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Monthly Archives: April 2009

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 27, 2009
Reference: Rhonda Ramiro, Secretary-General, BAYAN-USA, email:
secgen@bayanusa.org

The Struggle Continues… Even in the Age of Obama, Filipino-Americans Must Fight for Genuine Immigration Reform

Statement of BAYAN-USA on May Day 2009

The US Chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, or BAYAN-USA, an alliance of 14 Filipino organizations across the United States, calls on all Filipino-Americans to commemorate May 1st, 2009 by joining the people’s continuing struggle for genuine immigration reform in the United States, and systemic change to the exploitative labor export structures in the Philippines.

On May 1st, 2006, Filipinos in the United States under the banner of BAYAN-USA were amongst the millions across the country who revived the militant spirit of May Day, an international workers holiday celebrated around the world but whose significance is suppressed and systemically erased by the US ruling elite and government. As exploitation and oppression against immigrants in the US grows worse– even in the age of the new Obama administration, which reaches its 100th day in office on May 1– it is paramount that Filipinos, coming from one of the world’s largest labor exporting countries and the poorest in Asia, express solidarity with all immigrant workers by fighting for dignity, justice, and human rights. This May 1st, BAYAN-USA remains at the forefront of the May Day rallies and street mobilizations in several US cities, and appeals to the broader Filipino-American community to join us in this righteous fight.

Forced by Poverty to Migrate, Living in the Shadows in the U.S.

There are over 4 million Filipinos living in the United States, comprising the third largest immigrant population in the country. At least 60,000 Filipinos enter the US every year, mainly through family sponsorship. Of this, at least one million Filipinos in the US are undocumented, which translates to one million lives living in the shadows, in fear, and vulnerable to the gravest human rights violations perpetuated by the broken immigration system. These human rights violations include indentured servitude at the hands of greedy employers who prey on the fear of undocumented migrants, Gestapo-like raids by the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), unlawful detentions without due process, and mass deportations.

For the majority of Filipinos who migrate via family sponsorship, the inefficient backlog system in the US has Filipinos waiting as long as 10-15 years for approval of their petitions. But the sad reality remains that most undocumented and exploited Filipino workers in the US would rather choose a life deemed worthless by the US government for a shot at greener pastures, than go home to the Philippines where they are guaranteed life of poverty and hopelessness. This predicament is universal to all who migrate to the US from countries forced into poverty by neoliberal globalization.

Exploited by Multi-National Corporations and Philippine Labor Export Program

The Philippine economy is kept afloat by the dollar remittances of overseas Filipino workers, which annually average up to $15-16 billion. More than half of the total amount remitted to the Philippines comes from Filipinos in the United States. Wide-scale poverty and deepening hunger force over 3000 Filipinos to leave their loved ones behind and migrate abroad daily. For the vast majority of the 10 million Filipinos living outside of the Philippines, migration was never a choice, but a means of survival for themselves and the families they left behind.

Landlessness for the majority of the Filipino population that live off the land and lack of national industries to provide Filipinos with decent jobs are at the root of this miserable reality. For over 60 years, the collaboration of global monopoly capitalism and the Philippine ruling elite has molded the Philippine economy to an export-oriented and import-dependent model. This means the vast natural resources of the country are bought cheap by multinational corporations and lack of processing industries leave Filipinos dependent on expensive imports from overseas for consumption. As systematized mainly through the global trading system known as neoliberal globalization, the Philippines remains a huge export processing zone for the first world countries of the world, leaving Filipinos literally as beggars on mountains of gold, and therefore seeking to migrate. The Philippine ruling elite, currently represented by the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration, profits from this misery by systematizing Filipino labor export in the Philippines through the country’s Labor Export Program (LEP), another oppressive system that literally pimps Filipino migrants abroad but refuses to protect them when they are abused and exploited, or worse, while overseas.

