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Anti-VFA protests ahead Clinton’s visit to Manila

MANILA – At least 100 members of a students’ activist group on Wednesday held a lightning protest in front of the United States embassy in Manila, signalling a series of demonstrations during US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit in the Philippines.

Terry Ridon, secretary-general of the League of Filipino Students, led at least 100 youth activists protesting the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) in front of the US embassy along Roxas Boulevard.

“Bumabati ang mga estudyante, ang mga kabataan (The students, the youth are greeting [Mrs. Clinton],” Ridon said, adding that they will be holding similar protests against VFA while Clinton is in the country.

Clinton will stay in Manila on Thursday noon until Friday before attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit (APEC) in Singapore.

Clinton is set to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Ministerial Meeting and will stop by the Philippines on Thursday noon until Friday. It will be Clinton’s first visit to the Philippines as US Secretary of State.

Clinton’s spokesman Ian Kelly said in a statement released Saturday that the US secretary of state will hold consultations with senior Philippine officials and tackle US-Philippines treaty alliance.

Malacañang said that aside from discussing US-RP treaties, Mrs. Arroyo will also discuss with Clinton next year’s elections and the “smooth turnover of power” in 2010.

Ridon said student activists will return to the US embassy on Thursday to welcome Clinton and make her hear their sentiments against the VFA.

as of 11/11/2009 3:04 PM

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**URGENT ACTION ALERT!**
* STAND AGAINST TORTURE ON JUNE 26, THE UN INTERNATIONAL DAY IN SUPPORT OF VICTIMS OF TORTURE


SIGN THE EMERGENCY ONLINE PETITION


*ASK THE US APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE TO CUT US MILITARY AID TO THE PHILIPPINES AND TO REQUIRE THE PHILIPPINE GOVERNMENT TO FULLY COMPLY WITH INVESTIGATIONS INTO THE CASE OF MELISSA ROXAS!


