Tag: Nicole

BAYAN USA holds 3rd Congress in Los Angeles amidst VFA protests

Contact: Kuusela Hilo
Deputy Secretary-General, BAYAN USA

Los Angeles, CA — On March 27-29, 2009 more than 150 delegates and observers from major US cities will convene at the UCLA Downtown Labor Center for the 3rd US-wide congress of BAYAN USA.  With the theme to “Strengthen our alliance and intensify our political struggle against the US-Arroyo clique and for the rights and welfare of Filipinos in the US,” the congress is a historic event for progressive Filipinos nationwide to coordinate campaigns addressing rising unemployment, home foreclosures, and xenophobic immigration policies at home and to confront the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), human rights abuses, and increased militarization in the Philippines.

Also on March 29, GABRIELA-USA will hold its founding and first general assembly at the same venue.

Emmi De Jesus, Secretary General of GABRIELA–Philippines will serve as the Congress keynote and speaker of the GABRIELA-USA assembly.

BAYAN USA is the first overseas chapter of BAYAN Philippines.  It was established in January 2005.  “From the challenge of disunities and uncoordinated organizing prior to the formation of our alliance, we have been able to build a campaign machinery and mass movement,” Chito Quijano, Chairperson of BAYAN USA stated.  “We have conducted creative and coordinated mass actions, participated in the first ever US Senate hearing against political killings in the Philippines, helped build the immigrants rights movement, and have become a leading force in the formation of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle.”  The International League of Peoples’ Struggle is a formation of pro-democratic people’s organizations from 28 countries.

At this year’s congress, BAYAN-USA will elect new national and regional officers.  Delegates will pass new resolutions and make amendments to the existing constitution.  A cultural and solidarity night will also be held on Saturday, March 28 at 6:30 PM at the UCLA Labor Center featuring spoken word artists, hip-hop performers, and other musical guests.

BAYAN USA believes that holding its congress during this time is vital.  The Philippines is facing increased militarization and US interference as a result of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

The VFA, ratified in 1999 is a controversial agreement between the United States and the Philippines as it enables the US military to interfere with Philippine sovereignty.  It replaced the US-Republic of the Philippines military bases agreement that ended in 1991.

Many within the Filipino community view the VFA as treating Filipinos as second-class citizens in their own country.  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.

US President Barack Obama has voiced his support for the VFA and the Philippine government’s efforts in the so-called “war on terrorism.” Since Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) took office in 2001, there have been more than 1,000 reported cases of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings against peasants, workers, women, artists, students, journalists, urban poor, teachers, religious leaders, and labor organizers.  International human rights organizations have expressed concern for the unbridled graft and corruption of the GMA government as 80% of the population live on $2 or less per day.

Here in the US, there is an increase of wealth concentrated in the hands of a small few while the majority of workers face inflation and rising unemployment.  Police brutality and violent attacks against youth, workers, and immigrants here in the US continues even with the recent election of a Democrat President.

The BAYAN USA congress will kick-off and end with protests against the VFA and the Arroyo government’s continuing human rights violations, corruption and shameless servitude to foreign interests.

Nicole’s settlement and Obama’s support won’t stop the Filipino people’s will to terminate the VFA

Contact: Berna Ellorin
Secretary-General, BAYAN USA

Please visit: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/JunkVFAnow

After launching an international petition campaign last week, Filipino-Americans under the banner of the US Chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, or BAYAN USA, an alliance of 14 Filipino organizations in the United States, pledged to heighten their campaign to abrogate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), despite reports of  22 year old Filipina Nicole’s leaving for the United States and a submission filed before the Court of Appeals  by the lawyer of convicted rapist Lance Corporal Daniel Smith declaring that the former US Marine has settled with “Nicole,” who received P100,000  for compensatory and P50,000 for moral damages.

The news of Nicole’s settlement with Smith and release of a statement immediately followed President Barack Obama’s phone call to Philippine Head of State Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo supporting the joint military agreement between the US and Philippine governments.  It was with this phone call that Arroyo was widely criticized for failing to negotiate for the transfer of Smith to Philippine custody as per the Philippines Supreme Court’s decision.  Now, with reports of Nicole settling with Smith and going to the US for good, it is highly suspect  that  the reported settlement and statement which attempt to undermine  the guilty verdict against Smith, is part of the two government’s efforts to preserve their “strategic interests.”

Timing of Settlement Highly Questionable

“Filipinos are well aware of the fact that one cannot just suddenly move to the US. The timing and motives behind these recent turn of events are highly questionable given that it comes at the height of the movement to abrogate the VFA,” states BAYAN USA Secretary General Berna Ellorin. “It is in the US and Arroyo governments’ interest to remove the one unifying reason of late to oppose it– the rape of Nicole and demand to turn convicted rapist Smith to Philippine jurisdiction,” Ellorin added. “But this will not lessen our resolve to call for the VFA’s termination, which has not even been ratified by the US Senate and not enforceable in the US given the US Supreme Court decision in Medellin vs. Texas.”

