Contact: Berna Ellorin
Secretary-General, BAYAN USA
The US Chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, or BAYAN USA, an alliance of 12 Filipino organizations across the US, joins the rest of the American people and beyond in celebrating the historical significance of having the first Black president elected into the executive office of the White House. It is overwhelming and appropriate that many in major cities across the US, people, especially African-Americans, took to the streets last night, many with pots and pans for noisemakers, upon the confirmation that Illinois Senator Barack Obama would become the 44th President of the United States, and had defeated his opponent, Arizona Senator John McCain. It is also appropriate at this time to celebrate the deep potential the new administration has for undoing 8 years of failed and flawed foreign and domestic policies under the Bush administration. BAYAN USA joins the billions around the world in urging the President-elect in heeding the voices of the people in the types of change we need in the USA and around the world, particularly in the Philippines.
On Foreign Policy
A priority in President-elect Obama’s agenda for the people must be repairing the US government’s image to the world, an image gravely tarnished by the policies of the preceding US administrations, especially the last one. This must start with undoing the Global War on Terror launched by the Bush regime. As he has pledged, Obama is intent on phasing-out US troop withdrawal in Iraq in 16 months and ending the war in Iraq. In addition to ending the US war on Iraq, we urge President-elect Obama to do the same thing in countries like the Philippines, where US troops are stationed and conduct dangerous combat exercises in the name of the Global War Against Terror. The Philippines, which the Bush regime tagged the so-called “Second Front” to the war on terror, has been the site of a bloody counter-insurgency campaign under the guise of a war against terrorism.
In his final debate with Senator McCain, Obama criticized the government of Colombia for its systemic killings of trade unionists. In selecting foreign trade partners, if Obama truly seeks to have no blood on US taxpayers hands, then he must seriously reconsider US foreign relations with the Philippine government. The new US presidency must heed to call from the United Nations Human Rights Council, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and others in the international human rights monitoring community and condemn the Arroyo government for its perpetration of over 900 extrajudicial killings and 200 enforced disappearances, rivaling the pattern in countries like Colombia.
The new US presidency should also withdraw all monetary and moral support to the Philippine government that are being used to train the Philippine military in its counter-insurgency operations. There is a popular movement in the Philippines to remove the US military presence in Mindanao, rivaling the historic Filipino people’s struggle that eventually led to the dismantling of the largest US military bases overseas- Clark Air Force and Subic Naval bases- in the Philippines back in 1992.
On Domestic Affairs
On the domestic front, we are pleased that Obama has pledged during his campaign to “spread the wealth” and to end the “burden on the poor”. There is still a huge disparity inside the United States between rich and poor, between the people and the banks. The most significant way to spread the wealth and end the poor’s burden is by opposing the $700 billion in bailout funds from the US federal reserve pushed by US Congress. These monies will be taken from public funds, wiping out job pensions, healthcare coverage, education, unemployment insurance, and social security, and aggravating the burden on the poor and disenfranchised inside the US. As a former community organizer in the depressed areas of inner-city Chicago, we ask President-Elect Obama to invoke true leadership for the people by urging Washington to prosecute the big banks for their financial crimes instead of bailing them out. There should also be a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions, as many property owners, including Filipinos, are being shut down and forced into displacement.
Obama has also pledged to improve the dysfunctional US immigration system by fixing its bureaucratic nature. One way of doing this is to expose what is the root cause of massive migration of workers from poor countries to the United States. When we understand why people migrate, we can better formulate the solutions for comprehensive immigration reform. Improvements to the broken immigration system starts with ending its repressive nature on undocumented immigrants. This means ending the terrorizing policy of raids and deportations by the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and finding an efficient and humane path to legalization for the 12 million undocumented people currently living in the shadows in the US. There are 4 million Filipinos in the US today, 1 million of which are undocumented.
On October 2008, Presidential Candidate Obama paid tribute to Filipino-American History Month. Part of his tribute focused on the struggle of aging Filipino WWII Veterans for their full equity. Given the grave undertones of systemic racism that this denial from the US government carries, we urge President-elect Obama, the first African-American president of the US, to lead Washington to embrace justice and undo the historical injustice of denying our Filipino WWII Veterans their full equity and recognition.
The People Are the True Change-Makers, It’s Still in Our Hands
Barack Obama’s election victory proves the strength of a people united in action and will. In this time of renewed hope not only in the US but around the world, let us continue to raise our voices, be vigilant, and enact what history has always taught us– the people and the people alone, united in mass movement and holding their leaders accountable, are the true agents of fundamental change. As such, we pledge to strengthen our participation in building a solid and united mass movement that will let no president off the hook and usher in the change we need.