June 26 is the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, a particularly significant day for those of us concerned about the continued use of this criminal act worldwide. Most recently, a US citizen of Filipino descent has fallen victim to this cruel and degrading act in the Philippines.
Her case is one of thousands of documented cases of torture, assassinations, kidnappings, and other forms of human rights violations that have gone uninvestigated and unresolved in the Philippines. Just last month the United Nations Committee Against Torture (UNCAT) expressed grave concern at the routine, widespread, and unpunished use of torture by military, police, and other state officials in their country report on the Philippines. As reported by United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings Philip Alston, in his 2007 report, although credible evidence points to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as the main culprits behind these human rights violations, they are protected by the Philippine government’s culture of impunity which allows them to roam free. The Philippine government denies any responsibility for and frequently attempts to cover up these human rights violations, as they are also attempting to do in the case of Melissa Roxas despite her sworn testimony about her experience.
The Philippines is one of the largest recipients of US military aid in Southeast Asia. This means US tax dollars are being used as resources by the AFP to continue to perpetrate these human rights violations against innocent civilians. As US taxpayers, we need to tell our government that we DO NOT want the blood of the Filipino people on our hands.
At present, the US Senate Appropriations Committee is in the process of shaping the next US military aid package to the Philippines, and could come out with a decision as early as mid-July. Our Senators and Representatives have an influence on how our tax dollars are spent abroad. They have a responsibility to represent our concerns about how US military aid is being used to commit—and cover up—human rights atrocities in the Philippines, and to express our desire that NOT 1 CENT of our tax dollars support human rights violations in the Philippines.
In addition, a request has been made of the Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee Patrick Leahy to introduce language into this year’s Appropriations bill that would require the Philippine military to full comply with the Writ of Amparo proceedings and any investigation into the case of Melissa Roxas. Please call your Senator/Representative to express your support for a thorough and impartial investigation into Melissa Roxas’ case.
SIGN THE EMERGENCY ONLINE PETITION
Below is a sample text you can use as an email, phone script, or fax to your member of Congress. You can also draft your own language.
*************************
(SAMPLE TEXT)
Dear Member of the US Appropriations Committee,
The recent abduction, detainment, and torture of an American, Melissa Roxas, in the Philippines last May has me extremely concerned about the US government’s financial allocations to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Roxas, 31, is US citizen of Filipino descent and human rights advocate who was in the middle of a medical relief mission in La Paz, Tarlac, when she and her two companions– Juanito Carabeo and John Edward Jandoc– were kidnapped on May 19th, 2009. In a sworn statement, Roxas describes being abducted by approximately 15 armed men, thrown in a van, handcuffed and blindfolded for six days, and dragged from jail cell to jail cell. She recounts being subjected to torture via asphyxiation using a doubled-up plastic bag, repeated beatings to the face and body, and having her head banged repeatedly against the wall by her interrogators. She was denied legal counsel despite her persistent requests. Roxas was dropped off near her relative’s house around 6:30 AM on May 25 and warned not to go to Karapatan, the human rights alliance that handles cases like hers. Her captors left her with a SIM card and phone, which one of her interrogators used to contact her after she was released.
Today, fortunately, Roxas is back safe in her hometown of Los Angeles with her family. Credible sources, including Roxas herself, believe the detainment took place in nearby Fort Magsaysay, a military camp near the town Roxas and her companions were abducted.
As my Senator or Representative, I urge you to remember Melissa and all who have suffered the epidemic of torture, kidnappings, and unlawful detainment at the hands of the Philippine military. I am concerned that US military aid may be providing the “ammunition” (in both a literal and figurative sense) being used to pursue unarmed civilians whom the Arroyo administration has tagged as “Communists.”
I urge you to keep in mind my strong support for a full, impartial investigation into Melissa’s abduction and torture by the Philippine government. I urge you to impress on the US Congress and especially the House and Senate Appropriations Committee that you belong to that *I do not want one cent of my tax dollars going to human rights abuses in the Philippines, and that the Philippine military must fully cooperate with the Writ of Amparo proceedings as well any investigation by the Commission on Human Rights into the case of Melissa Roxas. * I hope you will do everything in your power to ensure that the Philippine government cooperates to the fullest extent in resolving Melissa’s case and in stopping all human rights violations in the Philippines.
As my US Senator/Representative, I urge you to raise your voice on my behalf. Please be a voice of conscience and human rights when your committee and Congress as a whole decides on the next US military aid package to the Philippines. In these tough economic times, many government budget choices are hard. This one shouldn’t be. Our hard-earned tax dollars should be used towards the betterment of society and for public service, not for human rights violations overseas. Please be the change America needs and help the Congress achieve this.
I hope to receive a response from you outlining your position on the human rights crisis in the Philippines and on the case of Melissa Roxas.
Sincerely,

—–
SIGN THE EMERGENCY ONLINE PETITION

Its has been 10 yrs since the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) has been active, allowing the U.S. to send troops to the Philippines. Its like the they never left…

The VFA allows U.S. troops into the Philippines without having to go through customs, where they are screened for things like the swine flu. Any soldier that may have the swine flu may walk in as they please where anyone else that may have at least one of the symptoms will be detained for a days. Furthermore, a Philippine citizen that may have caught the virus will have a hard time getting over the flu because health care is not affordable  which makes it lethal.

The VFA allows the U.S. troops full access anywhere in the Philippines. That means land, sea and air. They could even occupy a house that a family owns.

Collateral damage has increased due to weapons testing and exercises. Family have lost their houses, mothers, fathers, children due to these exercises. Bullets have entered houses while people were sleeping, killing innocent civilians.

U.S. troops  are above any laws in the Philippines. An example is the ‘Nicole’ case where a college student is raped by a U.S. soldier Daniel Smith. Smith was sentenced to jail in the Philippines, however, on his first night in jail he was taken to the U.S. Embassy. If a person was convicted for rape in the U.S. they would have to be in custody until the trial is over. 

Nicole and Vanessa, another Filipina that was raped, we can see that number of cases went up; belittling the rights of Filipinas; and that the Philippines judicial system is a joke because of how Smith was treated with a pardon. 

The VFA is funded by U.S. Taxdollars, therefore we as Americans have blood and injustice on our hands. The money that is funding the killing and injustice of the Filipinos can be used to bail out the struggling Americans in an economic crisis. 

