Tag: indigenous

Solidarity message to the 25th Annual Cordillera Day

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-USA extends its utmost solidarity to the 25th annual celebration of Cordillera Day.  Our alliance of 14 progressive Filipino organizations in the US representing organizations of students, scholars, women, workers, and youth unites with your call to “Strengthen people’s solidarity. Intensify the struggle for land, life, and rights!”

International solidarity is more important now than ever.  The world is facing the most widespread and violent crisis of imperialism in history, and the people of the third world, national minorities, and women suffer most acutely.  Contradictions are sharpening between the oppressed majority of the Filipino people–including Filipinos in the US and around the world–and the ruling elite in the Philippines represented by the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo regime.  We are under no illusion that the new administration of President Obama in the US will enact any fundamental change for the world’s people, solve the economic crisis in the US, or change the oppressive US foreign policy toward the Philippines.  We pledge to unite with you to create the change that we envision, by working to isolate the oppressive US-Arroyo clique, and towards building the anti-imperialist front in the United States and beyond.

Over the years, many members of BAYAN-USA organizations have participated in and been inspired by Cordillera Day celebrations and exposure programs hosted by Cordillera People’s Alliance, where we have come to embrace the struggle of national minorities for self-determination as our own.  As overseas Filipinos living in the US, we share the common experience of national minorities in the Philippines as well as other people of oppressed nationalities within the US.  Alongside our brothers and sisters in other communities of color, we are constantly fighting national oppression, racism, chauvinism, and xenophobia.  Together, we contend with the razing of our “Manilatown” neighborhoods by greedy corporate developers, the massive displacement of poor and working class families from New Orleans and Chinatowns, and the eviction of Filipino and Latino farmworkers from the land that generations have cultivated for the profit of capitalist agribusiness.

We have built our solidarity with you by engaging in struggle together.  We have marched with you on International Workers’ Day to condemn the exploitation of working people and demand wage increases and humane working conditions.  We have joined demonstrations and camped out on picket lines with you, to oppose wide-scale displacement of indigenous communities from their ancestral land.  We have stood with you to resist police and military harassment at the sites of past Cordillera Day celebrations.  You are sure to face intensified intimidation by military forces again this year, who are intent on derailing your efforts to defend your ancestral domain, assert your right to self-determination, and pursue what Macling Dulag and hundreds of Cordillera martyrs fought for.

In solidarity with your struggle, BAYAN-USA will amplify our condemnation of the plunder of your ancestral land resources by huge corporate and transnational mining companies, many of which are based in the US; the worsening human rights violations due to militarization, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearance, and political repression funded by US military aid; impending charter change pushed by the US-backed Arroyo regime; and the global economic crisis caused by the inherent flaws of US imperialism.


The Israeli military is doing the US government’s dirty work! Stop the ongoing massacres in Gaza now! (Updated)

Contact: Berna Ellorin
Secretary-General, BAYAN USA

The US Chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, or BAYAN USA, an alliance of 12 Filipino organizations in the US, vehemently condemns the US government-sponsored bloodshed that is currently ongoing in the city of Gaza, in the Palestinian territories. As of the writing of this statement, the Israeli military air strikes in Gaza have killed over 300 Palestinians, and nearly 1000 more are critically wounded, including women and children. The death toll from the last 72 hours alone in Gaza marks the highest in the decades-long so-called “Israeli-Palestinian conflict”. Israeli state officials claim the siege on Gaza is a response to the Hamas government’s continued “violent retaliation” in the form of rocket barrages.

To understand the so-called “Israeli-Palestinian conflict” more comprehensively, one must see it in the context of US imperialism’s role in dividing and plundering the Middle East to serve its economic and political interests.  The state of “Israel” still serves as a strategic access point for US-imperialism to plunder the entire region’s most profitable resources– black gold and oil.The state of “Israel” is a US surrogate state that has long been funded by Washington DC to do its dirty work and uphold its interests in the region. This includes the ethnic cleansing of millions of Palestinian families who were violently forced to flee from their ancestral lands beginning in 1948 with the forceful and violent Zionist occupation of Palestine and the establishment of the state of “Israel”. The establishment of Israel and its systemic massacre and displacement of the Palestinian people is one of the greatest offensives of the US government in the Middle East, that duly serves the interests of US imperialism to control the region.