But the huge cracks and inherent flaws of the global system of monopoly capitalism are deepening and rearing for an inevitable downfall, as seen through the global economic crisis. The Arroyo administration maliciously boasts that the global economic crisis will not affect Filipinos or the Philippine economy. But these deceptive words are proven untrue every day as the demand for overseas Filipino workers decrease, causing the annual remittances to the Philippines from overseas Filipino workers to plummet downwards. The rapid isolation of the rotten Philippine ruling system provides excellent conditions for the majority of Filipinos to unite and strengthen the people’s movement for change in the country. The same can be said for the struggle for comprehensive immigration reform in the US.

Workers and Migrants Rise Up

As multinational corporations and big banks face the worst crisis in world history, caused by neoliberal globalization itself, the struggles of oppressed migrant workers around the world, including Filipinos, must intensify. It is under these circumstances that workers’ victories can be achieved as capitalists and their rotten system grow weaker by the day. It is also in this context that immigrant workers in the United States, amongst the most oppressed in the country, must raise the struggle from the streets for genuine immigration reform to a higher level and pressure the Obama administration to live up to its rhetoric of “change we can believe in.”

May 1, 2009 marks the 100th day of the Obama administration. With the official exit of George W. Bush, the Obama administration must be challenged by immigrants themselves to depart from the much-hated foreign and domestic policies of the Bush administration. Filipinos in the US must be part of issuing this challenge to the US government. With Washington already poised to put immigration on the table this May, and the two largest US labor federations uniting in the endorsement of comprehensive immigration reform, the political stage is opening its doors for advancements in the immigrant rights movement. We cannot afford to sit back and allow US lawmakers to decide on the fate of tens of millions of immigrant workers, including four million Filipinos, and their families abroad. The only path we should take is onwards with the struggle for a just and humane immigration system free of exploitation and repression.

LEGALIZATION FOR ALL UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS!

NO TO RAIDS, DETENTIONS, AND DEPORTATIONS!

SWIFT FAMILY RE-UNIFICATION NOW! SCRAP THE IMMIGRATION BACKLOG!

IMMIGRANT RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS!

BAIL-OUT THE WORKERS, NOT THE BANKS!

SCRAP THE PHILIPPINE LABOR EXPORT PROGRAM (LEP)!

NO TO NEOLIBERAL TRADE POLICIES!

###

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April 27, 2009

The fight has been brought to cyberspace.

As of 10:13 pm on April 26, 2009, more than 1,000 people on the popular social networking site Facebook have joined the cause “ Palparan should be in jail, not in Congress nor any other government office.”

The Facebook “milestone” was reached just a few hours before Gen. Jovito Palparan’s first day in office as representative of the partylist group Bantay. The online achievement was announced by the umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan as it joined various groups today in protest actions at the House of Representatives. As of 7:00am April 27, more than 1,100 have joined the cause.

The Facebook “cause” was started on the day the Supreme Court issued a ruling making Palparan a member of the House of Representatives, being the first nominee of Bantay. In just four days, the “cause” has gathered more than 1,000 members or supporters coming from various walks of life. Members include students, artists, activists, bloggers, even soldiers, and networks in Philippines as well as various parts of the world.

“The FB cause was created to raise awareness of Gen. Jovito Palparan and the various human rights abuses he has been involved in. It is also a political statement against what many believe is a gross injustice, that a person like Palparan is able to get a seat in Congress even if he doesn’t represent any marginalized sector and despite his involvement in human rights abuses,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

“The huge response we received in just a few days shows that there is a lot of indignation regarding Palparan’s entry into Congress via the partylist system. There is great concern that the Arroyo government has not done anything to make Palparan accountable for his involvement in human rights abuses,” Reyes added.

Facebook is a social networking site that allows users to create “causes” and “groups” and recruit people to become members. The site allows the exchange of posts, comments, pictures, videos, news links and the like. The various applications and the ease of interaction among members has made Facebook one of the most popular networking sites in the world.

“For people who may not be able to join rallies, they can still make their voices heard by joining the cause. The FB page is also useful in informing people of updates related to the campaign such as protest actions and fora,” Reyes said. ###

April 27, 2009

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Reference: Rep. Mong Palatino, 09222914266

First elected youth party-list rep takes oath before SC Justice Carpio

Kabataan Rep. Mong Palatino: Youth and student leader, blogger and political journalist, son of migrant workers and father of two

29-year-old Kabataan Partylist Rep. Mong Palatino describes himself in his web blog as an activist, blogger and political journalist, but he is undeniably much more than these. Rep. Palatino now embodies Pinoy youth pride, patriotism and political potential as the first elected youth party-list representative in Congress.

