Los Angeles, CA — Fifty Filipinos from across Southern California held a rally in front of the Philippine Consulate in Los Angeles to protest against President Benigno Aquino III’s final State of the Nation Address on July 27, 2015.
BAYAN USA, an alliance of progressive Filipino organizations, mobilized community members from Los Angeles, South Bay, Inland Empire, and San Diego to conduct a “roast” protest of Aquino for failing to address human rights violations, pork barrel corruption, labor export of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), and the defense of Philippine sovereignty. A lechon-themed effigy displaying Aquino’s face and star spangled top hat was the main attraction of the rally, which included speeches, artwork, theatre, song, and poetry.
Nikole Cababa of BAYAN USA Southern California explained, “The Filipino people are fed up with Aquino’s lies and self-serving politics. It’s important we host a real state of the nation address to reflect the harsh realities and aspirations of Filipinos and migrants around the world.”
Trafficking survivors of Migrante Los Angeles, a Filipino migrant organization organizing for their rights and welfare, also attended the rally. The group performed theatre skits to portray the situation of OFWs, highlighting the case of Mary Jane Veloso, a single mother of two and a human trafficking victim facing execution in Indonesia who has been incarcerated since Aquino took office in 2010.
Nap Pempeña of Anakbayan Los Angeles said, “In the five years of his regime, he has done nothing respectful. There is nothing respectful about the state of Mary Jane, the state of OFWs right now, along with 80 other OFWs on death row right now.”
Pempeña continued, “There’s nothing respectful about billions of dollars that are still in the coffers of politicians right now instead of being distributed to the victims of Typhoon Haiyan.” Anakbayan Los Angeles helped recruit 30 Filipino American students to volunteer for the Kapit Bisig Kabataan Network’s ongoing typhoon relief and rehabilitation mission in the Philippines. Activists held placards criticizing government neglect in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda with $33 million worth of relief money left unused in the bank accounts of Philippine government agencies.
The activists welcomed Filipino leaders from Mindanao who recently testified at the International People’s Tribunal in Washington D.C., which ruled that Aquino and the U.S. government, represented by President Barack Obama, are guilty for conducting human rights violations and crimes against the Filipino people.
“He practically bragged about everything except the truth,” stated Amirah Lidasan, of Suara Bangsamoro or Voice of the Moro People. “He did not say anything about the Mamasapano incident, how the US government has masterminded, planned, and pushed the Philippine government to implement an experimental war on terror program called the Oplan Exodus.”
A guest speaker from the Mindanao-based typhoon relief organization BALSA-Lanao, Vennel Chenfoo said, “Sa huling SONA, dito natin maipapakita ang lakas ng mamamayang pilipino na kung tayo’y magkakaisa, makakamit natin ang tunay na hustisya at tunay na kalayaan para sa ating bayan.” (“In his final SONA, we can show the strength of the Filipino people, that if we are united, we can achieve genuine justice and liberation for our country”)
BAYAN USA Southern California Regional Coordinator
Photos by Hiyas Saturay & Chando Kem