Israel-US government relations remain tight and intimate in this campaign. Israel is the largest recipient of direct economic and military aid from the US government since World War II. This means the Israeli military’s continuing offensives on Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are made possible with generous funding from the US government. The hard-earned tax dollars of the people of the US are fueling these continuing attacks of the US surrogate government of Israel against the Palestinian people. At the same time, the global economic crisis is hitting the people of the US hard with massive job lay-offs, foreclosures, evictions, and budget cuts to health care and education.

In light of their historical oppression, the oppressed Palestinian people have every right to resist and determine their form of resistance in the interest of their national liberation. It is understandable that this heroic resistance includes armed struggle. The Palestinian people have suffered the most horrific crimes of war and massacre from US imperialism at the hands of the Israeli government.

In the same light, the Filipino people are suffering from attacks from the same enemy. If the state of “Israel” is considered US-imperialism’s front door to the rest of the Middle East and Asia, then the Philippines would be the back door. For almost 110 years, the US has forcefully imposed its control over the Philippines, directly and indirectly, for the sake of maintaining this strategic geo-political and economic post in the Asia Pacific region. One of the first colonies of US-imperialism at the turn of the 20th century, the Filipino people suffered great losses. More than one-sixth of the Filipino people were massacred with the first few years of US occupation.

Like the US surrogate government in Israel, the US surrogate government of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is also performing the same dirty work in the Philippines to advance US imperialism’s control over the country. While Israel is the largest annual recipient of US economic and military aid in the world, the Philippines is the largest recipient in Asia. But US economic aid to the Philippine government is not used for economic development of a very poor nation. Instead the Arroyo administration directs US economic aid towards beefing up the Philippine military, which has been responsible for the gravest human rights crisis in the country since the period of the US-backed Marcos dictatorship, and deepening corruption by buying the loyalty of corrupt Philippine politicians. The Philippine military is also responsible for the massive displacement of millions of Filipinos from their lands, especially the Muslim and indigenous communities.

Here in the United States, oppressed and working people have the responsibility to cripple the state terrorist machinaries of the Israeli and Philippine governments by demanding the withdrawal of US direct economic and military aid to both countries. As the global economic crisis continues to awaken the people in the US to the rotten character of US imperialism, we must strengthen our solidarity ties to national liberation struggles abroad, including Palestine and the Philippines. By intensifying our struggles and resistance against US imperialism in all parts of the globe, we can weaken our common enemy.

Furthermore, President-Elect Barack Obama’s swift appointment of Rahm Emanuel as his Chief-of-Staff foreshadows continued Zionist oppression of the Palestinian people.  His father, Benjamin Emanuel, is an ardent Zionist militant who has been infamously quoted as bragging that his son will ensure the incoming Obama administration’s pro-Israel agenda, and offensively remarked that Arabs in the White House are usually relegated to cleaning floors. We must therefore remain vigilant and maintain no illusion that the incoming US presidential administration can effectively or even has the intention to restore peace in the region.

In condemning the attacks on Gaza, we demand justice for the Palestinian people. This means we demand the US-Israeli occupation of the Palestinian people’s ancestral land end, and that the right of the Palestinian people to return to their homeland be globally respected and recognized. Without justice, neither peace nor democracy can be realized or practiced in the Middle East or the Philippines.


That the mountains may chant the truth (a Cordillera statement calling for a stop to extrajudicial killings)

Once more, bullets silenced another small voice.

The ambush of the family of Dr. Constancio “Chandu” Claver, in the morning of July 31, 2006 near the Police Headquarters in Bulanao, Tabuk, Kalinga is repugnant. Chandu, the “people’s doctor” was seriously wounded, and Alice, his wife was killed, and their daughter is traumatized. Such atrocity has never been so real in the Cordillera until these recent months.

We, in the Cordillera have always cherished freedom and held it as essential to full humanity. This unflinching belief has helped us maintain our dignity all these years of government neglect, social marginalization, political isolation and economic deprivation. We fought for it.

We take pride in the fact that it shaped the ethos that binds the indigenous people of the Cordillera and links them with other indigenous peoples here and abroad. The ambush of the Clavers and of Marcus Bangit before them is alien to the culture of the people in the Cordillera.

We condemn the ambush of Dr. Claver’s family. The assault of unarmed civilians in public places is a manifestation of a rotten social order. It can only be motivated by a desire to perpetuate fear, subservience and maintain a state of repression.

The killings are deliberate and systematic, planned and executed only by those who have the means and capacity to undertake such atrocity with impunity and sophistication.

