Filipino-American alliance conducts relief work in typhoon-ravaged communities: members deliver $15K, medicine and 2,000 bags of food to typhoon victims

Contact: Rhonda Ramiro
Secretary General, BAYAN-USA

Philippine Congresswoman Liza Maza distributing relief packages

DAGUPAN CITY, PHIILIPPINES–Filipino-Americans under the banner of BAYAN-USA, a US-wide alliance of 14 Filipino organizations, have been actively responding to the needs of the victims of typhoons Ketsana (Ondoy) and Parma (Pepeng) that slammed through the Philippines in the past few weeks killing hundreds and devastating thousands. In addition to conducting on-the-ground emergency relief operations in the Philippines, the alliance reached its projected goal of $15,000 for BALSA (Bayanihan Alay Para Sa Sambayanan), a broad, multi-sectoral disaster relief organization affiliated with its mother alliance, BAYAN Philippines, in addition to gathering dozens of boxes across the US filled with in-kind donations of clothes, food, and medicine.

This week, members of BAYAN-USA traveled to the Philippines to deliver their monetary donations and participate in relief operations. In Dagupan City, Pangasinan, BAYAN-USA joined Congresswoman and Senatorial Candidate Liza Maza of the Gabriela Women’s Party and MAKABAYAN Coalition for one day in handing out over 2,000 sacks of food to long lines of families who had been devastated by the typhoon’s destructive force, but met with the inadequate response of the Philippine government in providing relief. Pangansinan, one of the most impacted provinces in the nation, was 80% submerged due to the man-made disaster of the San Roque Dam opening that unleashed more than 8 million cubic meters of water.

“We have seen with our own eyes how the Philippine government has neglected the needs of the typhoon victims at a time of tremendous need for basic necessities like medicine, food, and shelter,” commented Bernadette Ellorin, chair of BAYAN-USA and one of the members of the relief team. “It has been the responsibility of people’s organizations, like BAYAN-USA, to provide the emergency response needed for our families and loved ones back home who are suffering and will continue to suffer from the Arroyo government’s greedy, disaster-creating policies.”

Relief Distribution Plans

In relaying its monetary and in-kind donations, BAYAN-USA expressed distrust over the Arroyo government’s recent directive for all donations from abroad to be coursed only through accredited organizations with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) or face taxation and other types of penalties and fees.

Furthermore, Philippine Consular offices in the U.S. have imposed restrictions on courier services from shipping relief goods collected by organizations whose efforts are not affiliated with the Philippine government. Courier services face high penalty fees should they choose to ship goods from people’s organizations collecting donations such as BAYAN-USA.

“In this time of calamity, it is unconscionable that the Arroyo government sees this as an opportunity to make money off of suffering,” Ellorin added, “especially when its own corruption of the National Disaster Relief Funds to pay for Arroyo’s lavish lifestyle is at the root of this disaster.”

Like other donors from the U.S., BAYAN-USA is calling for the Arroyo government to lift restrictions on goodwill, including the DSWD accreditation requirement and the taxation on relief goods, as it is posing a concrete obstacle to donors to send relief to the Philippines.

“Donors from the U.S. are not responding to the directives because of clear distrust. How can they be assured that their donations will reach their loved ones and the neediest communities back home?” Ellorin questioned. “Donors are choosing to go through alternative routes to circumvent the Arroyo government’s greedy paws.”

With the approaching super-typhoon Lupit expected to hit the Philippines within the next few days, the need for long-term or permanent disaster relief efforts becomes more apparent. “In the face of government corruption and inutility, people’s organizations should develop long-term relief operations to meet the escalating needs of the people to fight off the looming threats of cholera, dengue and other health epidemics as well as widespread hunger and homelessness,” ended Ellorin.

Members of BAYAN-USA and GABRIELA-USA with Congresswoman Liza Maza

For more information on how to donate through BAYAN USA, visit

Filipinos call for LGBTIQ rights in immigration reform: No deportation for Shirley Tan, no separation of families

Contact: Luzviminda U. Carpenter
Representative, BAYAN-USA and GABRIELA-USA Queer Caucus

SAN FRANCISCO, CA -– On Friday, April 3, 2009, Shirley Tan was threatened with deportation and separation from family which included her life partner, Jaylynn “Jay” Mercado, her twelve year old twin sons, and Jay’s 76 year old mother, of whom she was the primary caregiver.  Tan was unable to be petitioned for US citizenship by her life partner of 23 years, Mercado, because the US federal law does not recognize their union as a family based on their identification as women and their partnership as lesbians. Congresswoman Jackie Speier (CA-D) was able to postpone her deportation until April 22, 2009.  BAYAN-USA and the newly founded GABRIELA-USA as anti-imperialist alliances of Filipino migrants and Fil-Ams with over fourteen organizations representing youth, students, artists, workers, professionals, women, and more, stand against this unjust act on the grounds that their union should be recognized as a marriage and family unit with all the rights that citizenship holds and that if deported the Tan-Mercado family will be yet another casualty to the broken bureaucracy toted as the US immigration system.  We recognize that this is not a unique story, but represents a staggering 37,000 others who face such heart-wrenching and unjust circumstances.

