Tag: Charter Change

Gov’t policies worsen “natural” disaster: BAYAN USA statement on Typhoon Ondoy/Ketsana and Arroyo’s response

Contact: Rhonda Ramiro
Secretary-General, BAYAN USA

The worldwide outpouring of aid and support for the over 1.8 million victims of Typhoon Ondoy (international name: Ketsana) in the Philippines this week leaves Filipinos in the United States reeling with anger in response to the Arroyo government’s utter ineptitude in providing adequate disaster relief.

This anger towards the Arroyo administration is justifiable for a number of reasons, the most obvious of which are the Philippine government’s evident corruption of billions in national disaster funds in order to fatten up the Presidential international travel budget and subsequent insistence that donations coming from abroad be channeled through government agencies.

But in the case of Ondoy, the Arroyo government’s hands have extended past the budget purse-strings and into crafting disaster-prone policies as well.

Not Just a Natural Disaster

The vast, heavy floods that swept through Metro-Manila devastating over 319,811 families and killing at least 240 people slammed tons of pressure that left properties in ruins. But contrary to claims of Malacanang, these killer floods did not come solely from unpredictable heavy rainfall and winds, but from deadly landslides originating from the neighboring provinces.

For years, the Philippine government has denied links between mining and logging activity and landslides in order to protect the investments of multi-national corporations (MNC) in the Philippines. But other mining authorities, such as the British Columbia Geological Survey Branch, admit to a direct link between heavy mechanical activity launched by foreign corporations in resource-rich countries like the Philippines and the weakening of bedrock along slopes that can result to slope failure and eventually a fatal landslide.

In addition to ensuring nothing less than maximum devastation when disasters like Ondoy strike, irregular warming of the Earth’s surface caused by greenhouse gas concentrations resulting from dense MNC activity also contribute to the altering of regional climate patterns, such as the generation of typhoons.

Charter Change

While illegal mining and logging continue throughout the Philippines under the Arroyo administration, the Arroyo clique relentlessly campaigns for changes to the 1987 Philippine Constitution that would allow 100% foreign ownership of Philippine territory. Intensified foreign mining, logging, deforestation, land conversion and marine fishing throughout the Philippines coupled with poor infrastructure will only leave Filipinos vulnerable to more calamities such as Ondoy.

Support People’s Needs, Not Corruption

In this time of urgent need for the vast majority of Filipinos impacted by Ondoy, BAYAN USA appeals to supporters around the world to think twice before donating financial support to Philippine government-led initiatives such as those spearheaded by consular offices around the world.

The reason why overseas Filipinos are choosing NOT to remit through government channels is because of the Philippine government’s proven and historical track record of taking advantage of monetary donation drives in response to calamities as ample opportunities for graft. The 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo is one glaring example of this. In fact, to this day, more than Pph 7 billion (USD $280 million) in public funds allocated for post-eruption disaster relief remains unaccounted for.

The Philippine government makes billions in US dollars every year from the remittances of overseas Filipinos. Let’s not give them a chance to make more money off the victims of Ondoy. There are more reliable and credible people organizations both in the United States and in the Philippines, who not only organize communities for social reforms, but are now working tirelessly to divert donations from the government’s corrupt hands and bring direct relief to the most impacted areas without any discrimination or bias. Visit www.bayanusa.org or www.bayanihan4ondoy.wordpress.com to learn more about them. ###

Arroyo’s post-Obama trip to NYC riddled with protest

Contact: Hanalei Ramos and Yves Nibungco
Regional Co-Coordinators, BAYAN-USA

NEW YORK–The day after her meeting with President Barack Obama in Washington DC, Philippine Head of State Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was once again met with more protests in New York City last Friday in front of her hotel, the Waldorf Astoria. Arroyo traveled for a brief stay in New York City to meet with US businessmen this weekend.

Numerous Anti-Arroyo protesters from BAYAN USA, GABRIELA USA, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerent (FiRE), Anakbayan NY/NJ, NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP), and National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), stood and chanted in the pouring rain to register opposition against the Arroyo administration’s plans to convene a constituent assembly (Con-Ass) that would revise the 1987 Philippine Constitution according to her administration’s proposed changes, also known as Charter Change (Cha-Cha). Protesters also held up signs and banners demanding justice for Melissa Roxas, a member of BAYAN USA abducted and tortured by what is widely-believed to be the Philippine military last May.