We believe that peace and justice is possible if the reasons for dissent and civil unrest are sincerely heard and addressed by those who hold power. At the core of democracy is a government that submits to the processes so painstakingly instituted to protect and ensure the welfare and interest of the majority of the citizens over and above all else.

We deplore the killing of people simply because of their political beliefs. This horrendous decimation of perceived “leftists” sends a chilling message that democracy is interpreted only by those who wield power. People in the Cordillera have demonstrated in the past that we cannot be cowed by any power to speak peace and surrender our freedom.

Wherefore, we now stand firmly united and demand that Government muster the political will and sincerity to put an immediate stop to these killings, find the perpetrators and mete justice.

We affix our signatures voluntarily and with fervent prayers and hope that political decency and moral uprightness will sweep clean the corridors of powers in this country. Let that small voice reverberate to the far reaches of this country and across the seas to swell the crescendo of the cry for justice and peace.

Sign Cordillera Petition at www.sagada.net

Oral intervention submitted by Ms. Tess Vistro of the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) to the Second Session of the UN Human Rights Council, 22 September 2006, Geneva

Agenda Item: Report of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders by Ms. Hina Jilani before the plenary session of the UNHRC at Palais des Nations

Mr. President and Distinguished Delegates,

I am Tess Vistro, speaking as a member of the Rural and Indigenous Women Task Force of the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD).

We very much welcome the Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Defenders, Ms. Hina Jilani. We appreciate the special attention she has given to the situation of women human rights defenders.

Mr. President, we at the Asia Pacific Forum on Women Law and Development (APWLD) are clearly disturbed by the political killings and repression of women in the Asian region hindering our hard earned gains in women’s political participation and empowerment. Further we believe that the political killings and repression are impediments to the effort of the global women’s movement and call of various United Nations bodies for greater political participation of women.

As the new Human Rights Council begun — a body charged with promoting and protecting human rights, the most fundamental of which is the right to life- in its work to protect the rights of people around the world, we urge everyone who stand committed to protect human rights, to call on council members and all UN member states to put pressure on the governments of the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Nepal to put to stop to the killings and political repression.

What is deplorable is the fact that the Philippines, with the country’s growing record of political killings, was elected to this newly created United Nations Human Rights Council. During the first session of the Council in June, 2006, where the Philippines sat as a member, abduction of two women occurred, and 15 extrajudicial killings happened, including the killing of couple George and Macel Vigo, both journalists based in Mindanao. Unidentified motorcycle riding men, gunned them down in broad daylight, as they were driving home in their motorcycle to their five children.

Since January 21, 2001 to September 21, 2006, the Philippine human rights organization, KARAPATAN, has documented 755 victims of political killings and 184 victims of enforced disappearance. Among the victims are journalists, lawyers, priests and lay religious leaders, leaders of peasant and trade union organizations, human rights workers, local government officials, leaders of progressive partylist organizations women leaders, youth activists. Of this total, 78 victims are women.

But what is appalling, Madam Chair is the fact that the Philippine government is unable to put a stop to this worsening problem of killings and disappearances of human rights and women human rights defenders, and unable to give protection to them. Many of the wives, mothers, children and relatives of the victims are being harassed and continue to receive death threats. Worse, they are listed in the so-called military’s order of battle. No one has been seriously prosecuted, no one has been put to justice.

The Philippine mission’s reply on Sept 19 to one of the NGO’s statements that, and I quote, “It should be only after proper court trial that certain offenses are classified conclusively as human rights violations,” does not offer any comfort. It disturbs us all the more at APWLD.

Mr. President, these political killings and repression of women human rights defenders are also happening in other parts of the region, particularly in Nepal and Sri Lanka.

We, therefore call on the Human Rights Council, to:

  • urge all its members states, particularly the Philippines, to uphold the fundamental rights of its citizens;
  • express its concern to the current political killings and repression in its member states, particularly the Philippines; and
  • undertake an independent investigative mission to the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Nepal, on the issues of political killings.

Finally, we urge the States to:

  • immediately act on their responsibility of putting the perpetrators of these political killings to justice; and
  • fulfill their obligation of protecting and promoting human rights of its citizens, regardless of their political beliefs.

The Human Rights Council, convened at this very volatile period of our history, has the urgent task of ensuring that human rights of women and men like us who are on the ground fighting for our rights, are protected and promoted.

We, at APWLD hope we did not come here in vain.