We say no more blood on our hands and not in our name!

JUNK THE VFA!!!!

Basic CMYK

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 27, 2009

Reference: Rhonda Ramiro, 415-377-2599,

secgen@bayanusa.org, www.bayanusa.org

10 Years Too Long, 200 People Too Many: Filipinos Across the U.S. Call for the Termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement and Justice for the Disappeared

In the wake of the abduction of Filipino American human rights advocate and health worker Melissa Roxas and her companions Juanito Carabeo and John Edward Handoc one week ago in the Philippines, BAYAN-USA launches actions against the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) today, the 10th anniversary of the VFA’s ratification. BAYAN-USA demands the termination of the VFA and justice for victims of abduction and all human rights violations, which have climbed to record levels in the Philippines since the VFA was ratified on May 27, 1999.

“Human rights violations have escalated to unprecedented heights since 2001, when Gloria Macapagal Arroyo became president and the U.S. launched its ‘war on terror.’ It is no coincidence that the Visiting Forces Agreement was ratified just two years earlier in 1999,” stated BAYAN-USA Secretary General Rhonda Ramiro. “The VFA paved the way for U.S. military advisers, troops and equipment to flood the Philippines and to train and equip the Philippine military which has been implicated in 1,017 extra-judicial killings and 1,010 cases of torture. Melissa’s abduction adds an American citizen to the list of over 200 victims of enforced disappearance under Arroyo.”

Roxas, Carabeo, and Handoc, all members of a volunteer health worker team preparing for a medical mission in La Paz, Tarlac, Philippines, were reportedly abducted at gunpoint on May 19 by at least eight heavily-armed masked men riding motorcycles and in a van without license plates. The circumstances of their abduction typify the pattern of dozens of politically-motivated abductions of activists critical of the Arroyo administration, and evidence points to the military as responsible for these acts. Roxas and Carabeo were officially surfaced on May 24 and 25, respectively; unconfirmed reports of Handoc’s surfacing were received as of the writing of this statement. Because the vast majority of abductions and enforced disappearances remain unresolved, BAYAN-USA believes their surfacing was a direct result of rapid community response and an international campaign by BAYAN Philippines, BAYAN-USA, and the human rights organization Karapatan.

“While we are elated that Melissa and Juanito have surfaced and that John Edward might also have been found, we are outraged that they were even abducted in the first place,” said Ramiro. “We call for justice for all three, including a full investigation and prosecution of the abductors.”

“The abduction of Melissa, Juanito and John Edward is directly linked to the VFA and U.S. military aid to the Philippines,” continued Ramiro. “The U.S. government cannot claim ignorance or wash its hands of responsibility, when it is U.S. advisors who are training the Philippine military, U.S. aid that is funding the military training, and U.S. guns and bullets that are being used to threaten and kill innocent civilians.”

BAYAN-USA claims that despite its rhetoric of “change,” the administration of President Barack Obama has clung to Bush’s foreign policy when it comes to the Philippines.  Earlier this year, President Obama phoned Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to express support for the VFA and continuing the annual joint military exercises known as “Balikatan” (“Shoulder-to-Shoulder”).   The estimated total expense borne by U.S. taxpayers for U.S. militarization in the Philippines since the VFA was enacted in 1999 is a lofty $1 billion.  An additional $660 million—up from a reported $400 million just one month ago—is reportedly set to be granted to the Philippines in the coming year.

The VFA also provides justification for the basing of U.S. troops throughout the country, in what is widely perceived as an affront to national sovereignty. Moreover, witnesses have observed U.S. troops participating in combat operations, which is in violation of the VFA itself. In the months of February-May this year alone, the “Balikatan” exercises also led directly to the killing of a young girl and wounding of four more children, the rape of 22 year old Filipina “Vanessa,” and the forced displacement of tens of thousands of residents in Bicol where the exercises were held. No one was held responsible for the killing of the child, and although there was clear evidence that “Vanessa” was raped by a U.S. marine, she refrained from pressing charges because she did not believe she could obtain justice. “Vanessa’s” rape was committed just weeks after the acquittal of U.S. Marine Daniel Smith, who was the only American ever convicted of raping a Filipina despite reports of thousands of rapes committed by U.S. military personnel.

