Wednesday, July 25, 2007

NY Filipinos Protest Arroyo's State of the Nation Address

New York-- Fifth Avenue's Philippine Consulate was the sight of a 50+ strong protest action last Sunday jointly organized by the US Chapter of Bagong Alysang Makabayan (BAYAN USA) and the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), two nationwide coalitions of cause-oriented Filipino groups and individuals across the United States.

Member organizations from the two coalitions each delivered speeches of concern over the annual State of the Nation Address (or SONA) delivered by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo this week in the halls of the Philippine Congress.

Both groups feel strongly that Arroyo be disqualified from delivering a reliable report of the state of the nation.

"If she omits the fact that she has commands one of the most deadly and terroristic state forces in the world, she has no clue about the true state of the Philippine nation. State terror is intensifying under the Arroyo rule," states Christina Hilo of the Anakbayan Filipino Youth Collective, and a member organization of BAYAN USA.

"This administration has a primary interest in saving its public image with the international community. But after all the bad press it has gotten this year with its human rights record, we doubt that such a tarnished image is even salvagable," stated Hanalei Ramos of the women's group Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment or FIRE New York.

Protest hightlights include solidarity speeches by representatives of the International Action Center, Pakistan-USA Freedom Forum, and the Free Hawaii Solidarity Committee. Other organizations present include Philippine Forum, NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, Lakas Diwa Filipino Youth Alliance of New Jersey, Kabalikat Domestic Workers Support Network, Movement for a Free Philippines, and even memebers of the Sentosa 27, a group of Filipino nurses trafficked to the US by way of illegal recruitment by the Sentosa Healthcare Agency, a Long Island-based company.

"The plight of overseas Filipino workers, such as the Sentosa 27, is a more reliable gage of the State of the Nation, more so that any fabrication by the Arroyo government," stated Rico Foz of NAFCON.

"Arroyo seems to believe she can transform the Philippines into a first world country, but she is clearly not using her economics degree in this instance. She is using her lack of reason and logic, and puppetry to foreign multi-nationals, to come to this conclusion. As migrant Filipinos, we bear the economic brunt of keeping the Philippine economy afloat with our hard-earned remittances, especially from the US. There is no indication that this trend will ease up anytime soon," Foz added.

Protesters also lambasted the recently enacted Human Security Act of 2007, also known as the Anti-Terror Bill, as a means to open up the Philippines to the domestic policies of the US War on Terror by outlawing peaceful and legitimate dissent in the country.

Protesters presented two petitions to the Philippine Consulate representative, who opened the door to receive the Justice for Sentosa 27 petition, which carried nearly 2000 signatures in support of the trafficked nurses, and for a shutdown of the Sentosa Agency and another petition against the state of extra-judicial killings in the Philippines.

"The government's neglect of overseas Filipino workers is also a human rights violation in itself," Foz ended.

Protesters concluded the action by "spearing" the large effigy of Arroyo depicted as a blood-sucking Aswang, a mythical and demonic creature of Philippine folklore.

In 2001, the Bush administration declared the Philippines the Second Front on the War on Terror, resulting in the massive deployment of US troops to Mindanao and a signifant boost in US military aid to the country. The Philippines has since become the largest recipient of US foreign aid in the Asia-Pacific region.

International watchdogs such as Amnesty Internatational, Human Rights Watch, and even the US Senate hearing have narrowed in the on the claims that this money funds death squads and the Philippine military who have claimed the lives of over 850 BAYAN members and other broad Arroyo opposition forces in the country.

The New York action is also part of a nationally-coordinated day of protest action with other member organization of BAYAN USA in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle. As the only overseas chapter of the Philippine national alliance, the actions were coordinated heavily with BAYAN Philippines.

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