trillions in U.S. tax-dollars from the public sector to bail out banks and private enterprise.”

Military-Industrial Complex and the Asia-Pacific Pivot

The U.S. military budget will amount to $525 billion in fiscal year 2013. This makes up 57% of the total discretionary budget and exceeds the budgets of other departments and agencies combined. “Contrary to Obama’s public support of stricter gun laws, especially in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, the U.S. occupies a monopolistic niche in the global arms market, supplying 78% of the market worldwide,” said Ellorin.

In 2012, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced a strategic pivot of 60% of the U.S. military to the Asia-Pacific region. Under the guise of national and global security against China, BAYAN-USA interprets this pivot as a tactic to secure imperialist interests in the region. Said Ellorin, “This pivot is an opportunity for the U.S. to sell more arms to its allies and build a military stronghold to maintain economic dominance. For hundreds of years, the U.S. has used the Philippines as strategic bases.”

More recently, despite the closing of U.S. bases in the 1990s, the U.S. has been increasing its visits to the Philippines and trampling over Philippine sovereignty through the continued implementation of the Visiting Forces Agreement. Last week, the USS Guardian rammed itself into the Tubbataha Reef of the Philippines, greatly harming an endangered natural ecosystem. The U.S. government has only apologized for the incident and refused to reveal vital information about the true conditions of the reef. “The U.S. exercises complete arrogance in this matter. It is equally disappointing that Philippine President Aquino’s administration has not responded swiftly to hold the U.S. accountable and has instead given way to U.S. imperialist reign,” said Ellorin.

Abuse of Migrant Workers

Known for its record number of deportees from the U.S., more than any other previous president, the Obama administration’s pattern of repressive legislation against immigrants in the midst of a failing economy has created the conditions for the proliferation of human trafficking and forced labor in the U.S.

In the U.S., a class action lawsuit is currently being filed against Grand Isle Shipyard (GIS), an oil refinery and exploration company based in New Orleans, Louisiana. Hundreds of Filipino workers are stepping out from the shadows to hold the company accountable for human trafficking, dangerous working conditions, slavery, wage theft, and discrimination, among other labor and human rights violations. For years, Filipino workers were forced to work for six to seven days a week, 12 to 14 hours a day without overtime pay, for up to four straight months on oil rigs offshore, and with thousands of dollars in over-blown “room and board” deductions unlawfully withheld from their paychecks. In November 2012, the Black Elk Platform on which GIS employees were working exploded, killing 3 Filipino workers. BAYAN-USA and other concerned groups claim that deliberate oversight caused the explosion. GIS has been guilty of over 300 labor violations that have not been investigated thoroughly by either the U.S. or Philippine governments.

“This is a blatant case of modern-day slavery. The U.S. was built on the backs of African slaves. The Capitol building that Obama made his inaugural oath on was built by slaves,” states Ellorin. “The U.S. prospers from the exploitation of cheap slave labor, and as a result, Filipino workers and other migrant workers face the dangerous brunt of this while big corporations that work hand-in-hand with Obama profit greatly.”

Justice Through People Power

“We need to build a movement that will push for comprehensive immigration reform to combat the systemic trafficking of our migrant work force! We need to expose the U.S. military’s culpability in violating Philippine sovereignty! We need to fight for access to basic social services and jobs!” exclaimed Ellorin. In the legacy of Dr. King, BAYAN-USA will continue to contribute to building a movement in the U.S. against imperialism, while organizing the broadest support from the U.S. for the Philippine movement for genuine freedom and democracy, no matter who sits in the White House.


BAYAN-USA is an alliance of 18 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 Maka bayan (BAYAN-Philippines), BAYAN-USA serves as an information bureau for the national democratic movement of thePhilippines and as a center for educating, organizing, and mobilizing anti-imperialist Filipinos in the U.S. For more information, visit www.bayanusa.org

US Drones, Troops Out of Asia and Africa!–BAYAN-USA

For Immediate Release
January 11, 2013
Reference: Jessica Antonio, Secretary General, BAYAN-USA, secgen@bayanusa.org

US Drones, Troops Out of Asia and Africa!–BAYAN-USA

“Only Uncle Toms would welcome in Uncle Sam,” commented BAYAN-USA Chairperson Bernadette Ellorin on the news that the US would end 2012 and kick-off 2013 by sending troops to 35 African countries and two warships to the Philippines, and that a US drone was fished out of Philippine waters less than a week into the new year. “History has shown that US military presence in countries around the world benefits only US imperial interests and the wealthiest 1% in the host countries. The vast majority of people get hit with land theft, human rights violations, toxic dumping, and sexual assault—topped off by losing their country’s sovereignty.”

