Tag: Aquino

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

Aquino’s Relief Effort Seeks to Save Private Investments, Not Rehabilitate Communities, in Mindanao– BAYAN USA

News Release
December 9, 2012

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

Aquino’s Relief Effort Seeks to Save Private Investments, Not Rehabilitate Communities, in Mindanao– BAYAN USA

On Saturday, December 8, 2012, four days after Typhoon Pablo wreaked havoc on Mindanao, President Aquino has since signed Proclamation 522, declaring a state of national calamity allegedly in order to expedite the relief process. Filipino-Americans aren’t convinced such efforts are aimed to rehabilitate devastated communities.

“This is a false show of concern for the people. The relief and rehabilitation that Aquino wants to hasten is not for the impoverished communities who are suffering, but for the private sector who are losing capital from the disaster. The palace says so itself,” states Bernadette Ellorin of the US Chapter of BAYAN, or BAYAN USA.

Typhoon Pablo (international name Bopha), landed on Mindanao, the southern region of the Philippines, killing over 500 people and displacing more than 200,000 others. Mindanao is an historically neglected region of the Philippines, where its people, many of whom are from indigenous tribes and rural poor communities, face mounting poverty and joblessness.

Mindanao is also the most resource-rich area of the Philippines, where gold, oil, bauxite, nickel, copper, and natural gas have attracted large-scale corporate mining operations and other corporate agribusiness investments.

But on any other day, the people of Mindanao largely lack adequate access to basic social services such as healthcare and housing. Now, in the aftermath of the typhoon, they are receiving delayed and sparse relief assistance from the Government of the Philippines. Many people, sifting through the remains of their meager livelihoods were left scrambling for any means of survival.

“The Philippine government’s inefficient response in aiding the Filipino people during calamities is a disappointing pattern,” states Ellorin. “From Typhoon Ondoy in 2009 until now, the people are left in desperate conditions. Even in New York City, which was recently ravaged by Hurricane Sandy, thousands of Filipino migrants were negatively affected, and the Philippine government’s response was still minimal.”

Imperialist Plunder, Mining, and Global Warming

The frequency and increasing gravity of natural disasters in the past few years has many concerned groups rekindling dialogues about the effects of environmental plunder on global warming. Major typhoons that have hit the Philippines were exacerbated by floods and landslides due to state-sanctioned large-scale open-pit mining projects, which cause an imbalance within the natural ecosystem, deplete natural resources, poison water sources, uproot plantlife, and destabilize soil. These projects have been met with major resistance from the people whose lands are being exploited. The Philippine government has responded by highly militarizing these zones and forcefully silencing protest in order to protect business operations.

Mindanao activists have recently embarked on a long journey to Manila called the Manilakbayan to confront the Philippine government in the country’s capital and bring their grievances to the table. Included in their calls are demands to halt devastating mining projects and to seek justice for human rights violation victims who were maimed or disappeared for their resistance against corporate control and defending their rights to their land.

In the summer of 2012, the aftermath of Typhoon Gener provided another example of how anti-people state policies affect the marginalized in cityscapes. Urban poor communities in low-lying areas, who were previously wiped out and displaced by Typhoon Ondoy, were flooded and damaged. “Once again, the Philippine government evaded accountability for the major calamity,” said Ellorin. “President Aquino blamed the victims, the concentrated populations of  informal settlers around waterways, as the cause of major flooding. However, engineers have proven that Manila’s infrastructure, which prioritizes manufacturing plants and mega malls while neglecting sustainable planning that prioritizes the welfare of urban dwellers, is in fact the cause of the flood.”

Bayanihan Relief Effort, Serving the People

BAYAN USA is highly encouraging its community nationwide to assist in people-led relief efforts for Typhoon Pablo victims by donating to Bayanihan Relief for Typhoon Victims in the Philippines, led by the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON). Bayanihan Relief, established during the aftermath of Typhoon Ondoy in 2009, has continuously donated directly to community-based organizations in the affected areas to help supply immediate needs, such as food, water, and rescue equipment.

Donations can be made through PayPal at http://tinyurl.com/nafconrelief3 or by sending checks to “Tulong Sa Bayan (TSB)” at 519 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, CA 90013. TSB has been NAFCON’s established partner in coursing relief donations to the Philippines. On memo please write: NAFCON Bayanihan Relief and your city of residence. Donations of $250 or more will be tax deductible. Please include a return address with donations. For more information on regional collection centers, fundraising and relief activities in your area please visit http://nafconusa.org.


BAYAN-USA is an alliance of progressive Filipino groups in the U.S. representing organizations of students, scholars, women, workers, artists, and youth. As the first and largest 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 U.S. For more information, please visit http://bayanusa.org.

“E-Martial Law is 21st Century Fascism!” –BAYAN USA

News Release
October 2, 2012

Reference: Bernadette Ellorin, Chairperson, BAYAN USA, chair@bayanusa.org

Filipino-Americans Show Vigilance Over Cybercrime Law in the Philippines

Day of Action Against Cybercrime Law, Philippines, October 2, 2012. Courtesy: bayan.ph

The Philippine government has enacted the Cybercrime Prevention Law, a piece of legislation aimed to regulate unlawful internet use. Nicknamed E-Martial Law by human rights advocates, this law has been deemed a broad instrument for violating people’s rights to free speech, press, and due process as it targets a crime termed “online libel”. The law gives the Philippine government expanded power to surveille people’s activity on the internet and specifically charge political dissenters with criminal activity, simply for expressing opinions against the government.

