Reference: Bernadette Ellorin, Chairperson, BAYAN USA, email: [email protected]
Filipino-Americans, under the banner of BAYAN USA, and their allies are seriously doubtful over the integrity of Philippine President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III’s so-called commitment to human rights, peace and justice in the Philippines. As today marks the 39th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law in the Philippines by the former Marcos dictatorship in 1972, BAYAN USA warns that the Aquino administration has so far failed to scrap the vestiges of martial law, including an ongoing human rights crisis throughout the country and state corruption, since its inception. It will continue to fail and break its promises on this for as long as it remains loyal the structural framework at the root of rampant human rights violations and corruption– US intervention in the country’s economic, political, and military affairs.
US Intervention & the Philippine Human Rights Crisis
A series of cables between the US Embassy in Manila and the US State Department recently released by the whistle-blowing online site Wikileaks reveals the disturbing extent of US government interference in Philippine affairs, as well as a general compliance to the country’s deteriorating human rights and peace situation. This includes strong affirmation and multi-million monetary support for counter-insurgency programs Oplan Bantay Laya I and II that international human rights organizations have patently criticized for perpetrating extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, illegal arrests and torture in the Philippines. The cable communications also revealed the US and Philippine government’s lack of concern for the well-being of Melissa Roxas, a US citizen who was abducted, secretly-detained, and tortured for six days by the Philippine military in 2009, as well as a distortion of the facts of the high-profile case that has spurred international uproar and support for Roxas.
As with the previous Arroyo government, human rights violations have continued under Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan. The Philippine human rights monitoring group Karapatan has documented 48 politically-motivated killings, 5 abductions, 29 torture cases, 151 illegal arrests, and 3010 victims of forced evacuations in rural villages in the first year of the Aquino administration alone. In addition, Aquino has failed to exert any serious effort to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of the scores of human rights violations committed under the Arroyo administration. A culture of impunity for human rights abusers remains intact in the country.
Posing Roadblocks to a Just and Lasting Peace
As revealed in the Wikileaks cables, the US, Philippine, and Dutch governments collaborated in framing Professor Jose Maria Sison, chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), on trumped charges of murder, as well as in keeping Sison on the US Foreign Terrorist List. The 2002 listing of Sison, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its military wing, the New Peoples Army (NPA) contributed to jeopardizing the peace negotiations between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the NDFP. The NDFP-GPH peace negotiations were set up with the aim of resolving the 40+ year-old civil war between the AFP and the CPP-NPA.
While the resumption of peace negotiations under Aquino led to the release of some NDFP consultants in detention such as Jovencio Balweg, Angelina Ipong, Glicerio Pernia, Maria Luisa Pucray and Jaime Soledad, there remains 13 NDF peace consultants and 340 political prisoners still in detention. The detention of NDF peace consultants remains in violation of the GPH’s obligation to uphold the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) and The Hague Joint Declaration.
Ninoy was a Political Prisoner
On the 39th anniversary of the declaration of martial law, it is important that Aquino remember that his own parents were victims of martial law. The son of a political prisoner who was detained, tortured, and assassinated for his political convictions, as well as a widow who after ascending to the presidency acted on behalf of her martyred husband and released all political prisoners, including Sison, Aquino can and should decisively scrap the vestiges of martial law in the country by releasing all NDF peace consultants in detention and all political prisoners in the country. Instead, Aquino is in the United States this week with the objective of lobbying for more economic aid, including military aid, from the US government. It is this loyal subservience to US imperial dictates and lack of patriotism in the form of asserting Philippine sovereignty that not only perpetuates, but necessitates state violence and repression against those who struggle for genuine nationalism and democracy.
But those who were victimized by killings and disappearances perpetrated by the Philippine state have not been silenced. Their voices resound even louder through the Filipino people’s continuing mass struggle for a truly sovereign and democratic state– a country with an industrialized, self-reliant national economy providing of jobs for its citizens as well as a fair and just land distribution program for the majority of Filipinos who live and work off of it. It is a struggle that echoes even from the Filipinos in the US, as BAYAN USA and allies are meeting Aquino’s US visit with stronger demands for the assertion of Philippine sovereignty by way of rejecting US military, economic, political interference and justice for the victims of human rights violations in the country.
FREE ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS!
JUSTICE FOR MELISSA ROXAS!
JUSTICE FOR ALL VICTIMS OF EXTRA-JUDICIAL KILLINGS & ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCES!
NEVER AGAIN TO MARTIAL LAW!
BAYAN-USA is an alliance of 15 progressive Filipino organizations in the U.S. representing youth, students, women, workers, artists, and human rights advocates. As the oldest and largest overseas 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 U.S. For more information, visit www.bayanusa.org