Under the VFA, over 6000 US troops are scheduled for deployment to the Philippines next month to conduct war exercises with the Philippines military known as the Balikatan exercises. “The US government wants to preserve its unilateralism in the Philippines through the VFA and the Arroyo government wants to remain its number one lapdog in Asia. It’s the perfect scheme,” said Kuusela Hilo, Deputy Secretary General of BAYAN USA.

There Will Be More Nicoles

After a historic conviction in 2006, Smith was found guilty of raping  Nicole  before dumping her brutalized body out a van. As stipulated by the VFA, Smith was turned over to the US Embassy while protest demonstrations in the Philippines and the United States called for the US government to turn Smith over to a Philippine detention facility.

“We wish Nicole the best of luck in her desire to escape her past, but Nicole is just one out of tens of thousands of Filipina women and children who suffer from aggressive sexual crimes, human rights violations, and indignities at the hands of the US troops stationed in the Philippines. Some have been killed or have suffered severe injuries due to indiscriminate shooting and war exercises. But because the VFA grants immunity for US military personnel from Philippine laws, they are free to commit grave crimes and don’t have to worry about facing the Philippine justice system,” Hilo continued. “There will be more Nicoles for as long as the VFA is still intact.”

No Change Under Obama

Nicole’s dubious statement and settlement comes shortly after the much-publicized phone call placed by US President Barack Obama to Arroyo supporting the VFA. Under the Bush regime, the US government sent hundreds of millions in military aid to the Philippine government for US military operations in the Philippines.

“It is hypocritical for the Obama administration to support the VFA and Arroyo. This signifies no departure from the much-hated Bush policies of US intervention in the Philippines. Coming from someone who rode on the slogan ‘Change We Can Believe In’, Obama’s US foreign policy so far in the Philippines is no different from Bush in his push for costly US militarization of the region and monetary support for a regime that has proven itself to be tyrannical and to funnel US military aid towards human rights violations against its people,” Hilo ended.

Junk VFA Calls Will Only Grow Louder

Hilo is confident that the developments with Nicole and Obama won’t weaken the international campaign to terminate the VFA. BAYAN USA vows to take the signatures from the petition campaign to Capitol Hill this year. “In the end, this campaign is about respect and recognition for the national sovereignty of the Philippines and the Filipino people, which ALL the freedom and justice-loving peoples of the world agree with.”

To view and sign the petition, visit  http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/JunkVFAnow.

BAYAN USA will hold its 3rd Congress March 27-29 at the UCLA Downtown Labor Center.

Petition: End unequal relations between the Philippines and the US! Terminate VFA and surrender Smith now!

[ Sign petition at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/JunkVFAnow ]


To: President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Senator John Kerry (Chair, U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee), Representative Howard Berman (Chair, U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs), Representative Barbara Lee (U.S. House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Foreign Operations):

Last February 11, the Philippine Supreme Court declared illegal the U.S. embassy detention of convicted rapist Lance Corporal Daniel Smith, a member of the United States Marines. Smith was convicted by a Philippine court for raping a Filipina in 2006, yet despite his conviction he is serving his sentence inside an American facility instead of a Philippine jail. Such a situation has been viewed as gross disrespect for the sovereignty of the Philippines and the integrity of its courts. To justify the embassy detention, the U.S. government has invoked a provision in the so-called R.P.-U.S. Visiting Forces Agreement allowing the U.S. custody of erring American soldiers.

Had a Filipino committed a similar crime in the U.S., he would not be serving his sentence in the Philippine embassy. Smith’s current detention therefore underscores a fundamental inequality in the provisions of the VFA.

Nobody Wins with the VFA

This observation of one-sidedness is reinforced by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that says treaties entered into by the U.S. are not enforceable in the U.S. unless there is an implementing law or if the treaty is self-executing. The VFA, which was not even ratified as a treaty by the U.S. Senate, has neither an implementing law nor is self-executing. It is inequality, and an affront to sovereignty, when the VFA becomes enforceable in the Philippines but not in the U.S.

The Smith incident is just one of the many problems that have arisen from the VFA, a military pact that governs the entry and presence of American troops in Philippine territory. The VFA provides for, among others, the deployment and stationing of U.S. troops and the holding of joint military operations in the Philippines. Unknown to many, U.S. troops have been stationed in the Philippines since 2002 up to the present. The extent of U.S. deployment in the Philippines increased during George Bush’s discredited “war on terror.”

Combat and Rape Under the Guise of “Training”

The destructive and costly continuance of the joint military exercises between U.S. and Philippine troops under the VFA has resulted in the displacement of thousands of innocent Filipino men, women, and children. Preparations for Balikatan 2009, a joint activity that permits U.S. troops to train Filipino soldiers under Philippine territory, have put in peril the welfare of young children. During the “clearing operations” of the Philippine Military’s 901st Brigade in the Bicol region, a one-year-old child was senselessly killed, while six more children were injured.