“The Filipino people learned this through more than 100 years of direct experience with the US military. Unfortunately, President Aquino is continuing the pattern of subservience to Uncle Sam by opening the door even wider to both US economic and military interests. The fact that the docking of the US warships was labeled a ‘routine’ port call shows just how normal the Aquino administration considers the presence of US military in our sovereign nation,” said Ellorin.

The US reported that it would start conducting military exercises and training with several African nations to modernize and strengthen those countries’ militaries and beef up anti-terrorism efforts in the region. Such claims are similar to the pretext given for the basing of 600+ US troops in Mindanao, increased placement of US military advisors in the country, annual “Shoulder-to-shoulder” or “Balikatan” exercises between American and Filipino troops, and provision of military supplies and ships to the Armed Forces of the Philippines. “If the Philippine experience is any indicator, this effort in Africa will not only fail to bring peace or stability to the region the way the US claims; it will do the exact opposite—bring increased antagonism and conflict.”

Ellorin continued: “After 13 years of the Visiting Forces Agreement, the Philippine military has only improved its ability to torture, abduct, and murder innocent civilians. And the Philippines has practically handed over its sovereignty on a silver platter. These are the same results African nations can expect.”

Just days after the US warships docked in Cebu and Manila Bay, a US drone was found in Philippine waters off Masbate. “The US drone even went unchallenged by anyone in PNoy’s administration.  Knowing that US drones are being used to assassinate people throughout the world, why should we believe the US Embassy’s claims that this drone was unarmed and only being used for US troops’ target practice?” questioned Ellorin.

“The main reasons presidents like Arroyo and Aquino have welcomed in the US military have been to curry favor with the military’s top brass, attempt to legitimize their rule, and line the pockets of their own families and hand-picked friends. There have been no benefits whatsoever for the majority of Filipino people, who are still languishing in poverty,” ended Ellorin.


On 37th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law: BAYAN-USA condemns century-old tradition of US support for Philippine puppet leaders and dictators

Contact: Rhonda Ramiro
Secretary General, BAYAN-USA

On the 37th anniversary of the declaration of martial law in the Philippines, BAYAN-USA called on the administration of President Barack Obama to break with tradition by ending over 100 years of US support for dictatorial regimes like that of Ferdinand Marcos in 1972 and President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo today.

“For the past eight years, Arroyo has impersonated Marcos with her brazen corruption and brutal human rights record. But the US should admit its own guilt for these atrocities, because American military and economic policies have made it possible for tyrants like Marcos and Arroyo to not only ascend to power, but to rule with impunity year after year,” said Berna Ellorin, Chair of BAYAN-USA.

With a reported 1, 013 extra-judicial killings, 202 enforced disappearances, 223 political prisoners, and 1,036 incidences of torture since 2001, the Arroyo regime’s human rights record rivals that of Marcos and has drawn sharp criticism from the United Nations, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and KARAPATAN. Among the victims is poet and human rights activist Melissa Roxas, the first known American victim of torture in the Philippines under Obama’s presidency. During that same time period, US military support for the Philippines has skyrocketed, increasing by a staggering 1,500% according to a 2007 report by the Center for Public Integrity.

“Obama’s carefully manicured speech telling ‘those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent’ that they are ‘on the wrong side of history’ of course falls on deaf ears, because in his next breath he calls Arroyo to affirm US commitment to the Visiting Forces Agreement and then designates the Philippines as the official coordinating country between the US and ASEAN,” continued Ellorin. “That’s like telling a bully to stop terrorizing children on the playground, but giving him a baseball bat so he can hit his next victim,” continued Ellorin.

Although US militarization in the Philippines has intensified since 2001, it began over 100 years ago when the US seized control of the Philippines after the Spanish-American War and usurped power from Philippine revolutionary forces. Numerous agreements between the US and the Philippines have guaranteed a constant American military presence in the Philippines since then, despite widespread opposition. The historic Philippine Senate vote in 1991 to not renew the US military bases agreement was undermined by the enactment of the Visiting Forces Agreement in 1999. US intentions to maintain its forces in the Philippines indefinitely were underscored at the end of last month, when US Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced that the US has been keeping a 600-strong Joint Special Operations Task Force in the Philippines since 1999 and would keep them there indefinitely. Reports that US troops were involved in a shooting in Jolo, Sulu that resulted in damage to a mosque last week on September 14 have been met with an attempted cover-up by Philippine authorities and silence by the US military.

“Rather than enforcing the status quo in Philippine-US relations, Obama should begin the process of reparations to the victims of Marcos and Arroyo,” stated Ellorin. “He could start by immediately withdrawing US troops, terminating the Visiting Forces Agreement, and cutting off all military aid to the Arroyo regime. There would also be a lot more money available for universal health care, if the US stopped sending tens of millions of dollars to the Philippines every year to enforce virtual martial law.”