The revitalization of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Intersex, and Queer (LGBTIQ) Caucus during the 3rd BAYAN-USA Congress and Founding Assembly of GABRIELA-USA brought to light the unique struggles of Filipinos and Filipinas living within the US and abroad that identify as LGBTIQ.  Both organizations have taken a stand to understand these struggles to become stronger for all Filipinos fighting and defending their rights here and in their homeland.  On the heels of the highly controversial passage of California’s Proposition 8, the situation of the Tan-Mercado family humanizes an issue whose core is often lost in political trickery around “family values” and religious rhetoric around “unholy unions.”  At the same time, communities of color like the Tan-Mercado family suffered from the LGBTIQ movement that did not tell stories of immigration and families being separated across borders and seas and often blamed communities of color for Prop 8 not being passed.  The civil rights of all families are being lost in the shuffle of power and blame.   With Tan’s potential deportation, there is the threat of violence from which she escaped in the past.

As alliances that advocate and fight for the rights and welfare of Filipinos in the United States and is an active supporter of all marginalized and oppressed peoples the world-over, BAYAN-USA and GABRIELA-USA strongly condemn Tan’s deportation order that would rip her apart from her family that she has built for over 23 years within the United States.  After the 9/11 tragedy, legislation considering a pathway to legalization for migrants was taken off the table and the issue of immigration was subsumed under the Department of Homeland Security, inextricably linking migrants to an issue of national security.  We see this as a contradictory move by a nation that historically has forced the migration of many Filipinos from their homeland through unequal economic trade relations and military policies. It is US imperialism that profits from the underpaid, under-recognized work of migrant workers that serves as the foundation for the economies in the US and the economies of migrant workers’ homelands.  Fundamental to US imperialism is heterosexism that works to systematically profit from the unpaid work of women to care for their household and ultimately raise the world’s workforce. We understand LGBTIQ families as a challenge to the heterosexism upon which US imperialism thrives. We recognize the fight in support of the Tan-Mercado family as an anti-imperialist fight for LGBTIQ and migrant workers’ rights.

The Tan-Mercado family’s threat of deportation exposes the viciousness of US “homeland security” policies that work to justify a domestic form of US-led, US taxpayer-funded military attacks on the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, the Philippines and all around the world. It further reveals the unequal relations between the US and the Philippines in light of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) that allows US military personnel to enter the Philippines without a visa and commit crimes with impunity. Meanwhile, hardworking Filipinas like Shirley Tan, who has committed no crime and is a productive member of society, is being deported from the US.

As BAYAN-USA and GABRIELA-USA LGBTIQ Caucus, we call on all allies to LGBTIQ people and migrants to support a stop to the deportation of Shirley Tan and join the international struggle against the root cause — US imperialism!  Please join our forces as we develop contingents on May 1, 2009 for the historic May Day actions across the US calling for migrant workers rights! In these times of the deepening global economic crisis and parallel intensification of US military aggression it is ever more urgent that we unite our diverse communities, raise the consciousness of everyday people, and strengthen our struggle against US imperialism!


Former Speaker of the House to sign impeachment complaint against Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo: Filipino American organizations support call for impeachment

Rhonda Ramiro

Rachel Redondiez

SAN FRANCISCO–On the eve of one of the most historic presidential elections in the United States, an impeachment complaint against President of the Philippines Gloria Macapagal Arroyo will be signed today at the Philippine consulate in San Francisco. Philippine Congressman and former Speaker of the House Jose De Venecia will submit his formal written endorsement of the impeachment complaint against President Arroyo, on the grounds of her betrayal of public trust, culpable violation of the Constitution, bribery, and graft and corruption. Joining him will be members of BAYAN USA, GABRIELA USA, GMA Watch, and the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), who support the impeachment complaint.

“Arroyo deserves to be impeached for the rampant human rights violations committed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the widespread graft and corruption plaguing the government under her command,” said Rhonda Ramiro with BAYAN USA, a national alliance of progressive Filipino organizations. “The people have the right to call for justice and accountability from Arroyo, and to use all the tools at their disposal to hold her accountable. Impeachment is one of those tools,” Ramiro continued.