“The VFA fosters a culture of militarization and violence, and both the U.S. and Philippine military are guilty of committing human rights violations with impunity,” stated Ramiro. “Melissa’s abduction should give Congress and the Obama administration even more impetus to terminate the VFA and stop pouring billions of dollars into a regime that abducts and kills innocent people. In the face of a budget deficit in the trillions, it is unconscionable to continue providing aid to the Arroyo government and to perpetuate the costly VFA.  Congress should cut both during the budget appropriations process this spring and summer.”

BAYAN-USA is an alliance of progressive Filipino groups in the U.S. representing organizations of students, scholars, women, workers, and youth. As an international 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.  BAYAN-USA’s online petition against the VFA can be found at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/JunkVFAnow/. The online petition to demand justice for Roxas, Carabeo, and Handoc can be found at http://www.gopetition.com/online/28021.html.

#  #  #

Actions being held in the U.S.

Los Angeles

Vigil in front of the PhilippineConsulate

Wednesday, May 27, 2009, 7:30pm
3600 Wilshire Blvd (between S Harvard Blvd and S Kingsley Dr)
Los Angeles, CA 90010

New York

Rally at the Philippine Consulate and March to Military Recruitment Center

Wednesday, May 27, 2009, 5:30 PM

556 Fifth Ave., New York

San Francisco

Action and Meeting with the Philippine Consulate

Wednesday, May 27, 2009, 4:00 PM

447 Sutter Street, San Francisco

Teach-In on the VFA

Wednesday, May 27, 2009, 6:00-8:00 PM

At South of Market Community Action Center

1070 Howard Street, San Francisco

Seattle

Visiting Forces Agreement Teach-In

Thursday, March 28, 6:30-8:30 PM

Filipino Community Center, 5740 Martin Luther King Jr. Way

San Diego

“As If They Never Left” Teach-In on the VFA

Thursday, May 28, 7:00-9:00 PM

At Filipino American Veterans Association Hall

2926 Market Street, San Diego

News Statement
May 24, 2009

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

MELISSA ROXAS’ SURFACING A VICTORY OF THE PEOPLE’S STRUGGLE, BUT THE SEARCH CONTINUES FOR CARABEO & HANDOC– BAYAN USA

The US Chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, or BAYAN USA, an alliance of 14 Filipino social justice organizations across the United States, is elated to confirm that Filipina-American activist Melissa Roxas, 32, surfaced hours ago in Manila as of Sunday, May 24th. BAYAN USA confirmed this report with the human rights group Karapatan. A detailed account about the circumstances of her surfacing is still forthcoming.
“We are happy to hear about Melissa’s surfacing, but we are still concerned about the whereabouts of her two companions, Juanito Carabeo and John Edward Handoc, who were abducted along with Melissa on May 19th and are still missing to this day,” states BAYAN USA Chair Bernadette Ellorin. “We fully intend to pursue the demand for the surfacing of Carabeo and Handoc, as well as justice for Melissa. This abduction should never have taken place.”
Roxas, Carabeo, and Handoc, all members of a medical mission team in La Paz, Tarlac, were reportedly abducted at gunpoint by at least eight masked men in the middle of the night last week. Upon learning of Roxas, Carabeo, and Handoc’s enforced disappearance, BAYAN USA, along with BAYAN Philippines and Karapatan, exerted strong efforts calling for their immediate surfacing, including releasing an online petition addressed to US elected officials that gathered hundreds of signatures in a matter of hours.
“Because more than five days had passed since their abduction, we believe Melissa’s surfacing is a direct result of rapid community response and international pressure exerted from the Philippines and the United States first and foremost,” Ellorin continued. BAYAN USA in Southern California has also been working closely with Roxas’ family in Los Angeles in their campaign efforts to surface Roxas and her companions in the Philippines.
Roxas, a founding member of the cultural organization Habi-Arts in Los Angeles and founding Southern California Representative for BAYAN USA, went to the Philippines in 2007 to pursue human rights advocacy full-time. Her move was set amidst an acute human rights crisis in the Philippines that includes reports of rampant extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, illegal arrest, torture, and summary executions. In 2005, Roxas participated in an international fact-finding mission investigating human rights violations throughout the Philippines under the Arroyo administration.
On Wednesday, May 27th, BAYAN USA member organizations across the United States will be launching actions denouncing the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), a military pact that allows for the basing of US military troops in over 20 ports throughout the Philippines. Included in these actions will be the call for justice for Melissa Roxas and for the immediate surfacing of Juanito Carabeo and John Edward Handoc. BAYAN USA firmly believes the continuing, unabated human rights violations committed by the Philippine military and death squads are generously funded by US military aid to the Arroyo government. BAYAN USA also ultimately holds the Arroyo government accountable for the pattern of killings and abductions against civilians critical of the regime since 2001.