“These meetings with businessmen are literally to sell-off our homeland piece-by-piece, as Cha-Cha will ensure the selling of Philippine national patrimony as well as mass media and public utilities,” stated Berna Ellorin, Chair of BAYAN USA. “We may be only 20 standing here in front of the Waldorf, but we represent the interest of millions of Filipinos for a truly sovereign nation to call their own.”

Protesters were able to march to the entrance of the hotel while Arroyo was inside, causing other hotel clients to take notice. Chanting “Cha-Cha ni Gloria, Ibasura!” (Junk Gloria’s Cha-Cha!) and “Gloria, Gloria, You Can’t Hide, We Charge You with Homicide!”, protesters stopped, temporarily blocking the hotel’s entrance, to point out Arroyo’s scrutinized human rights record and the case of Melissa Roxas with hotel clients standing by the entrance waiting to hail a taxi.

They also pointed out the usage of US tax dollars through military aid to fund the Philippine military which has been proven by international human rights monitoring groups to be committing these human rights violations.

The Waldorf-Astoria protest follows a high-profile meeting between Arroyo and Obama at the White House last week.

Several members of protesters in New York City also participated in protests the day before in front of the White House, seeking to call Obama’s attention to Årroyo’s human rights track record and to raise it during the meeting. But a post-meeting press conference revealed that the issue was not discussed, in favor of discussion of economic partnership.

Instead, the Obama administration publicly affirmed ties to the Arroyo administration by appointing the Philippines as the coordinator of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), a multi-lateral economic forum of nations from South East Asia that meets to discuss economic development and cultural progress.

“We are disappointed, but not surprised,” Ellorin stated. “The Obama and Arroyo governments are determined to maintain the status quo of a master-servant relationship through unequal ties, despite opposition from the American and Filipino people. This only proves that NO PRESIDENT can bring in ‘change we can believe in’. Real change can only be brought by people like us united in mass movement and solidarity.”

Filipino Americans to President Obama: Ask Arroyo about Melissa Roxas and the thousands of victims of state-sponsored torture, abductions, and killings in the Philippines

Contact: Rhonda Ramiro
Secretary-General, BAYAN-USA

Nationwide Actions Demand a Reversal of the Failed Bush-Arroyo Doctrine and Call for REAL Change in US Policy Toward the Philippines

During nationwide actions this week marking the annual “State of the Nation Address” in the Philippines, BAYAN-USA declared that it would demand accountability from the Philippine government for the illegal abduction and torture of American citizen Melissa Roxas and call on President Barack Obama to discuss the human rights crisis in the Philippines in his meeting with Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on July 30. Roxas, who is the first US citizen known to be tortured in the Philippines during the Obama administration, was abducted, held in captivity and tortured by alleged military agents in the Philippines from May 19-25, 2009.

The Arroyo-Obama meeting also coincides with a hearing of the Court of Appeals in the Philippines on Roxas’ case, at which Roxas will testify about the violent abduction and torture including repeated beatings and asphyxiation with plastic bags that she endured during her six days in captivity in what she believes was a military camp. The meeting of President Arroyo and President Obama also occurs as the US Senate and House deliberate over next year’s military aid package to the Philippines; the current year’s military aid package is $32 million. US military aid to the Philippine grew a staggering 1,500% during the Bush administration and is widely believed to have funded the Philippine military personnel that committed the human rights atrocities, which includes a body count of at least 1,013 people killed and 1,036 people tortured.

“Neglecting to question Arroyo about Melissa Roxas and the thousands of human rights violations being committed by the Philippine military makes the Obama administration complicit in the perpetration of these heinous crimes,” stated Rhonda Ramiro, Secretary General of BAYAN-USA. “Granting tens of millions of US tax dollars to the murderous Philippine military would make President Obama just as guilty as Bush in the continuing torture and murder of innocent people.”

BAYAN-USA and representatives of churches, community organizations, labor unions, and other concerned groups are appealing to President Obama to live up to his declarations of “change,” by asking President Arroyo what action she intends to take about the rampant human rights violations that continue to plague the Philippines. They are also calling on President Obama to specifically ask President Arroyo, as Commander in Chief, to ensure that the Philippine military cooperates with the investigation into Roxas’ case.