The stated intent of the annual Balikatan exercises is to provide training to the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Yet such training becomes questionable given the fact the Philippine military has been consistently implicated by UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston in thousands of human rights violations since 2001, including torture, abductions, and extrajudicial killings.

Furthermore, eyewitness accounts suggest that U.S. military activity is not limited to “exercises,” but has included actual combat operations that are banned by the Philippine Constitution. These interventions are compounded by U.S. military personnel committing crimes during their “rest and recreation” time, including the gang rape of the Filipina woman “Nicole,” for which Smith was convicted in 2006.

Funding Human Rights Violations Instead of Saving Jobs and Homes in the U.S.

The holding of U.S. military exercises is tied with providing military aid to the Philippines, with an annual $30 million allotted by the U.S. Congress and hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars in other assistance. The accumulated U.S. military funding for the Philippines from 2001 to the present may have already reached $1 billion.

Such a practice, however, becomes unconscionable when U.S. funding is used by a regime that – to borrow words from President Barack Obama- “clings to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent.” A recent U.S. State Department report on the Philippines said that “arbitrary, unlawful, and extrajudicial killings by elements of the security services… continued to be major problems.”

The VFA, despite the military exercises and aid, provides absolutely no short-term nor long-term benefits to the people of either the U.S. or the Philippines. Filipino citizens have staged an escalating number of protests to voice their opposition to the Agreement and its violation of Philippine sovereignty. Several Philippine senators have also filed a resolution calling for its abrogation.

The Obama administration has vowed a departure from the Bush foreign policies. Terminating the VFA and removing U.S. troops from the Philippines would be a step in that direction.

We demand:

• That in the interest of justice, the U.S. government surrender custody of convicted rapist Daniel Smith to Philippine authorities

• That the U.S. government terminate the R.P.-U.S. Visiting Forces Agreement for being an unequal pact saddled with legal problems

• That the U.S. government recall the U.S. troops stationed in the Philippines and cease any further deployment under any pretext

• That the U.S. Congress terminate military aid to the Philippines and exclude the Philippines from any allocation of military aid in future years.

[ Sign petition at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/JunkVFAnow ]

GABRIELA-USA demands justice for the rape of Filipina by US military personnel! Stop US troops from violating our women!

Contact: Joanne Alcantara
National Coordinator, GABRIELA–USA

On February 18, 2008, a US army member was taken into custody for the rape of a Filipino woman in Okinawa, Japan. The woman, who’s identity has not been released, reported to local police that she was raped in a hotel. The brutal incident left the woman with injuries, and is currently receiving treatment at a medical facility.

The claim made by the Filipino woman adds to the sordid US military rap sheet in Okinawa, with a 38-year old Marine staff sergeant recently arrested for the rape of a 14-year old Japanese girl only 7 days earlier.

The usual response from the US military claims that Army authorities are investigating the case, but this incident will only prove again the biased nature of the US-Japanese Status of Forces Agreement (SoFA), which allows for US military servicemen to claim impunity regarding specific illegal conduct. In 1995, the gang-rape of an Okinawan elementary school girl by US marines prompted widespread outrage from Okinawans who are still fighting to contest the highly concentrated presence of US military in their island.

Similar to the US-Philippines Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), these underhanded military deals between the US and other Asian states have grave consequences for the girls and women who live and work in and around highly militarized areas. The gang-rape of 22 year-old Nicole in 2006 is indicative of the ongoing pattern of sexual attacks caused by US military occupation. Further, the Philippine puppet government under Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has made it so that the Philippines has become the stomping yard of US military troops. The convicted US marine in Nicole’s case, Lce. Corporal Smith’s lenient sentence is proof of the Philippines’ cowardice when it comes to protecting women’s rights and safety.

The growing presence of US military in the Philippines and in Southeast Asia spells out danger for women’s bodies and livelihood. A recent report of 2 children and a pregnant woman murdered by so-called US training exercises, Balikatan, in Mindanao calls attention to the countless ways US military occupation targets the welfare of women.

These despicable incidents stir up the continuing women’s struggle to oust US occupation in the Philippines and calls for solidarity among women across nations that are subject to the same abuses of military occupation. From the legacy of resistance of our Lolas, WWII comfort women, to standing up against these crimes of war on a new generation of Filipino women, Pinay Sa Seattle, Babae in San Francisco and FiRE in New York demand JUSTICE FOR VICTIMS OF US MILITARY HARASSMENT!

GABRIELA-USA calls for immediate investigation into the rapes in Okinawa, Japan. The US military and government must take accountability for its wars of aggression on the world and on the women of the world!