“As we continue to campaign for justice for Melissa, Juanito, and John Edward, we are consciously raising awareness of the role of US tax dollars in funding these abductions and other human rights violations. There are hundreds more victims of politically-motivated abductions in the Philippines that are still missing to this day,” Ellorin ended. ###

For Immediate Release
May 19, 2009
Reference: Raquel Redondiez, Chairperson, GABRIELA USA, gabrielawomen@gmail.com, 415-244-9734
GABRIELA-USA condemns Alec Baldwin’s Mail-Order Bride Comment and Demands a Public Apology
Hyper-sexualization of Filipina Women Rooted in the History of U.S. Bases in the Philippines and Current Neo-colonial relationship between the U.S. and the Philippines as codified in the Visiting Forces Agreement
Ten days before the 10-year anniversary of the Visiting Forces Agreement and the recent news of another young Filipina “Vanessa” alleging rape by a US Marine in the Philippines, Alec Baldwin’s comment about perhaps getting a “Filipina mail order bride” to “have more kids” is a cutting reminder of how Filipina women are normalized as sexual objects in U.S. society.  
These images and stereotypes, pervasive among former U.S. military personnel who have been stationed in the Philippines, have seeped into American mainstream media and discourse. They speak to legacies of U.S. colonial occupation of the Philippines, the history of U.S. bases and the Arroyo administration colluding with U.S. military abuse of Filipino women.   
With the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) dictating US-Philippine relations, the reversal of the rape conviction of U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Smith, and now the Vanessa rape case, this seemingly harmless “joke” on The Late Show with David Letterman points to the ongoing perception of Filipino women as objects for sexual disposal. Indeed, these are symptoms of the larger political and economic sketch. The precedent for Filipinas and the Philippine nation to be dehumanized, sexualized and given second-rate status can be found in US imperialist policies and the Philippine government’s acceptance of this treatment.
Baldwin’s comments about acquiring a wife in his desired flavor, “Filipino” or “Russian” demonstrates how deeply seeded the problem of sex trafficking is in the US. This comment is not only a joke about Filipino women, but  an insult to all women, especially those who are economic refugees of colonized and under-developed countries. We must remember Susanna Blackwell, a Filipina mail-order bride who was killed along with her two Filipina friends in a Seattle court house where she was seeking divorce from her abusive husband in 1995. To this day, GABRIELA USA receives calls from mail order and pen-pal brides under distress, and seeking to escape from mental, physical, and emotional abuse by their American husbands.
After insults about Filipino doctors on Desperate Housewives and domestic helpers on European TV and, and now this recent racist and sexist comment, GABRIELA USA calls on all Filipinos and friends to publicly denounce these derogatory remarks and work towards addressing their root cause—the U.S. military occupation of the Philippines, U.S.impunity against sex crimes and human rights abuses, and the underlying neo-colonial relationship between the U.S. and the Philippines. 
We also re-commit to educating our community and the larger public about the true contributions of Filipina women in U.S. society and the plight of many mail–order-brides who often become victims of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. Too often Filipina women who come to the U.S. through marriage suffer from uneven power relationships and become dependent on their American husbands, sadly mirroring the subjugation of the the Philippines under the U.S.   
GABRIELA USA calls for a public apology from Alec Baldwin. Filipina women from across the country renew their demands for the end of US Troops in the Philippines, an end to the Visiting Forces Agreement and justice for all victims of military rape. 
GABRIELA USA are comprised of members organizations:  Babae in San Francisco, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE) in New York City, Pinay Sa Seattle in Seattle, and Sisters of Gabriela, Awaken! (SiGAw) in Los Angeles.
###