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. The online petition against the VFA can be found at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/JunkVFAnow/.

BAYAN-USA calls on US government to terminate Visiting Forces Agreement

Contact: Rhonda Ramiro
Secretary General, BAYAN-USA

US troops fuel insecurity crisis in the Philippines: BAYAN-USA calls on US government to terminate Visiting Forces Agreement

September 16 marks the historic Philippine Senate vote to reject the renewal of a US military bases treaty, but recent declarations by US and Philippine defense officials reveal their desire to erase history in order to secure the future of US imperialism and the Philippine elite who benefit from it.

Responding to decades of protest demanding that US bases in the Philippines be shut down, the 12-11 Senate vote on September 16, 1991 effectively ejected US troops from the country. In a clear affront to Philippine sovereignty and the will of the people, however, the controversial US-Philippines Visiting Forces Agreement was enacted shortly thereafter in 1999. Since then, tens of thousands of US soldiers, commanders, advisors, special operatives, and other military personnel have flooded back into the country, along with nearly $1 billion worth of military aid and materiel.

Despite massive demonstrations, senate and congressional hearings, and a Supreme Court review of the constitutionality of the agreement in the Philippines, president after president in both countries has staunchly defended the reviled agreement. In a phone call in March and a state meeting in July with President Gloria Arroyo this year, President Barack Obama affirmed his support for the Visiting Forces Agreement and continuing the annual joint military exercises known as “Balikatan” (“Shoulder-to-Shoulder”). “Despite his rhetoric of ‘change,’ President Obama and his cabinet have clung to Bush’s foreign policy when it comes to the Philippines,” said BAYAN-USA Chair Berna Ellorin.

At the end of last month, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced that the US has been keeping a 600-strong Joint Special Operations Task Force in the Philippines since 1999, and that the US intends to maintain the forces there indefinitely. Gates’ announcement was followed by a visit from Philippine Defense Secretary and presidential aspirant Gilberto Teodoro, who last week pledged his commitment to the Visiting Forces Agreement and continued “cooperation” with the US military.

“Declaring the ‘permanent and continuous presence’ of US troops is like giving a life sentence to the Philippines,” said Ellorin. “Indefinite military presence holds the Philippines prisoner to the failed Bush-Cheney military doctrine, sacrificing the Philippines’ sovereignty for a policy that has fueled thousands of human rights violations against innocent civilians and made the world less safe for everyone.”

Testimony from whistleblower Lt. Senior Grade Nancy Gadian earlier this month further exposed that the US government is using the Visiting Forces Agreement to justify virtual military bases and to allow American personnel to participate in actual combat operations in the Philippines, in clear violation of the country’s sovereignty. More evidence of this fact has been uncovered in research by Professor Roland G. Simbulan , who cites an article in the MILITARY REVIEW (May-June 2004) of the US Army Combined Arms Center, former Joint Special Operations Task Force – Philippines (JSOTF-P) Commander Col. David Maxwell, US Army, which said that the mission of the JSOTF-P in the Philippines “is to conduct unconventional warfare in the Philippines through, by, and with the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” with “unconventional warfare” defined as including guerilla warfare, subversion, sabotage, and assisted recover.” Professor Simbulan concludes that Maxwell’s article “in fact, implied that the Balikatan exercises under the VFA were just a disguise for counter-terrorist operations.”

“With thousands of Filipino civilians getting caught in the crossfire and tens of millions of US taxpayer dollars spent on these war games, the biggest losers in this equation are everyday people in both the Philippines and the US,” said Ellorin. “The US military machine is using us as human shields in a power play to enhance its geopolitical interests in the world, at the cost of innocent lives and money that is desperately needed for education, health care, affordable housing, and other domestic services.”

On this historic day and in the spirit of those who marched the streets of Manila for the termination of the US bases treaty 18 years ago, we demand that the US government end its military presence and intervention in the Philippines. We demand the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement, a one-sided treaty that legitimizes the presence of US troops in the Philippines and provides legal protection for US soldiers who commit crimes while on duty in the Philippines. We demand that not one more cent of our tax dollars be spent on military aid for the Philippines.

Today we honor the Filipino people who have steadfastly challenged and resisted US imperialism in the Philippines. We add our voices to the efforts of organizations throughout the Philippines and worldwide which oppose the presence of US troops, bases, military occupation, and war.

One of two overseas chapters of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, or BAYAN Philippines, BAYAN-USA is an alliance of 14 progressive Filipino organizations in the US representing women, youth, students, scholars and working people. BAYAN-USA launched a petition site calling for the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement that can be accessed at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/JunkVFAnow/. The said petition is addressed to US President Barack Obama and will be presented to him this year.