“On the UN International Day in Support of Torture Victims, President Obama declared, ‘Torture is contrary to the founding documents of our country and the fundamental values of our people. The US must stand against torture wherever it takes place.’ We are asking President Obama to live up to his words by taking a stand against the state-sanctioned torture used by the Philippine military against government critics,” said Ramiro.

During her meeting with President Obama, President Arroyo is expected to make a pitch for support of her proposed changes to the Philippine Constitution, known in the Philippines as “Charter Change.” Despite widespread popular opposition, President Arroyo has relentlessly campaigned for Charter Change for over two years, including during today’s State of the Nation Address. Charter Change would wipe out constitutional protections that protect Philippine sovereignty by allowing 100% foreign ownership of Philippine land and key industries, as well as open the door to a power extension for President Arroyo beyond the end of her term in 2010.

Recent polls show extremely low approval ratings of President Arroyo. Since Arroyo became president in 2001, the Philippines has experienced the longest period of sustained high unemployment in its history, at 11.2% or 10.8 million people unemployed and underemployed; a cumulative national government deficit of P1.29 trillion, which is triple the deficits of the Aquino, Ramos and Estrada administrations combined; more human rights violations against innocent civilians than under any previous president including Ferdinand Marcos; and at least 16 documented government corruption scandals amounting to $430 million in kick-backs and pay-offs to government officials and relatives.

“If President Obama is serious about promoting peace and supporting lasting change in the Philippines, he should oppose Arroyo’s Charter Change,” stated Ramiro. “Charter Change would result in less security for Filipinos and Americans alike, because it would worsen poverty and pave the way for an Arroyo dictatorship.”

We want REAL CHANGE NOT Charter Change
We want HUMAN RIGHTS NOT Torture
We want DEMOCRACY NOT Dictatorship
We want SOVEREIGNTY NOT Foreign Rule
We want REAL SECURITY NOT State Terrorism
No US Military Aid for Torture, Abductions and Killings in the Philippines
Investigate the Abduction and Torture of Melissa Roxas

BAYAN-USA Actions being held in the U.S

New York
The Real State of the Nation: Community Forum, Play, and Action
Monday, July 27, 2009, 6:00 PM
Bayanihan Community Center
40-21 69th St.
New York, NY

San Francisco
Cha-Cha-Cha Change We Can Believe In: Action to Demand REAL Change and Justice for Melissa Roxas
Monday, July 27, 2009, 4:00 PM
Federal Building
Corner of Mission Street and 7th Street
San Francisco, CA

Los Angeles
Justice for Melissa Roxas and State of the Nation Action
Coincides with Melissa Roxas’ Writ of Amparo Hearing in the Philippines
Wednesday, July 29, 2009, 7:00 PM
In front of the Philippine Consulate
3600 Wilshire Blvd (between S Harvard Blvd and S Kingsley Dr)
Los Angeles, CA

Additional Actions being held in the US

San Francisco
Vigil for Human Rights in the Philippines
Thursday, July 30, 2009, 6:00 PM
St. Patrick’s Catholic Church
756 Mission St.
San Francisco, CA
Sponsored by the USA-Philippines Ecumenical Advocacy Network

Washington DC
Justice for Melissa Roxas Action and Prayer Vigil
Coincides with Meeting of President Barack Obama and President Gloria Arroyo
Thursday, July 30, 2009, 11:00 AM
Sponsored by Katarungan: Center for Peace, Justice and Human Rights in the Philippines
In front of the White House

Lightning rally strikes Arroyo visit to Los Angeles. Thunderous outcry from Fil-Ams: ‘No to Con-Ass, No to Cha-Cha. Gloria has got to go.’

Contact: Rhonda Ramiro
Secretary General, BAYAN-USA

Los Angeles, CA — On early Saturday morning, Filipino Americans launched a lightning rally to greet Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her mini-junket at the Sheraton Gateway near Los Angeles International Airport. The lightning rally was one of many demonstrations across the Philippines and around the world in recent days to protest the passage of the House Resolution 1109 to convene a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass), considered the latest move of the US-Arroyo regime to change the Philippine Charter (Cha Cha) and further undermine democracy in the Philippines.