Rep. Palatino took his oath into office today before Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio. He was accompanied by other youth and student leaders from leading national youth organizations, colleges and universities.

“Today is a historic event that we share with all Filipino youth. We have no time to waste. We will immediately address the concerns and issues of our constituents to make up for the years we were deprived of as the sole youth voice in Congress,” he said.

Rep. Palatino said that Kabataan Party-list would immediately bring to the House of Representatives the youth’s strong opposition to charter change.

He also said that Kabataan Party-list plans to pass legislation confronting the lack of available decent jobs for this year’s 900,000 new graduates. He also plans to file a bill calling for moratorium on tuition fee increases this coming enrollment.

He also encouraged the youth to register and actively participate in the 2010 elections. “Kabataan Party-list’s installment into Congress is the first step in achieving our vision of good governance through a politics of hope, struggle and change. We realized the importance of active youth participation and look where it brought us now. Still, we have a long way to go. Let us start now and ensure that our voices resonate the changes the youth want in 2010.”

Youth and student leader

Rep. Palatino is considered as one of the most brilliant youth and student leaders of his generation. He was chair of the University Student Council of the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman in 2000 and president of the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP), the largest alliance of tertiary student councils nationwide from 2001 to 2003. He is also one of the leading youth veterans of EDSA Dos.

An education graduate of UP, Palatino has been a prominent figure in various campaigns and issues concerning youth and students. He was convenor to several youth alliances such as the Education for All (e4all) Movement, Abolish ROTC, Tuition Refund, Youth Action Network against electoral fraud and violence, Youth Demanding Arroyo’s Removal (Youth DARE), Youth against Charter Change and Tyranny (Y-CHAT), Youth for Accountability and Truth Now (Youth ACT Now), and TxtPower, a consumer rights advocacy group, among others.

In 2004, Palatino was recognized by the Quezon City government for exemplary youth leadership and was awarded by the United Nations Association of the Philippines as an Outstanding Youth Leader for Advocacy on National Concerns.

First blogger-turned-congressman

Aside from being the first elected youth party-list representative in Congress, Rep. Palatino is also the first blogger-turned-congressman.

Unlike other government officials who resorted to blogging and other Internet social networking sites upon assuming office, Rep. Palatino has been a blogger since 2004. He maintains a regular blog, www.mongpalatino.motime.com, as well as accounts in Twitter, Plurk and Facebook.

He also writes for several online publications. He is the Southeast Asia editor of Global Voices Online, a web columnist for tinig.com, and was former news editor of yehey.com. He is also one of the leading members of Bloggers’ Kapihan, an online network of young bloggers, and was a finalist in the 2008 Philippine Blog Awards for Commentaries. He is also a lead convenor and board member of TxtPower, a consumer rights organization.

Blogging, texting and the Internet proved instrumental in Kabataan Party-list’s electoral campaign last 2007. Working with limited resources and funds, Kabataan brought a significant part of its campaigning to cyber space and, as a result, garnered the support of thousands of bloggers through its Kabataan Cyber Fever campaign.

“The Internet and texting have been and continue to be a powerful tool of the youth, especially students and young opinion makers, to make their voices heard by our lawmakers and the society in general. We vow to continue using this medium to be able to reach out not only to young Filipinos here in the country but also abroad,” Rep. Palatino said.

Rep. Palatino is a son of migrant workers and a proud father to his newborn son, Neil Esmond. His daughter, Renee Elle, 4 years old, was with him during the oath-taking. ###

Kabataan, tayo ang pagbabago

Message of Kabataan Party-list Rep. Raymond Palatino to the Filipino youth on the historical event of seating the first youth representative in Congress

Five years in the making for the country’s sole youth sectoral party-list, but better late than never and victory is still sweet for all Filipino youth.