The impeachment complaint was filed on behalf of the Filipino people by 17 complainants, including the mothers of disappeared activists, witnesses to Arroyo’s acts of bribery, victims of human rights violations, and elected officials. Arroyo’s approval rating has plummeted over the past year, as corruption schemes involving the Arroyo family have been revealed, including the costly ZTE-National Broadband Network deal and millions in cash bribes paid to politicians in the Philippine Congress to win loyalty to the Arroyo clique and diffuse growing opposition movements. Since Arroyo assumed power in 2001, the Armed Forces of the Philippines have been implicated in the murders of over 900 activists and the disappearances of more than 200, in what is broadly believed to be a government-sanctioned campaign to silence its critics.

“Arroyo’s corruption bought her the presidency, and her failed economic policies mired the Filipino people in deeper poverty while filling her own bank accounts with millions of dollars,” said Rachel Redondiez with GABRIELA USA. “Arroyo then used extrajudicial killings and disappearances of activists to permanently silence her opposition, and she relied on tens of millions of dollars in aid from the U.S. government to prop up her regime.”

“It is ironic that as a new president is on the verge of being elected in the U.S., the president of the Philippines is being brought down,” commented Ramiro. “We hope that the newly elected president of the U.S. will support the Filipino people’s call for justice and self-determination, by withholding all aid from the corrupt Arroyo administration, withdrawing U.S. military personnel from the Philippines, and abrogating agreements between the two nations like the Visiting Forces Agreement which foster human rights abuses in the first place.”

The impeachment complaint will be signed at the Philippine Consulate in San Francisco, 447 Sutter Street, at 2 PM today, Monday, November 3.

GABRIELA USA denounces Arroyo’s martial law of today

Contact: Joanne Alcantara
National Coordinator, GABRIELA-USA

Thirty-six years ago, on September 21, 1972, Ferdinand Marcos, the former US-supported dictator of the Philippines, declared Martial Law in his country. The political repression, liberalization of economic policies and social constriction following his declaration claimed the lives of hundreds of Filipinos. Today, the historical trauma of that period and the continuation of backwards economic and political policies still resonate. Filipino American women denounce the ongoing militarization of the Philippines and the undeclared state of Martial
Law in the Philippines under Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA).

The resonance of Martial Law can be more accurately described as an extension and continuation of graft and corruption from the Marcos dictatorship all the way through the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo regime. While she sits in her stolen presidential seat, GMA has washed her hands in the blood of over a thousand community leaders, activists and common people. GMA’s eagerness to bend over backwards to the dictates of United States politics and its IMF/World Bank appendages have outdone the assaults of Marcos on his own people.

The increasing conflict in Mindanao, falsely assigned religious undertones as its source, finds its origins in the years of Martial Law when Marcos engineered Philippine policies and legislation to open up to the demands and orders of countless transnational, multinational corporations and the then emerging IMF/World Bank. These grievances exacted on the people of Mindanao pushed the Bangsamoro people to fight against economic and state aggression to protect their land, life and resources.

The very same fight exists today in Mindanao, the violence erupting is from a people defending themselves and their land. The easy fallback story of Christians versus Muslims is one of the fables in GMA’s fictional legacy in her presidency, just like her claims to appease the poverty and labor situation in the Philippines. US-backed foreign intervention and the return of permanent US military bases is again a reality for the Philippine people under the watch and permission of the GMA administration.

The direct impacts of GMA’s foreign diplomacy results in the displacement of women and children in Mindanao, beginning with the arrival of US military occupation in 2001. Family homes, children’s schools and community spaces have been readily disposed to be replaced by military development and corporate aggression. The “collateral damage” and the lives of women and children taken by these settlements are shocking and continue to escalate.

The entrance of US military bases in Mindanao opens the doors for the proliferation of bases elsewhere in the Philippines, Zamboanga being a site for expansion. These conditions, tried and true, leave women more vulnerable to prostitution, sexual terrorism and rape with the arrival of military servicemen in the thousands.

GABRIELA-USA, consisting of babae, San Francisco, Pinay Sa Seattle and Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment in New York, unite to call for a serious investigation of the US military encampments in the Philippines and a restoration of constitutional law and Philippine sovereignty.  GABRIELA-USA demands that respect be reinstated to the people of Mindanao, that they be granted their ancestral domain and be able to live with the dignity of their full human rights.

On September 20, 2008, at the Bayanihan Filipino Community Center, FiRE-GABRIELA USA hosts “On Martial Law.” This event features special guest Bebot Galvan from KABALIKAT, support network for Filipina domestic workers. Together, community members remember the conditions of Martial Law under Marcos, his overthrow during People Power I in 1986 and discuss today’s conditions of ongoing militarization and the call to oust Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.