BAYAN-USA & GABRIELA USA’s member organizations began the lightning rally, marching to a rendition of “Bayan Ko” carrying “No to Con-Ass” and “No to Cha-Cha” signs, AnakBayan LA, Habi Arts and Sisters of GABRIELA Awaken (SiGAw) members expressed their anger at the US-Arroyo regime’s desperate Con-Ass maneuver to hold on to power. Fil-Ams were also demanding justice for fellow Habi Arts member, Melissa Roxas, a US Citizen who was abducted and tortured by armed men last May while doing community health work in the Philippines. A street theater piece highlighting the on-going human rights violations was dedicated to Roxas, Jonas Burgos, Karen Empeno, Sherlyn Kadapan, James Balao, Juanito Carabeo, John Edward Jandoc and all other victims of the US-Arroyo regime. With a thunderous outcry denouncing Arroyo, the protestors drowned out the cheers of US-Arroyo supporters as Arroyo was escorted back to LAX. The morning rally was concluded with an “Arroyo, You’re A Jerk” hip hop dance circle led by AnakBayan Los Angeles.

“Con-Ass and Charter Change are lame attempts for Arroyo and her cronies to stay in power. They all hoped that the Filipino people would not care enough to notice, but the public outcry of our people in the Philippines, the US and all over the world prove that the people are wise and keen on her trickery,” declared Daya Mortel, BAYAN-USA Southern California Regional Coordinator and Habi Arts member. “She has tried every trick in the book short of declaring Martial Law. Wherever she may go, there will be people who will protest and criticize her abuse of power.”

“Con-Ass is the biggest threat to democracy and the Filipino people today,” stated Kuusela Hilo, Vice Chairperson of BAYAN-USA and member of AnakBayan LA. “The Filipino people have suffered under the US-Arroyo regime, and for Arroyo to position herself as Prime Minister or declare martial law would only mean more suffering and repression for our people.”

The rapes of “Nicole” and “Vanessa” and the devastation wrought on civilians by the annual Balikatan military exercises under the Visiting Forces Agreement have drawn increasing criticism from all sectors of Philippine society. “GMA has turned her back on Filipina women and all other Filipinos by railroading our Constitution and the democratic process. If Con-Ass and Cha-Cha are pushed through, foreigners will be able to own the natural resources of the country and Filipinas will continue to be violated by US troops in the Philippines,” said Terrie Cervas, Vice Chairperson of GABRIELA USA and founding member of SiGAw. Cervas concluded, “By rewriting the Philippine Constitution, the Philippines will be victim to 100% foreign ownership of industries and re-installation of permanent military US presence, beyond supposed ‘temporary’ posts already in place under the Visiting Forces Agreement.” For the last ten years, the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) has paved the way for US military advisers, troops and equipment to train and equip the Philippine military which has been implicated in 1,017 extra-judicial killings and 1,010 cases of torture.

“The fact that Arroyo tried to visit LA unnoticed is very telling,” said Mortel. “She knew she could not come to LA, the hometown of Melissa Roxas, without facing unanswered questions of why her government has not done a thorough probe into the abduction and torture of Roxas and her companions. Or why hundreds of others have been disappeared and why thousands of other victims have yet to receive justice.”

BAYAN-USA will continue to campaign against Con-Ass and Cha-Cha. BAYAN-USA will also be working with national alliances and human rights organizations in the United States to demand justice for Melissa Roxas and all other victims of human rights violations. “We do not want any of our hard-earned US tax dollars funding Philippine death squads,” said Hilo. “Senator Barbara Boxer sponsored a hearing on the human rights crisis in the Philippines just two years ago in Washington DC, and we will be asking Senator Boxer and other elected officials to take Melissa Roxas’ case seriously, to take a stand to defend a US citizen that has survived abduction and torture, and to require that not one cent of US taxes be used to fund human rights violations in the Philippines.”

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. BAYAN-USA’s online petition against the VFA can be found at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/JunkVFAnow. The online petition to demand justice for Roxas and her companions Juanito Carabeo, and John Edward Jandoc can be found at http://www.gopetition.com/online/28021.html.