Kabataan Party-list, the largest youth party in the country, represented the youth sector in the 2007 elections. It was the second time for our organization to run in the party-list elections. In 2004, we ran under our previous name, Anak ng Bayan, and were among the top choices for party-list based on pre-election surveys. Anak ng Bayan, however, fell prey to massive cheating. A significant number of our votes were anomalously counted in favor of another party-list group, thus our change of name in the 2007 party-list elections.

Despite not winning, we went on with our advocacies and continued to carry on with our principles and general program of action with the help of our founding organizations, such as the National Union of Students of the Philippines, College Editors Guild of the Philippines, League of Filipino Students and Anakbayan and other supporters nationwide and abroad.

Now, five years after our first electoral bid, Kabataan Party-list has finally secured a seat in the House of Representatives per SC GR No. 179271, promulgated April 29, 2009.

Now, we are happy to convey the message to all Filipino youth that the SC Resolution, in effect, has once again marked the youth’s rightful place in history by granting the first ever youth sectoral representation in the House of Representatives.

This is truly a historical event and we share this resounding victory to all Filipino youth who voted for and supported Kabataan Party-list. We are overwhelmed but more than ready to take on the task and challenge of being the sole voice of the youth in Congress.

We are youth from different walks of life. We have long-ago advocated for the youth to devote its intellect, energy and courage to building a better society devoid of corruption, inequality and social injustice. We are youth that foster active participation in nation-building, good governance and change.

In this junction in history in light of our recent victory, we, the youth, are change. Kabataan, tayo ang pagbabago.

We will uphold, promote and defend the interests of the youth to be able to harness our potential as a vital, albeit marginalized, sector in society.

The Filipino youth have always played a pivotal role in ushering in significant changes in history. We have always been at the forefront of uprisings and revolutions every time the social, political and economic conditions in society became too intolerable for Filipinos to endure.

It was young men and women who prevailed in the leadership and membership of the revolutionary army and other patriotic forces against Spanish colonialism, against US colonization, against Japanese fascism and against the puppet regimes in the Philippines.

It was also the Filipino youth who were the biggest marchers and rallyists during the historical First Quarter Storm of 1970, the people power uprising that toppled the Marcos dictatorship in 1986 and once again in the similar uprising that ousted the Estrada regime in 2001.

We are more than willing to take up the cudgels our forebears left us. Right now, a rotten system of governance and a severe global economic crisis confront us but we rise to the challenge of our times.

In the past eight years of the Arroyo administration, the youth has also always been amongst the most vigilant and vocal against issues of electoral fraud, corruption and plunder, human rights violations, tyranny and social injustice causing poverty, hunger and indecent living conditions to the people.

While we recognize that one year is too short a time in the House of Representatives, we pledge to work tenfold to efficiently and effectively bring our new brand of politics to Philippine government. To be able to fully realize this, we appeal to all Filipino youth to work hand-in-hand with us. We reiterate the need for active youth participation in nation-building and continue to rely on the strength and unity of the youth movement to reinforce our sole youth voice in Congress.

We will immediately register our opposition against charter change and join moves by other progressive party-lists to disqualify human rights violator Ret. Gen. Jovito Palparan from assuming party-list representation.

We are also now consulting with youth from different sectors to aid in our plans to immediately submit for legislation bills concerning youth empowerment in governance, employment for the 900,000 new graduates, and tuition fee hike moratorium, among others.

Finally, we look forward to bigger things that lie ahead in the future. It is the Arroyo administration’s last year in office and the youth are anticipating and working for significant changes come 2010. As early as now, we pledge to work for a transparent and clean 2010 elections that will realize the youth’s clamor for good governance and change. We are set to embark on a nationwide youth voters’ registration and education campaign in the aim to collectively mobilize the broadest number of young Filipinos to register, vote, and guard the 2010 ballot.

Change is bound to happen if and when the youth strives for it.

Kabataan, maraming salamat!

Kabataan, tayo ang pagbabago.