For Immediate Release

May 19, 2009

Reference: Raquel Redondiez, Chairperson, GABRIELA USA, gabrielawomen@gmail.com, 415-244-9734

GABRIELA-USA condemns Alec Baldwin’s Mail-Order Bride Comment and Demands a Public Apology

Hyper-sexualization of Filipina Women Rooted in the History of U.S. Bases in the Philippines and Current Neo-colonial relationship between the U.S. and the Philippines as codified in the Visiting Forces Agreement

Ten days before the 10-year anniversary of the Visiting Forces Agreement and the recent news of another young Filipina “Vanessa” alleging rape by a US Marine in the Philippines, Alec Baldwin’s comment about perhaps getting a “Filipina mail order bride” to “have more kids” is a cutting reminder of how Filipina women are normalized as sexual objects in U.S. society.  

These images and stereotypes, pervasive among former U.S. military personnel who have been stationed in the Philippines, have seeped into American mainstream media and discourse. They speak to legacies of U.S. colonial occupation of the Philippines, the history of U.S. bases and the Arroyo administration colluding with U.S. military abuse of Filipino women.   

With the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) dictating US-Philippine relations, the reversal of the rape conviction of U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Smith, and now the Vanessa rape case, this seemingly harmless “joke” on The Late Show with David Letterman points to the ongoing perception of Filipino women as objects for sexual disposal. Indeed, these are symptoms of the larger political and economic sketch. The precedent for Filipinas and the Philippine nation to be dehumanized, sexualized and given second-rate status can be found in US imperialist policies and the Philippine government’s acceptance of this treatment.

Baldwin’s comments about acquiring a wife in his desired flavor, “Filipino” or “Russian” demonstrates how deeply seeded the problem of sex trafficking is in the US. This comment is not only a joke about Filipino women, but  an insult to all women, especially those who are economic refugees of colonized and under-developed countries. We must remember Susanna Blackwell, a Filipina mail-order bride who was killed along with her two Filipina friends in a Seattle court house where she was seeking divorce from her abusive husband in 1995. To this day, GABRIELA USA receives calls from mail order and pen-pal brides under distress, and seeking to escape from mental, physical, and emotional abuse by their American husbands.

After insults about Filipino doctors on Desperate Housewives and domestic helpers on European TV and, and now this recent racist and sexist comment, GABRIELA USA calls on all Filipinos and friends to publicly denounce these derogatory remarks and work towards addressing their root cause—the U.S. military occupation of the Philippines, U.S.impunity against sex crimes and human rights abuses, and the underlying neo-colonial relationship between the U.S. and the Philippines. 

We also re-commit to educating our community and the larger public about the true contributions of Filipina women in U.S. society and the plight of many mail–order-brides who often become victims of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. Too often Filipina women who come to the U.S. through marriage suffer from uneven power relationships and become dependent on their American husbands, sadly mirroring the subjugation of the the Philippines under the U.S.   

GABRIELA USA calls for a public apology from Alec Baldwin. Filipina women from across the country renew their demands for the end of US Troops in the Philippines, an end to the Visiting Forces Agreement and justice for all victims of military rape. 

GABRIELA USA are comprised of members organizations:  Babae in San Francisco, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE) in New York City, Pinay Sa Seattle in Seattle, and Sisters of Gabriela, Awaken! (SiGAw) in Los Angeles.

###

News Release

14 May 2009

Reference: Emmi de Jesus, Secretary General, 371-2302 / 0917-3221203

On the heels of Subic rape case,

US troops continue abusing Filipinas – GABRIELA

As long as US troops freely roam the Philippines under the Visiting Forces Agreement, many more Filipinas will be abused by US servicemen. This was according to the women’s group GABRIELA in a press conference today. The women’s group cited the case of “Vanessa” (not her real name), a 22-year-old Filipina allegedly raped by a US Marine just last April 19.