“Through the enactment of Martial Law in the in 1970s, the Philippine ruling elite sought to quell people’s protest on the streets through censorship, police brutality, mass incarceration, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, and other unmitigated human rights violations. Now, E-Martial Law seeks the same in a digital age,” stated Bernadette Ellorin, Chairperson of BAYAN USA. “But just as Martial Law culminated in a people’s organized overthrow of the fascist dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, E-Martial Law is being met with widespread and worldwide protests on the internet as well as in the streets.”

Filipino-Americans understand this struggle, especially in the context of the United States, a country that prides itself in valuing its First Amendment rights and freedoms. Just a year ago, similar acts, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA), were on the table. The passage of these bills were halted in the United States Congress in January 2012 by people who mobilized and rallied in the streets against the potential threat such legislation held against freedom of speech and due process.

“The internet has served as a vast platform for creative protest,” said Ellorin. “Activists have sought social networking websites as an innovative space to increase public knowledge about economic, social, and political injustices. The internet has allowed them to gain broad support all over the world in fights against oppressive regimes, like that of President NoyNoy Aquino.”

Internet rights continues to be a relevant issue as the United States engages in secret trade negotiations known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). Critics of the TPPA warn that the neoliberal free trade agreement will trample on people’s access to basic rights, such as food, water, medicine, and even the internet. Private corporations will be granted unbridled rights to patent and own otherwise public resources solely for their profitable gain.

“Laws drafted by the ruling class to prevent ‘internet crimes’ benefit a privileged few: big corporations and ruling regimes who want to maintain power and control over ideas and facts,” Ellorin explained. “Efforts to criminalize the development and dissemination of opposing ideas and facts forces the people under surveillance by a fascist state. When every status update and blog post is under strict scrutiny, the people will not be silenced as the government hopes. Our protest will only multiply and find other ways to spread.”

In addition to protests on social media sites, “offline” street protest actions are being conducted in front of the Supreme Court in the Philippines today by broad formations of human rights advocates, journalists, bloggers, netizens, and activists. These groups have vowed to express their dissent against the Cybercrime Prevention Law until it is junked, and have even filed official petitions challenging the law’s constitutionality. BAYAN USA seeks to offer their support from abroad and build an international outcry against internet tyranny and human rights abuses in the Philippines.

Join BAYAN USA in this protest by clicking the following link and signing an online petition drafted by the Kabataan (Youth) Partylist against the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012: http://www.change.org/petitions/junk-the-cybercrime-prevention-law. The goal is to reach 1 million signatures. Please spread widely.

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 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 U.S. For more information, visit www.bayanusa.org.

Day of Action Against Cybercrime Law, Philippines, October 2, 2012. Courtesy: bayan.ph

NY Human Rights Group Speaks Out Against Cybercrime Prevention Act in the Philippines

September 30, 2012

Reference: Hanalei Ramos
NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines
Email: nychrp@gmail.com

New York, NY – The New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP), a community-based education and advocacy group, called the recent Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, also known as the Republic Act (RA) No. 10175, “a very sinister act by the Philippine government to curtail the rights of the Filipino people, which criminalizes ordinary people for simply expressing their thoughts and views on the internet.””It’s an utter display of arrogance, manipulation and abuse of power by certain Philippine politicians, including the Philippine President Noynoy Aquino,” stated Gary Labao, a member of NYCHRP. Labao also echoed the same position of many Philippine groups have tagged the act a form of “e-martial law” as it is reminiscent of the 1972 declaration in many aspects.According to various reports, the vagueness of the act’s stipulation on libel could lead to many interpretations deeming innocent comments as libelous criminal acts. “The Philippines already has a very flawed justice system, where the poor and marginalized sectors of society have very little chance to, or no hope at all to obtain justice.  How can we expect the average Filipino to be able to stand up against this unjust system with this new law?” Labao asked.

OFW Concerns

Globally, Filipinos are among the top users of major social media networks, like Facebook and Twitter. “The internet has become the most common medium of communication,” explained Krystle Cheirs, a member of Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment. “For the government to pass a law that would limit the rights of anyone to express themselves, where activating a ‘like’ button can be deemed as ‘libel,’ would be nothing short of fascism,” Cheirs stated.

“Particularly for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs),  the internet is the most accessible means of contact with family and friends in the Philippines. Can you imagine a simple exchange over the internet on updates and opinions on Philippine politics?” posed Cheirs. “With the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, these exchanges could criminalize your loved ones back in the Philippines, and send them to prison,” she concluded.

Youth Concerns

“This absolutely concerns Filipino youth,” says Yoko Liriano, a student at Hunter College and a youth coordinator for NYCHRP. “Youth use the internet, social media and other outlets in a number of creative ways. Criminalizing the creativity and expression of Filipino youth on the basis of the vague stipulations of the Cybercrime Act. suppresses the rights of young people. This will rob us of a generation of Filipinos who are able to be critical, and able to share their thoughts and views with each other, and abroad,” Liriano comments.

In October, NYCHRP will conduct an information session regarding the Philippines’ Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012. “We want to begin the discussion between Filipinos and non-Filipinos in the New York City area, and hope to generate a broad outreach to the larger, internet-savvy community and cyber rights-defenders. It is vital that we build international solidarity to defend that Philippines against the Cybercrime Prevention Act,” Liriano announced. More details for the information session will be announced at  www.nychrp.infoin the coming week.

Liriano remarked, “The idea of a world without borders is true over the internet. Now is the time to fight this borderless battle, and defend our internet rights.”


New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines
email: nychrp@gmail.com