Tag: Nicole

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.

Smith acquittal a collaborative maneuver by Arroyo and US Gov’t to protect VFA

Contact: Rhonda Ramiro
Secretary-General, BAYAN USA

BAYAN-USA, an alliance of Filipino organizations in the United States, declared the recent court acquittal of US Marine Daniel Smith of a rape conviction back in 2006 as a collaborative move by the US and Arroyo governments to protect the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

The controversial decision comes right after a Philippine Supreme Court (SC) ruling to probe into the circumstances surrounding the affidavit issued by rape victim Nicole and the leakage of a draft Court of Appeals (CA) ruling of acquittal for Smith last week, prompting CA officials to act fast.

The 2005 rape of 22 year-old Filipina Nicole leading to the 2006 trial and conviction US Lance Corporal Smith was a landmark case that marked the first time in the 100+ history of US military presence in the country that a US military personnel was actually convicted under the Philippine judicial system for a crime committed in the Philippines. But the events following the celebrated conviction, beginning with Smith’s transfer of custody from Philippine jurisdiction to the US Embassy drew such outrage and condemnation from the streets that it sparked a burgeoning patriotic movement inside Philippine Congress to abrogate the 10 year-old VFA military agreement, which allows for the “temporary basing” of US military troops in over 20 ports throughout the Philippine archipelago.

“Washington and Malacanang panicked,” states BAYAN USA Chair Berna Ellorin. “They needed to do something drastic to stunt the rallying opposition against the VFA. The sacrificial lambs they chose, without surprise, were a Filipina woman and Philippine national sovereignty. The Arroyo administration collaborated with the spin doctors of the US government to concoct this scheme to protect the VFA by undoing the last four years of the Nicole rape case. It’s very disgusting.”

Beginning with the historic conviction of Smith in 2006, the convicted rapist, who was sentenced to life imprisonment, was whisked to the US Embassy to serve his sentence and not in a Philippine detention facility. This drew protests demanding the US government hand Smith over to Philippine jurisdiction. Both the US and Arroyo governments cited stipulations in the VFA protecting US military personnel in their defense of keeping Smith out of a Philippine jail. But a 2009 SC ruling to re-negotiate Smith’s detention from the US Embassy to a Philippine facility was met with refusal by US Embassy officials to follow. The blatant act of denial by the US government to hand over Smith to Philippine jurisdiction prompted several Philippine lawmakers in the Philippine Congress to introduce a bill calling for the termination of the military agreement. In the weeks following, a questionable affidavit was hastily filed by Nicole which served as basis for a so-called “recantation” of her original testimony. It was reported that Smith’s lawyers drafted the affidavit language and persuaded Nicole to sign it before Nicole took off for the United States. After the SC ruling to investigate the circumstances around the affidavit-signing, a Manila reporter leaked news of a draft acquittal for Smith by the Philippine Court of Appeals.

Earlier this year, US President Barack Obama paid Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo a phone call expressing support for continuing joint military exercises conducted between US and Philippine troops in the Philippines known as Balikatan, under the auspices of the VFA. This month, over 6000 US troops were deployed to the Philippine regions of Bicol, Central and Southern Luzon, and Zamboanga to conduct the said exercises. The estimated total expense for US militarization in the Philippines since the VFA was enacted has cost US taxpayers a lofty $1 billion; an additional $400 million is set to be spent over the next 10 years.

But Ellorin argued that the anti-VFA movement in the Philippines is larger than the Smith-Nicole gang-rape case of 2005-2006. It is about the context of historical unequal relations between the US and Philippines governments, one in which the US government “dictates and takes from the Philippines whatever it wants to serve its self-interest” while the Philippine government “obeys with complete subservience to the negligence of its own people.”

“The US-Arroyo government partnership in the Smith acquittal has made a mockery of the Philippines, as well as victims of all Filipinos and future generations of Filipinos,” Ellorin concluded. “But it will not stop the movement to abrogate the VFA. In fact, Filipinos all over the world, including the US, will be more compelled to terminate not only the VFA, but the Arroyo presidency, now more than ever.”

BAYAN USA, an alliance of 14 Filipino organizations in the United States, has been campaigning for the termination of the VFA and the withdrawal of US troops from the Philippines for four years. It even released an online petition calling for the abrogation of the VFA accessible at: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/JunkVFAnow. The signed petition will be presented by the alliance to US lawmakers and the Obama administration this year.

Fil-Ams protest VFA with actions in Los Angeles; don’t buy into Obama’s rhetoric of change when it comes to foreign policy

Contact: Rhonda Ramiro
Secretary-General, BAYAN USA

Los Angeles, CA — Filipino-Americans under the banners of two alliances — BAYAN USA and GABRIELA USA — staged two strong actions demonstrating deep opposition to the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), a military pact between the US and Philippine governments that allow for the temporary basing of US military personnel in over 20 ports throughout the Philippines. The actions, one in front of the Philippine Consulate along Wilshire Boulevard and the other in front of the General Douglas MacArthur Statue in MacArthur Park, began and ended a historic weekend as the two alliances held their respective congresses at the UCLA Downtown Labor Center from Friday till Sunday, March 27-29.