The crime allegedly took place in the early morning of April 19 at the hotel room of the perpetrator, “John Jones” (not his real name). GABRIELA was able to confirm that the alleged perpetrator is a US military personnel listed in hotel records as “from Joint US Military Assistance Group (JUSMAG)/Balikatan.”

“The victim immediately sought the help of GABRIELA. Like many other rape survivors, Vanessa’s life has been thrown in shambles since the incident,” said Emmi de Jesus, GABRIELA secretary general.

GABRIELA said that although Vanessa is going through a difficult period, she has agreed to reveal her ordeal to let the public know that abuses by US servicemen against women continue.

“While rape victims have a strong desire to seek justice for the offense made against them, the decision to come out in public and pursue a legal case does not come easy. This decision is now even more difficult to make since another US personnel is involved, and with the events in the Subic rape case set as background,” said de Jesus.

Last April 23 the Court of Appeals acquitted L/Cpl. Daniel Smith who was earlier found guilty by the lower court.

The Subic rape case is the first ever criminal case against a US serviceman under the VFA that went to trial. More than 3,000 cases, including abuse of women and children, were filed against US servicemen at the height of the presence of US military bases in the country, but all were dismissed.

“The Arroyo government’s handling of the Subic rape case from the very beginning is unconscionable. The CA’s reversal of Smith’s conviction sends a clear signal that despite the glaring abuse of American soldiers on our people, the interests of the United States government take precedence over justice,” added de Jesus.

“The case of Vanessa only shows that the abuses will continue as long as the VFA is in effect. And justice will remain elusive as long as the VFA overrules our laws and undermines our sovereignty,” concluded de Jesus. ###
Public Information Department
GABRIELA National Office
(+632) 3712302

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Rhonda Ramiro, secgen@bayanusa.org

May 14, 2009 www.bayanusa.org

Appalled by the double-news of the rape of another Filipina woman by a U.S. Marine and the increase in U.S. financial aid to the corrupt Philippine government, BAYAN-USA reiterated its call to terminate the U.S.-Philippines Visiting Forces Agreement (“VFA”), which the alliance of 14 Filipino American organizations in the U.S. sees as the red carpet used to usher in U.S. troops, supplies, and military training linked to thousands of human rights violations.

Under the auspices of the VFA, over 6,000 US troops were deployed to the Philippines this past April, to engage in so-called Balikatan (“shoulder-to-shoulder”) military exercises. In a press conference today, the 22-year-old Filipina “Vanessa” (not her real name) told the story of how she was raped in a hotel room on April 19 by a U.S. Marine, registered in hotel records as “from Joint U.S. Military Assistance Group/Balikatan.” According to the women’s group GABRIELA, Vanessa has decided not to file a case against her alleged rapist though there is evidence to support her claim.

“We are outraged that another Filipina has become the victim of U.S. troops, and that the VFA is blocking her from obtaining justice,” said BAYAN-USA Secretary General Rhonda Ramiro. “Last month’s acquittal of convicted rapist Lance Corporal Daniel Smith signals that U.S. military personnel can get away with the most heinous crimes on Philippine soil because they will be protected by the VFA.”

BAYAN-USA claims that despite its rhetoric of “change,” the administration of President Barack Obama has clung to Bush’s foreign policy when it comes to war and military deployment overseas. Earlier this year, President Obama phoned Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to express support for the VFA and continuing the Balikatan joint military exercises. The estimated total expense borne by U.S. taxpayers for U.S. militarization in the Philippines since the VFA was enacted nearly 10 years ago is a lofty $1 billion. An additional $660 million—up from a reported $400 million just one month ago—is reportedly set to be spent over the next few years.

“The only ‘change’ we see is the change being pocketed by the Arroyo government to rape and terrorize the Filipino people,” declared Ramiro. “Arroyo, her military, and multinational corporations are getting rich off the millions of dollars being paid by the U.S. government to commit torture, abductions, false imprisonment, and ultimately extrajudicial killings to silence critics of Arroyo and her neoliberal economic policies.”

This latest rape case and report of increased aid to the Philippines comes on the heels of an April 29, 2009 report by Philip Alston, U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions, which states that the Philippine government has failed to institute the substantive reforms Alston recommended to address extrajudicial killings and other human rights abuses in the country.

