Contact: Rhonda Ramiro
Secretary-General, BAYAN USA
Appalled by the double-news of the rape of another Filipina woman by a US Marine and the increase in US financial aid to the corrupt Philippine government, BAYAN-USA reiterated its call to terminate the US-Philippines Visiting Forces Agreement (“VFA”), which the alliance of 14 Filipino American organizations in the US sees as the red carpet used to usher in US troops, supplies, and military training linked to thousands of human rights violations.
Under the auspices of the VFA, over 6,000 US troops were deployed to the Philippines this past April, to engage in so-called Balikatan (“shoulder-to-shoulder”) military exercises. In a press conference today, the 22-year-old Filipina “Vanessa” (not her real name) told the story of how she was raped in a hotel room on April 19 by a US Marine, registered in hotel records as “from Joint US Military Assistance Group/Balikatan.” According to the women’s group GABRIELA, Vanessa has decided not to file a case against her alleged rapist though there is evidence to support her claim.
“We are outraged that another Filipina has become the victim of US troops, and that the VFA is blocking her from obtaining justice,” said BAYAN-USA Secretary General Rhonda Ramiro. “Last month’s acquittal of convicted rapist Lance Corporal Daniel Smith signals that US military personnel can get away with the most heinous crimes on Philippine soil because they will be protected by the VFA.”
BAYAN-USA claims that despite its rhetoric of “change,” the administration of President Barack Obama has clung to Bush’s foreign policy when it comes to war and military deployment overseas. Earlier this year, President Obama phoned Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to express support for the VFA and continuing the Balikatan joint military exercises. The estimated total expense borne by US taxpayers for US militarization in the Philippines since the VFA was enacted nearly 10 years ago is a lofty $1 billion. An additional $660 million—up from a reported $400 million just one month ago—is reportedly set to be spent over the next few years.
“The only ‘change’ we see is the change being pocketed by the Arroyo government to rape and terrorize the Filipino people,” declared Ramiro. “Arroyo, her military, and multinational corporations are getting rich off the millions of dollars being paid by the US government to commit torture, abductions, false imprisonment, and ultimately extrajudicial killings to silence critics of Arroyo and her neoliberal economic policies.”
This latest rape case and report of increased aid to the Philippines comes on the heels of an April 29, 2009 report by Philip Alston, U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions, which states that the Philippine government has failed to institute the substantive reforms Alston recommended to address extrajudicial killings and other human rights abuses in the country.
“The fact that hundreds of millions of US taxpayer dollars are being used to commit rape and other human rights atrocities is unconscionable, especially now that we are in the midst of a depression,” stated Ramiro. “The fact that the VFA is being funded and enforced by the Obama administration is hypocrisy, especially after President Obama promised hope and change.”
In response, BAYAN-USA has announced it will conduct a “Day of Action against the VFA” on May 27, 2009 which marks the 10th anniversary of the military agreement. In synch with mobilizations in the Philippines calling for the termination of the VFA, the Day of Action will take place from coast-to-coast across the US in what will be the latest expression of the indignation felt by Filipino Americans over the trampling of Philippine sovereignty by US imperial interests. In March, BAYAN-USA and GABRIELA USA launched an online “Junk VFA” petition, which garnered over 1,000 signatures in two weeks. At the beginning of May, BAYAN-USA also met with the office of Congresswoman Barbara Lee, to urge the representative—who is a member of the US House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Foreign Operations—to support the call for the termination of all military aid to the Philippines pending the Philippine government’s compliance with recommendations in the Alston report to stop human rights violations and prosecute the perpetrators. The BAYAN-USA delegation also asked Representative Lee to introduce new legislation to stop the deployment of US troops to the Philippines unless the said recommendations are implemented and to terminate the VFA.
“BAYAN-USA’s Day of Action against the VFA will send Congress the message that nobody wins and everybody loses with the VFA,” said Ramiro. “In the face of a budget deficit in the trillions and over 11 million people unemployed in the US, it simply makes no sense to continue providing aid to the Arroyo government and to perpetuate the costly VFA. Congress should cut both during the budget appropriations process this spring and summer.”
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. The online petition against the VFA can be found at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/JunkVFAnow.