On Friday morning, approximately 50 Filipino-Americans stormed the Philippine Consulate at 10am to denounce the VFA. Holding giant colorful letters spelling “JUNK VFA,” protesters were seen by cars and pedestrians passing by, many honking to express support.

“Gusto lang namin ipaabot ng isang mensahe sa mga kababayan namin sa loob ng konsulado [Our wish is just to deliver a message to our compatriots inside the consulate] —  We reject the VFA!”, exclaimed outgoing-BAYAN USA Secretary-General Berna Ellorin from the bullhorn towards the entrance of the Philippine Consulate building. Meanwhile, Claudia Paras of Pinay sa Seattle, a member organization of GABRIELA USA, spoke of how the VFA poses  physical harm and human rights violations to Filipinos, especially women and children through sexual aggression of US military personnel. Despite harassment and pressure from the Consulate security forces to step away from the Consulate grounds, protesters managed to march into the Consulate courtyard and ended with a run around the Consulate building.

The 3rd BAYAN USA Congress and founding assembly of GABRIELA USA saw an election of new officers for the national alliances with the campaign for the abrogation of the VFA amongst their most immediate political demands for the next 2-3 years. Despite recent developments with the US President Barack Obama’s show of support for the VFA and Filipina rape victim Nicole’s so-called “recantation” of charges against US Lance Corporal Daniel Smith, Filipinos in the US are not fazed, but are in fact more convinced to debunk the illusion that the Obama administration will depart from the Bush administration’s foreign policy when it comes to war and US military deployment overseas. Obama recently played Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo a phone call expressing support for the continuation of the VFA through the deployment of over 6000 US troops to the Philippines this month.

After two successful back-to-back congresses that garnered nearly 200 participants from across the United States, the two alliances joined forces again on Sunday afternoon for an action at MacArthur Park in Downtown Los Angeles. Marching from the UCLA Downtown Labor Center, the colorful contingent featured brightly-colored flags and a “Sampayan Ng Bayan” or People’s Clothesline, that displayed t-shirts spray-painted with anti-VFA messages on them. In a dramatic show of protest, marchers culminated at the statue of General Douglas MacArthur overlooking the Philippines and draped the clothesline with the letters spelled “JUNK VFA” around its neck like a noose. MacArthur was the former Chief of Staff of the US Army stationed in the Philippine during World War II. His father, Arthur MacArthur, was an American military-governor of the Philippines during the US colonial period in the early 1900’s.

BAYAN USA newly-elected Chair Ellorin, along with GABRIELA USA founding Vice Chair Valerie Francisco and GABRIELA Philippines Secretary-General Emmi de Jesus, who traveled all the way from the Philippines, all spoke in front of the draped statue to a loud crowd of young and old protesters waving banners, placards and flags. BAYAN USA newly-elected Deputy Secretary-General Jack de Jesus, aka Kiwi, and Geologic of Blue Scholars offered performances along with El Dia of the Seattle hip-hop duo 1st Qtr Storm.

Los Angeles is home to the largest concentration of Filipinos in the United States. Both BAYAN USA and GABRIELA USA have long-criticized the costliness of the US military deployments and exercises in the Philippines in addition to over $30 million in US military aid to the Philippines at a time of severe economic downturn for working communities in the United States.

Both BAYAN USA and GABRIELA USA launched a petition site calling for the abrogation of the VFA that has already garnered over 1000 signatures worldwide at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/JunkVFAnow. The said petition is addressed to US President Barack Obama and will be presented to him by the alliances this year.

Filipino Americans assemble at the Philippine Consulate in Los Angeles to demand “Junk VFA”

Contact: Kuusela Hilo
Deputy Secretary-General, BAYAN USA

Los Angeles, CA – Filipino Americans from Los Angeles, San Diego, New York, New Jersey, Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco assembled Friday, March 27, 2009 at 10am at the Philippine Consulate in Los Angeles to protest the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

Friday’s mobilization to “Junk the VFA” assembled community activists in front of the Philippine Consulate in Los Angeles to open this weekend’s 3rd Congress of BAYAN USA.  “We have a duty to stand by our people back home and call for the termination of the VFA,” stated Berna Ellorin, Secretary General of BAYAN USA.

Ellorin continues, “The VFA and the fight to terminate are rightfully at the forefront of our consciousness as we start this Congress.”

The 3rd BAYAN USA Congress is scheduled for March 27 – 29, 2009 at the UCLA Downtown Labor Center where more than 150 delegates and observers from major U.S. cities will meet to coordinate national campaigns dealing with immigration, the economic recession, and human rights violations in the Philippines.

The VFA, ratified in 1999 is a one sided arrangement between the United States and the Philippines.  The VFA provides US air, naval, and ground forces to “visit” the Philippines to hold joint exercises with the Philippine military.  It provides special privileges and legal protections to US service members stationed in the Philippines.  The most recent injustice allowed by the VFA enabled a US serviceman, Lance Corporal Daniel Smith, to evade his criminal verdict.  In December 2006, Smith was tried in Philippine courts and found guilty of raping “Nicole” a Filipina.