Joint Statement of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns-Midwest and AnakBayan Chicago
The President of the Philippines Benigno S. Aquino III is in Chicago today to meet with Mayor Rahm Emanuel and several investors prior to his trip to Canada tomorrow. He was expected to be in Canada from May 4th to the 12th for a State visit but we had just learned that he is stopping by Chicago today.
The world is watching President Aquino’s visit in Chicago. Filipinos around the world will be watching this visit. We want the world to know that we are tired of his presidency. We have had enough of his “atrocious human rights record, dismally inept leadership and the unbridled corruption of his administration”.
The Aquino government’s incompetence and neglect were seen in the wake of the devastating super typhoon Haiyan that hit the Philippines in November of 2013, as 48 million US dollars of disaster relief money was found sitting in banks while victims were crying for help. It is enmeshed in a serious corruption scandal that led to the Philippine Supreme Court questioning the constitutionality of Aquino’s Presidential Discretionary Assistance Funds, more commonly known as the biggest “pork barrel” in the country.
Displaying the same lack of compassion and leadership expected of a President, Mr. Aquino told the mother of Mary Jane Veloso, who was saved at the last minute from execution by firing squad on April 28 in Indonesia, that her problem was not the making of his government. Mary Jane Veloso was a victim of human traffickers, but more tragically she is a victim of the Aquino government’s neglect. According to Migrante International, the Aquino government failed for five years to provide her with proper and sufficient legal assistance, but his government is now shamelessly claiming credit for the suspension of her execution. The role of the collective people’s action in the Philippines and around the world in saving Mary Jane was affirmed by her family.
Behind the Mary Jane crisis lies a labour export policy that leads to the exodus of millions of desperate Filipinos, with over 5,000 leaving the Philippines to work overseas every day. It appears that neither Mary Jane’s death sentence, nor the large numbers of Filipino temporary workers will stop President Aquino from promoting further the export of Filipino workers during his visit.
Here in the US, around 300 Filipino teachers were trafficked in Baton Rouge, Louisiana by fraudulent labor recruitment agency. These teachers were all the time thinking that aside from seeking greener pasture in the US, they were at the same time helping rebuild the economy of Louisiana after it was hit by hurricane Katrina. In November of 2012, an oil rig explosion off the Gulf of Mexico made the US government investigate on the unsafe conditions suffered by oil rig workers. In that explosion 3 Filipinos were killed, 3 Filipinos were badly injured and several Filipinos and Americans were also injured. The Grand Isle Shipyard in Louisiana who was the employer of these Filipino oil rig workers was later on found to be involved in trafficking these Filipinos. Nurses were also trafficked in New York and New Jersey as in the case of Sentosa, 27. In Florida, hundreds of hotel and restaurant workers were also trafficked as in the case of the Florida 15. Lately, hundreds of teachers were found out to be human trafficking victims in Washington, DC.
The Philippines ranks 3rd among the most dangerous countries in the world for citizens who advocate for the protection of the environment. In 2014 alone, 15 Filipinos were killed by state agents because the Aquino government considered their opposition to large scale mining and other destructive resource extraction as a threat to the state.
The counter-insurgency war stubbornly pursued by President Aquino which is designed to target not only the armed rebel groups but also ordinary Filipinos critical of his administration and policies, has resulted in 238 assassinations of civilians, 491 political prisoners, 26 people abducted and missing until now, and hundreds of thousands of Filipinos displaced and uprooted from their communities.
The President must be held accountable for what happened in Mamasapano, Maguindanao in southern Philippines. On January 25 this year, at least 66 Filipinos among them members of the Philippine National Police, members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and several civilians including children were killed in a botched police operation called Operation Exodus that aimed to neutralize a suspected Indonesian terrorist named Marwan, one of the most-wanted in the FBI’s list.
Official reports by the Philippine Senate, the Board of Inquiry of the Philippine National Police, and independent fact-finding missions by grassroots organizations confirm the involvement of Americans in this operation. In addition to sightings of American drones flying in the area for a week leading up to the operation and PNP personnel turning over Marwan’s finger (for cross identification) directly to the FBI following that operation, the BOI report in particular cites the presence of six US government personnel at the operation’s Tactical Command Post. However, the official statement by the US Embassy denied any US involvement in the botched operation except for “retrieval” of the dead.
Furthermore, during President Aquino’s presidency the Visiting Forces Agreement-VFA and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement-EDCA were strengthened and almost a thousand US troops are continually moving around the Philippines all year round. The presence of US troops aside from challenging the sovereignty of the Philippines created problems and abuses committed by US personnel such as the brutal slaughter of transgender Jennifer Laude.
We want a President who leads decisively and who will protect the interest of the Filipino people and not a President that export and market Filipino labor abroad while welcoming the US troops to move around the Philippines and commit crimes. We are tired of his presidency.
In the Philippines, millions are calling for the President to resign.
HE IS ACCOUNTABLE TO THE PEOPLE, HE SHOULD RESIGN!
PUBLIC INFORMATION DESK
Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights
2nd Flr. Erythrina Building
#1 Maaralin corner Matatag Streets
Central District, Diliman
Quezon City, PHILIPPINES 1101
Telefax: (+63 2) 4354146
KARAPATAN is an alliance of human rights organizations and programs, human rights desks and committees of people’s organizations, and individual advocates committed to the defense and promotion of people’s rights and civil liberties. It monitors and documents cases of human rights violations, assists and defends victims and conducts education, training and campaign.