Rep. Raymond Palatino:
the first youth sectoral representative in Congress

29-year-old Raymond “Mong” Palatino is considered as one of the most brilliant youth leaders in the country. He was chair of the University Student Council of the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman in 2000 and president of the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP), the largest alliance of tertiary student councils nationwide from 2001 to 2003. He is also one of the leading youth veterans of EDSA Dos.

An education graduate of UP, Palatino has been a prominent figure in various campaigns and issues concerning youth and students. He was convenor to several youth alliances such as the Education for All (e4all) Movement, Abolish ROTC, Tuition Refund, Youth Action Network against electoral fraud and violence, Youth Demanding Arroyo’s Removal (Youth DARE), Youth against Charter Change and Tyranny (Y-CHAT), Youth for Accountability and Truth Now (Youth ACT Now), and TxtPower, a consumer rights advocacy group, among others.

In 2004, Palatino was recognized by the Quezon City government for exemplary youth leadership and was awarded by the United Nations Association of the Philippines as an Outstanding Youth Leader for Advocacy on National Concerns.

Palatino also writes for several online publications, aside from maintaining his own web blog. He is a web columnist for tinig.com, former news editor of yehey.com, a contributing editor for Global Voices Online, and one of the leading members of Bloggers’ Kapihan, an online network of young bloggers. He has also been a regular resource speaker of both Houses of Congress on youth and education issues.

Palatino is also a proud father to his new son Neil Esmond, born a day after the issuance of the SC Resolution, and daughter Renee Elle, 4 years old. ###

Can you say military industrial complex???

Ever wondered how our things were made or what happens to things when we throw things out in the trash????

The Story of Stuff is about how:

  • thing are made to be consumed
  • manufactures produce things to break in a few years so that consumers can will buy a replacement in a few years.

My question is why do they make computers that are not upgradable, they only change the chip to make it faster and have more memory.

special thanks to Princess Bustos for suggesting this video.

For Immediate Release

April 21, 2009

Contact: Marisa Mariano, Chair, Babae-GABRIELA USA, 415-333-6267, info@babaesf.org

San Francisco Filipino Women Rise Up Through Art

San Francisco, CA—As the weekend of International Worker’s Day, or Mayo Uno, approaches, the women of Babae-GABRIELA USA, League of Filipino Students, and Diwata Young Women’s Group prepare to not only celebrate the contributions of the working class worldwide, but to also celebrate the experiences and contributions of one of San Francisco’s distinct immigrant working populations, Filipino women. On Sunday, May 3, 2009, Babae, LFS, and Diwata hosts the 7th Annual Filipina Women’s Showcase, Diwang Pinay.

Diwang Pinay (Spirit of the Filipina) is an annual performance and silent art auction by Filipina/Filipina-American

performers, writers, and artists. “With a 40,000 Filipino population in San Francisco, and more than half of whom are women, it is only appropriate to give light and praise to the different ways Pinays are living, resisting, and surviving today in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond,” states Marisa Mariano, chairperson of Babae.

This year’s celebration is themed “Still We Rise,” highlighting the Filipina’s fighting spirit to rise above adversity. With a global economic crisis impacting our communities, especially immigrant working families, and a system that continues to see women as second class citizens, Filipinas wage a battle every day to provide for their families and live with dignity. Transcending beyond their everyday struggles, Filipino women build resistance with a fervor that can be traced back to the legacy of historic women like Gabriela Silang and Tandang Sora. The evening is also in dedication to the 25th Anniversary of GABRIELA Philippines, a grassroots alliance of over 200 women’s organizations in the Philippines that has been at the forefront of fighting for women’s rights since its conception.

Diwang Pinay hosts a range of performances from talented pinays from San Francisco and the greater Bay Area such as singing, dancing, guerilla theatre, poetry and film. On display will also be an art gallery showcasing artworks of different mediums by artists such as Jessica Antonio, Heather Boyer, Catherine Lagman, Bean Rabino, Dezi Suarez, Elaine Villasper, and Jenifer Wofford.

Join us on May 3, 2009 from 4:30-7:00 pm at the Bayanihan Community Center located in the South of Market District at 1010 Mission Street San Francisco, CA 94103. The suggested donation will be a sliding scale of $7-10, $5 for students age 10-17 with a valid ID, and free for children under 10 years of age. For more information, visit Diwang Pinay’s official website at http://sites.google.com/site/sfdiwangpinay.

