June 26, 2008
Reference: Christina Hilo, Northeast Coordinator, BAYAN USA, email: email@example.com
NEW YORK R.A.T.s HIT ARROYO WITH A 'MOUSETRAP' DESPITE FAILED DIVERSIONARY TACTICS
NEW YORK--While scheduled to dine with Filipino-American leaders at the posh Hotel Hilton in Midtown Manhattan, a Rapid Action Team or R.A.T. of about 100 individuals convened at the front of the hotel, waiting for Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to appear in her limousine along the Avenue of the Americas. Arroyo is in New York on the final leg of her national US tour, her main agenda of which was to meet with President Bush and secure more US military aid and other forms of funding.
BAYAN USA, a national alliance of Filipino organizations in the US, together with several other allied groups, coordinated R.A.T.s in several cities in protest of Arroyo's visit, claiming the President will funnel any foreign aid, especially US aid, towards the proliferation of human rights violations, including militarization, counter-insurgency, politically-motivated killings, and abductions in the Philippines. Ironically, the Philippine government was recently elected a vice-presidential post in the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), a major point of controversy for the families of over 1000 victims of extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances in the Philippines.
Protesters also condemned Arroyo's refusal to cut her extravagant US tour short when a major typhoon (Typhoon Frank) hit several provinces in the Philippines last week, killings hundreds and devastating thousands of impoverished families. The country has also been hit hard with the rising price of oil and an overall long-term food crisis. Weekly protest actions throughout the country and rising social unrest peaked when it was exposed Arroyo would be taking along in her US tour 10 members from her Cabinet and several Congresspeople, in perhaps what is one of the most lavish travel expenditures in Philippine diplomatic history.
Even before arriving in New York City, following her stay in Washington DC, the Arroyo camp employed diversionary tactics to evade protesters, changing meeting locations last minute. Luckily, friends close to Arroyo's critics in New York were able to feed accurate and up-to-date information to the R.A.T.s looking out for her.
Speakers and rallyists outside the Hilton Hotel took turns slamming the President's lack of decent governance and rampant corruption schemes. "To all the Filipino-Americans meeting with Arroyo inside the hotel, do you know that you are meeting with a murderer, terrorist, and plunderer?" shouted Yves Nibungco of Anakbayan NY/NJ, also a member organization of BAYAN USA, into the large entryway of the hotel.
Protesters screamed and raised their banners when Arroyo's black limousine dashed by around the hotel to a heavily-guarded, private entryway. New York police were also intent on harassing the protest contingent and prevent them from assembling on the sidewalk.
The theme of "RATS" was first employed back in September 2005, when protesters in New York played on the fact that New York is the rat capital of the world. At the time, Arroyo was in New York to attend an assembly of the United Nations. She was met with protesters donning rat paraphernalia in front of the Philippine Consulate along Fifth Avenue.
"Rats come out when they smell garbage, which is what the Arroyo government is becoming more and more of, a large smelly heap of garbage that rots the Philippine nation," states Gary Labao of the NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP), another member organization of BAYAN USA. Labao helped to design and produce a large paper-mache rat used during the protest action.
Participating organizations in the R.A.T. action include the NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP), Anakbayan NY/NJ, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE)-Gabriela USA, Kapatirang Pilipino or Kappa Pi, Kabalikat Domestic Workers Support Network, Philippine Forum, National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), Pakistan-USA Freedom Forum, and the International Action Center (IAC).
Aside from New York, anti-Arroyo actions took place in Washington DC and Los Angeles. A protest action is scheduled in Seattle this Sunday. ###
R.A.T.s hound Gloria Macapagal Arroyo at the HIlton Hotel in NYC
An NYC R.A.T. comes out when rotten puppets like GMA come to town
R.A.T.s at the entrance of Hilton Hotel in NYC
Yves Nibungco of Anakbayan New York/New Jersey
Members of Anakbayan NY/NJ are R.A.T.s ousting GMA!
R.A.T.s in NYC say "OUST GMA!"
(Photos courtesy of BAYAN USA)