In commemoration of International Human Rights Day and their organization’s 11th Anniversary, members of the New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, or NYCHRP, will engage in two major protest actions today to demand an end to xenophobia, Islamophobia, and wars led by the United States around th
First, NYCHRP will take to the streets and join a large demonstration in Columbus Circle called for by Arab and Muslim communities and human rights activists in New York City to express solidarity with Iraqi and Syrian refugees, who have lately been the target of racist, xenophobic policy making and media attacks. The demonstration is in response to Republican presidential candidate nominee Donald Trump’s campaign to ban Muslims from the United States and the House of Representatives passing of the stringent American SAFE Act of 2015 (H.R. 4038) on November 19, 2015, which would add further restrictions to people seeking refuge in the United States.
Second, NYCHRP will participate in BAYAN USA’s “No More Money for Blood!” campaign to protest the proposed increase of U.S. military aid to the Philippines in the federal budget, which the U.S. Congress is scheduled to approve on Friday, December 11, 2015. The U.S. currently sends $50 million to the Philippines in military aid annually. If approved, the U.S. will then send $79 million to the Philippines annually.
“While we decry xenophobia in all its forms, we must also condemn the root causes of the Iraqi and Syrian refugees’ plight – decades of U.S. military intervention and plunder in the Middle East,” said Jackelyn Mariano, Chairperson of NYCHRP. “Both the Philippines and the Middle East have a common imperialist enemy. That is why today we extend our fighting power both to standing in solidarity with the refugees and the Muslim and Arab communities in the U.S. who face xenophobic attacks, as well as to the Philippine people who face the brunt of military attacks fueled by U.S. aid.”
Critics of xenophobia towards Iraqi and Syrian refugees consistently identify that the root of extremism, war, and suffering in their homelands is a consistent policy produced by the collusion of Western empires and the Middle Eastern international bourgeoisie set to gain control of natural resources and political power in the region. Militarization and extraction of natural resources perpetuated by the U.S. through proxy wars have strengthened extremist groups like ISIS as well as exacerbated the lack of access to water and basic necessities. These policies have directly and negatively impacted the lives and welfare of people, especially the poor, in the region, who then have no choice but to flee for safety.
The U.S. has historically enacted the same policies in their “second front” of the Global War on Terror, the Philippines. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), which, in addition to aid, also receives on the ground training from U.S. troops enacted through unequal military agreements such as the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), have intensified their attacks on the Lumad, indigenous peoples in the Philippines’ southern island of Mindanao.
In order to enforce and secure mining operations that are granted by the Philippine government to large-scale foreign corporations, the AFP systematically attacks, harasses, and intimidates Lumad communities to forcibly evacuate and displace them from their ancestral lands. The military operations, fueled by foreign capitalist plunder of natural resources, aim to silence the Lumad from their veritable right to free, prior, and informed consent and the right to live peacefully in the safety of their homes. Millions of displaced Lumad people are virtually refugees within the Philippines, unprotected by their own government and rampaged by U.S. military expanding operations on their lands.
Similarly, people from Iraq and Syria are also reeling from the acts of imperialist powers, and are desperate to find some reprieve by fleeing to other countries like the United States. “The U.S. has to own up to the destructive consequences of its own extractive capitalist policies and avoid further replicating hatred, extremism, and strife by employing Islamophobic policies domestically that further curtail and restrict the rights and freedoms of survivors of war and catastrophe,” said Rodrigo Bacus, a member of NYCHRP. “We must open up our borders to fellow humans seeking refuge from war-torn areas. We must especially rise to this duty when the wars they are escaping have been fueled by our own country’s intervention and military backing.”
Iraqi and Syrian refugees already go through a complex and elaborate processes and lengthy background checks to appease concerns over national security and anti-terrorism. These processes may take years to complete and force refugees into a dangerous situation where too much time spent in the process may be too late to reach safety. “The more restrictions, background checks, and complications are put in the way of a refugee application, the less likely refugees will be successful overall in fleeing the dangers that are clear and present in their homelands,” continued Bacus. “The U.S. has an obligation to refugees under international law to protect people when their life and liberty would be in danger. The American SAFE Act of 2015 completely runs afoul of human rights norms.”
“The American people must reevaluate what fuels our anger during this refugee crisis. We cannot blame victims of war. We also have to face our own complicity in funding wars abroad,” stated Mariano. “Over fifty percent of the U.S. federal budget goes towards military spending. The result of that are mounting death tolls and decreased resources for basic human needs domestically. Private corporations profit off of war, discrimination, and xenophobia while our public education, housing, and health systems suffer.”
Starting today, NYCHRP will join BAYAN USA in a social media blast to demand that the U.S. Congress, as it votes on the federal budget, cut military aid to the Philippines.
“As U.S.-based Filipinos and allies, we do not want our tax dollars funneled towards killing our own people,” said Mariano. Activists will Tweet their demands to members of the Congressional Budget Committee, including Scott Garrett (R-NJ), Bill Pascrell (R-NJ), and Donald Norcross (D-NJ), and members of the State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Subcommittee, including Nita Lowey (D-NY), Jose Serrano (D-NY), and Barbara Lee (D-CA).
New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP)
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New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP) is a local education and advocacy group based in New York City that works to promote social, economic, and political alternatives that foster democracy and peace based on justice in the Philippines and for Filipinos in the diaspora today.
NYCHRP shares the vision of human rights advanced by the National Democratic movement of the Philippines. NYCHRP educates, organizes, and mobilizes people and communities in NYC to take progressive action to uphold and support human rights in the Philippines and throughout the world.