###

For Immediate Release
April 23, 2009

Reference: Raquel Redondiez, Chair, GABRIELA USA, 415-244-9734

Filipina-Americans in the United States express our disgust and anger at the 05_wo_philippines_smith01_4news that the Court of Appeals in the Philippines has acquitted Lance Corporal Smith in the 2005 rape case of “Nicole.” Lcpl. Smith was convicted of raping “Nicole” on December 4, 2006, and legalities around custody and sentencing has been ongoing for the past three years. Due to the highly contentious Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), Smith has been in the custody of the U.S. Embassy instead of a Philippine prison. However, on March 12 of this year, a questionable recantation by “Nicole” was released while in the same month, monetary compensation and the termination of her legal counsel casted doubt on who prepared the content of the affidavit.

In this long and dirty case, US and Philippines collusion through loopholes in the VFA have demonstrated that in the Philippines, the rule of law and justice are commanded by American interests and corrupt politicians. The Court of Appeals has failed Filipino women worldwide. Instead of holding Smith accountable of rape, the appellate court has repealed the justice that was already rightfully won by “Nicole” and her family. After years of struggling and fighting with huge and broad support from Filipino organizations like 610xGABRIELA in the Philippines and worldwide, Smith’s acquittal from his legitimate conviction in 2006 is a betrayal to both Nicole and her loved ones, but also to all of the Filipino women, children and men who have been victims of sexual assault and crimes by US military servicemen.

Women’s accounts of rape and assault are often spun into heresy through the manipulation of justice under the auspices of governmental righteousness, as in the case of the US military occupation in the Philippines. Valerie Francisco, Vice Chair of GABRIELA USA stated, “We are witnessing ‘Nicole’s’ story becoming increasingly co-opted by the blind loyalty of the Philippines to American idealism about ‘helping’ us with our perpetual, undefined ‘war on terror.'” Francisco continued, “Nicole’s legacy will not stop at a recantation and acquittal. The fight for justice for Nicole, among so many other victims of militarized gender violence, will not cease at another silenced victim of US aggression.”

Today, when there are 10 women that are “delivered” nightly to US service men for Balikatan excercises, GABRIELA-USA calls for the end of the commodification of Filipino women. With U.S. military exercises held in Bicol this summer, the presence of US troops in very poor rural communities creates a demand that practically coerces local Filipinas into in the sex trade. This is due to the lack of economic options in highly militarized zones of the Philippines.

“This injustice will only fuel anti-VFA movement,” commented Raquel Redondiez, chair of GABRIELA USA, “Under Gloria Arroyo, this seemingly easy deal between the US and her administration for a convicted rapist was an exchange for Philippine sovereignty, justice and democratic ideals. Although Nicole’s family has been through enough and are tired of the trickery, Filipino women’s organizations from the Philippines to the US will continue the fight for justice for Nicole and all victims of sexual crimes under US occupation!”

GABRIELA USA, comprised of Sisters of Gabriela Awaken (SiGaW), Babae in San Francisco, Pinay Sa Seattle and Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment in New York City, strongly denounces the acquittal of Lcpl. Daniel Smith and condemn the collaboration of the broken Philippine judicial system and US military interests for again revoking Nicole what was rightfully hers, justice and dignity. We challenge this decision and demand that the Philippine government and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo overturn this acquittal.

JUNK THE VFA!
JUSTICE FOR NICOLE!
PUNISH DANIEL SMITH FOR HIS CRIME!

###

News Release
April 23, 2009

Reference: Rhonda Ramiro, Secretary-General, BAYAN USA, email: secgen@bayanusa.org

SMITH ACQUITTAL A COLLABORATIVE MANEUVER BY ARROYO & US GOV’T TO PROTECT VFA– BAYAN USA

BAYAN-USA, an alliance of Filipino organizations in the United States, declared the recent court acquittal of US Marine Daniel Smith of a rape conviction back in 2006 as a collaborative move by the US and Arroyo governments to protect the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

The controversial decision comes right after a Philippine Supreme Court (SC) ruling to probe into the circumstances surrounding the affidavit issued by rape victim Nicole and the leakage of a draft Court of Appeals (CA) ruling of acquittal for Smith last week, prompting CA officials to act fast.

