Contact: Berna Ellorin
Secretary-General, BAYAN USA
BAYAN USA Statement on Arroyo’s State of the Nation Address ’08
Today, in several cities across the US, Filipinos and solidarity allies will be convening in front of Philippine consulates and community centers to register their opposition to the rotten, corrupt, and morally bankrupt regime of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. We do so on the same day Arroyo delivers her deceptive version of the so-called State of the Nation Address or SONA and the same day hundreds of thousands across the Philippines are taking to the streets to reject another year of lies, deception, and treason from a government that continues to fail them, and us. They will also be telling the true state of the nation through vibrant protest and struggle.
Today, the Arroyo government will boast of so-called economic growth and progress for the Filipino people, but the streets and countryside will tell a different story. The streets of Manila and other cities in the Philippines will tell the story of long lines to buy the basic staple food of rice from the National Food Authority, it will tell the story of long power outages and brownouts due to skyrocketing energy rates, it will tell the story of squatter children picking garbage to find food, and of families from the countryside moving into the cities because they can no longer afford to pay rent to their landlord, for whom they till the soil. It will also tell the story of long lines at the Overseas Worker Welfare Administration (OWWA) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) for visa processing for those looking to find work abroad. Behind government corridors backhanded deals will be made, and corrupt politicians will count the money they have plundered from public funds. The countryside will tell stories of civil war, US and Philippine militarization, human rights violations, hunger and forced displacement. These sights, not the speech of President Arroyo, paint the true state of the Philippine nation.
For the over 4 million Filipinos in the United States, the largest Filipino population outside of the Philippines, much as not improved under the Arroyo administration. For the most part, migration to the US has increased considerably since neo-liberal policies imposed on the Philippine economy by Arroyo have eradicated the potential for industrialization and employment in the Philippines. Because of the need to survive deepening poverty in the Philippines, Filipinos in the US have no choice but to make ends meet for them and their families in the US by any means necessary, including living under the shadows as undocumented immigrants without any rights if need be. We are also subject to raids and deportations at the hands of the US Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), human rights violations that occur without any intervention from Philippine consular officers representing the Arroyo government in the US.
Filipino World War II Veterans, who have been fighting for their equity for over six decades now, have little to thank the Arroyo administration for, as the regime used the issue only as a token ruse to cover up its intention to beg for more US military aid as the main reason for it’s recent trip to the United States. The Arroyo government has never advocated or intervened on behalf of the interests of the Filipino veterans, who continue to suffer from a historical wrongdoing of the US government, nor has the Arroyo government advocated or intervened on behalf of the interests of Filipino immigrants suffering from a broken and exploitative US immigration system.
The Arroyo clique, however, has wasted no time in collecting the billions of US dollar remittances from Filipino workers in the US to sustain the failing economy and contribute in giving a “semblance” of economic growth that Arroyo shamelessly takes the individual credit for. Now she is even taxing us for each dollar we remit! This is to produce another plunderable fund for election season and bribery fund to win loyalty from politicians.
Philippine consular officers in the US not only plunder public funds meant to go to programs for overseas Filipino workers via the OWWA, but they assist the forced migration of Filipinos to the US by implementing corrupt schemes of human trafficking under the radar. Such has been the case with the Sentosa 27 healthcare workers, teachers, and domestic helpers such as Marichu Baoanan.
The answer for Filipinos in the US is clear: the struggle to remove Arroyo, as the President of the Philippines by impeachment, resignation, or ouster is a just and necessary struggle, but we must hold no illusion that it is the only means to end the Filipino people’s suffering. It is only the first step to pressuring for a new type of Philippine government– one that is inclusive of the voices of workers, peasants and urban poor, one that is cognizant of the rights and welfare of Filipino migrants and not just interested in collecting our remittances, one that will industrialize the country for the creation of jobs so Filipinos don’t have to look abroad, one that will redistribute Philippine lands to the hands that till them, and one that will kick all foreign troops out of the country and uphold patrimony. This will take a new and improved type of “People Power “. To save the Philippines from suffering the fate of the sunken MV Princess of the Stars, we must start first and foremost with unseating Arroyo from her seat of power.
OUST THE US-ARROYO REGIME!
END GOVERNMENT CORRUPTION!
ROLLBACK RICE & OIL PRICES; ABOLISH THE RICE CARTELS!
US TROOPS OUT OF THE PHILIPPINES!
END HUMAN TRAFFICKING!
SCRAP THE OVERSEAS REMITTANCE TAX!