Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Filipinos in New York Commemorate International Human Rights Day

Photo by Jonna Baldres

News Release
December 10, 2008

Reference: Peter Arvin Jabido, NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, email:

Filipinos in New York Commemorate International Human Rights Day

Filipinos in New York City commemorated International Human Rights Day on December 10th with a special mass dedicated to the victims of human rights violations in the Philippines. Entitled "Misa Para sa Kapayapaan at Karapatang Pantao" [Mass for Peace and Human Rights], the mass was sponsored by the NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, a local advocacy group in New York, and held at the Chapel of San Lorenzo Ruiz, the Filipino Apostolate of the Archdiocese of New York lower Manhattan.

Berna Ellorin, a member of NYCHRP, opened the mass with a quote from a recent statement from Filipino Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, President of the Catholic Bishops Conference in the Philippines-- "Today, is a day of shame and embarrassment....because of the innumerable human rights violations that have remained unexamined, unexplained and unsolved or covered up by events [in the Philippines]. Ellorin further quoted Lagdameo with --" We are ashamed, that our country is said to be the most corrupt in Asia and the second most corrupt in the world. This is because of human rights violations in various degrees."

The ecumenical service was led by celebrant Fr. Erno Diaz, who also spoke of human rights violations in his sermon. "We must remember that Jesus was a victim of a violent human rights violation for doing good, as was Filipino saint San Lorenzo Ruiz. We must continue to pray for those that are being persecuted for struggling for peace and human rights."

Gary Labao of NYCHRP closed the communion with a reflection on peace-- "Peace is not merely the absence of war, violence or turmoil. Peace must always be based on justice.... Therefore there can be no peace as long as there are people dying of hunger and poverty. There can be no peace as long as there is inequality and oppression. There will be dissidents, rebels, and people who are willing to commit acts of violence against men."

Labao also spoke of the 977 civilian victims of extrajudicial killings, 201 civilian victims of enforced disappearances, 1,010 victims of torture, and 1,464 victims of illegal arrests in the Philippines under the administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Members of NYCHRP also mentioned the investigation of Radhika Coomaraswamy, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Children, in the Philippines this week. "A country that upholds human rights must prove itself first and foremost as a country safe for our children, the most vulnerable in our society. The Children's Rehabilitation Center in the Philippines has already reported over 948 cases of human rights violations against Filipino children in addition to 2 million children that have been displaced due to militarization," stated Ellorin.

Upon conclusion, members of Anakbayan New York/New Jersey and Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment collected signatures endorsing the release of the Southern Tagalog 72, known anti-Arroyo critics in the Southern Tagalog region who were swept in false charges of murder and arson and some of whom are in detention. ###


Press Statement
06 December 2008

Jonna Baldres, Secretary General, Anakbayan New York/New Jersey, anakbayan_nj@
Jeff Rice, Secretary General, Anakbayan Seattle, edjop82@gmail. com
Lyle Prijoles, Chairperson, League of Filipino Students-San Francisco State University, Lfs.sfsu@gmail. com

Progressive Filipino Youth in US Protest Criminalization of ST 72

Once again, the crackdown on activists and leaders of progressive organizations come at a full speed and at increased proportions as the state holds these human rights defenders accountable for false and trumped-up charges, arresting and detaining them at indefinite lengths of time. The most recent of whom are the 72 activists from the Southern Tagalog part of the Philippines — including chief legal counsel of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU or May 1st Movement), Atty. Remigio Saladero, and among the youth, Anakbayan Southern Tagalog Secretary-General Pedro Santos Jr, and former provincial coordinators for Anakbayan-Cavite Karen Ortiz and Sheryll Villegas — who have been accused of murder and arson.

Thanks to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, her ever-loyal cabinet members National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales and Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales who head the Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG), the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the Philippine National Police who are all working together to arbitrarily pin down those whom they believe are members of organizations they tag as communist fronts.

Aside from the case of our Anakbayan brother and sisters from Southern Tagalog, the Filipino youth and students from other regions have not been spared from these acts of criminalization and demonization. During the second half of this year, some student leaders and members of Anakbayan and League of Filipino Students (LFS) from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) were also falsely charged with rebellion and frustrated murder and had been openly accused as NPA recruiters and communists for explicitly criticizing and opposing tuition hikes and other anti-youth and anti-student policies implemented by the Arroyo regime. Accounts of these accusations can be seen in videos and comic strips produced and distributed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines who hold fora and symposia through the ROTC (Reserved Officers Training Corps) and who roam freely inside campuses across the country.

In Jose Rizal University (JRU), 19 students were suspended by the administration for leading a protest action against the Value Added Tax (VAT) — some of whom are also members of Anakbayan-JRU.

Here in the US, we can recall what happened last June at the Philippine Independence Day parade in New York, wherein young members of the Kappa Pi Fraternity who joined the contingent of the progressive alliances BAYAN-USA and National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) in voicing out against the government’s malpractices had also been falsely charged, almost got arrested and constantly bullied all throughout the event by the New York Police Department (NYPD).

Even the blind can probably see through these false accusations and connect the dots to conclude that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo definitely has a hand on all these cases of silencing and criminalizing those who speak the truth.

In this time of severe economic and political crises, the Arroyo administration never fails to flaunt its true color. That in order to cling to power, it will never bow down to its staunch critics, up to the point of striking against all those who get in the way, even those who stand up for what is just and right. This only shows that in the Philippines — and even right here in the belly of the beast — fighting for one’s rights and speaking against the wrongful deeds of the Philippine government will put one deep into the grave. And for the US government to support and give more funds to the Philippine government taken from taxes paid by the American people will only ensure continuous support for this absurd and savage cause.

As we, the Filipino-American and im/migrant youth, look ahead with the establishment of a new US president, we remain vigilant; that the grave mistakes of the previous administration in support of our government back home be not allowed to creep back into the free and peaceful society that our forefathers have envisioned for us.

We, Anakbayan, now with over 7 chapters across the US, and the League of Filipino Students-San Francisco State University (LFS-SFSU), vow to militantly defy state terrorism by the fascist Arroyo administration on all sectors of Philippine society, unwaveringly expose all forms of violations against human rights, and unceasingly fight for justice for all the victims who had fallen into the hands of this unparalleled brute that is the Arroyo regime.



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