The 2005 rape of 22 year-old Filipina Nicole leading to the 2006 trial and conviction US Lance Corporal Smith was a landmark case that marked the first time in the 100+ history of US military presence in the country that a US military personnel was actually convicted under the Philippine judicial system for a crime committed in the Philippines. But the events following the 3091_72824424245_500774245_1500750_4784312_ncelebrated conviction, beginning with Smith’s transfer of custody from Philippine jurisdiction to the US Embassy drew such outrage and condemnation from the streets that it sparked a burgeoning patriotic movement inside Philippine Congress to abrogate the 10 year-old VFA military agreement, which allows for the “temporary basing” of US military troops in over 20 ports throughout the Philippine archipelago.

“Washington and Malacanang panicked,” states BAYAN USA Chair Berna Ellorin. “They needed to do something drastic to stunt the rallying opposition against the VFA. The sacrificial lambs they chose, without surprise, were a Filipina woman and Philippine national sovereignty. The Arroyo administration collaborated with the spin doctors of the US government to concoct this scheme to protect the VFA by undoing the last four years of the Nicole rape case. It’s very disgusting.”

Beginning with the historic conviction of Smith in 2006, the convicted rapist, who was sentenced to life imprisonment, was whisked to the US Embassy to serve his sentence and not in a Philippine detention facility. This drew protests demanding the US government hand Smith over to Philippine jurisdiction. Both the US and Arroyo governments cited stipulations in the VFA protecting US military personnel in their defense of keeping Smith out of a Philippine jail. But a 2009 SC ruling to re-negotiate Smith’s detention from the US Embassy to a Philippine facility was met with refusal by US Embassy officials to follow. The blatant act of denial by the US government to hand over Smith to Philippine jurisdiction prompted several Philippine lawmakers in the Philippine Congress to introduce a bill calling for the termination of the military agreement. In the weeks following, a questionable affidavit was hastily filed by Nicole which served as basis for a so-called “recantation” of her original testimony. It was reported that Smith’s lawyers drafted the affidavit language and persuaded Nicole to sign it before Nicole took off for the United States. After the SC ruling to investigate the circumstances around the affidavit-signing, a Manila reporter leaked news of a draft acquittal for Smith by the Philippine Court of Appeals.

Earlier this year, US President Barack Obama paid Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo a phone call expressing support for continuing joint military exercises conducted between US and Philippine troops in the Philippines known as Balikatan, under the auspices of the VFA. This month, over 6000 US troops were deployed to the Philippine regions of Bicol, Central and Southern Luzon, and Zamboanga to conduct the said exercises. The estimated total expense for US militarization in the Philippines since the VFA was enacted has cost US taxpayers a lofty $1 billion; an additional $400 million is set to be spent over the next 10 years.

But Ellorin argued that the anti-VFA movement in the Philippines is larger than the Smith-Nicole gang-rape case of 2005-2006. It is about the context of historical unequal relations between the US and Philippines governments, one in which the US government “dictates and takes from the Philippines whatever it wants to serve its self-interest” while the Philippine government “obeys with complete subservience to the negligence of its own people.”

“The US-Arroyo government partnership in the Smith acquittal has made a mockery of the Philippines, as well as victims of all Filipinos and future generations of Filipinos,” Ellorin concluded. “But it will not stop the movement to abrogate the VFA. In fact, Filipinos all over the world, including the US, will be more compelled to terminate not only the VFA, but the Arroyo presidency, now more than ever.”

BAYAN USA, an alliance of 14 Filipino organizations in the United States, has been campaigning for the termination of the VFA and the withdrawal of US troops from the Philippines for four years. It even released an online petition calling for the abrogation of the VFA accessible at: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/JunkVFAnow/. The signed petition will be presented by the alliance to US lawmakers and the Obama administration this year. ###