“The fact that hundreds of millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars are being used to commit rape and other human rights atrocities is unconscionable, especially now that we are in the midst of a depression,” stated Ramiro. “The fact that the VFA is being funded and enforced by the Obama administration is hypocrisy, especially after President Obama promised hope and change.”

In response, BAYAN-USA has announced it will conduct a “Day of Action against the VFA” on May 27, 2009 which marks the 10th anniversary of the military agreement. In synch with mobilizations in the Philippines calling for the termination of the VFA, the Day of Action will take place from coast-to-coast across the U.S. in what will be the latest expression of the indignation felt by Filipino Americans over the trampling of Philippine sovereignty by U.S. imperial interests. In March, BAYAN-USA and GABRIELA USA launched an online “Junk VFA” petition, which garnered over 1,000 signatures in two weeks and has reached nearly 2,000 signatures to date. At the beginning of May, BAYAN-USA also met with the office of Congresswoman Barbara Lee, to urge the representative—who is a member of the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Foreign Operations—to support the call for the termination of all military aid to the Philippines pending the Philippine government’s compliance with recommendations in the Alston report to stop human rights violations and prosecute the perpetrators. The BAYAN-USA delegation also asked Representative Lee to introduce new legislation to stop the deployment of U.S. troops to the Philippines unless the said recommendations are implemented and to terminate the VFA.

“BAYAN-USA’s Day of Action against the VFA will send Congress the message that nobody wins and everybody loses with the VFA,” said Ramiro. “In the face of a budget deficit in the trillions and over 11 million people unemployed in the U.S., it simply makes no sense to continue providing aid to the Arroyo government and to perpetuate the costly VFA. Congress should cut both during the budget appropriations process this spring and summer.”

BAYAN-USA is an alliance of progressive Filipino groups in the U.S. representing organizations of students, scholars, women, workers, and youth. As an international 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. The online petition against the VFA can be found at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/JunkVFAnow/

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(Update) MANILA, Philippines – Lawyers and supporters willing to help “Vanessa” admitted Thursday they are left helpless after the alleged rape victim changed her mind and decided not to press rape charges against an American serviceman.

Lawyer Evalyn Ursua said “Vanessa” initially wanted to lodge a complaint against the supposed rapist – identified only as “John Jones” – but changed her mind at the last minute after considering the outcome of the rape case of another US soldier Lance Corporal Daniel Smith.

Ursua – legal counsel of Smith’s victim, Suzette “Nicole” Nicolas – rushed to the side of “Vanessa” and offered to help the new rape victim in case she decided to bring the matter to court.

“Ang gusto talaga namin ay dumating itong kasong ito sa korte. Iyan and ideal situation. Pero wala kaming magawa dahil ang biktima ay ayaw magsampa ng kaso,” the lawyer said in a press conference in Quezon City.

[We really want this incident to reach the court. That would be the ideal situation. But we cannot do anything since the victim refuses to file charges.]

Vanessa said she decided not to wage a legal battle for fear that the government, particularly the Philippine courts, would only rule in favor of Jones, just like what happened in Smith’s case.

Smith – a participant in the 2005 joint RP-US military exercise – was convicted in December 2006 of raping Nicole in Subic Bay. The lower court decision was later reversed last April by the Court of Appeals, and Smith immediately flew out of the country.

Before the CA reversal came out, Nicole issued an affidavit saying she no longer was sure whether or not Smith had raped her. At the same time, Nicole flew for the United States for good.

“That was one of Vanessa’s considerations. We learned a lesson from Nicole’s case. It showed how the government and the (Philippine) justice system treated the case. That was one of Vanessa’s fear,” Ursua said.

Ursua stressed they were respecting Vanessa’s decision not to file charges.

“Maybe what she wanted to happen was to vent out her grievances. That’s her way of helping herself, for healing and recovery,” she said.

Ursua expressed hopes that Vanessa would still reconsider her decision not to press charges. “Hindi natin alam kung ano ang desisyon niya in the future… But it’s possible [We don’t know how she will decide in the future. But it’s possible she will file charges],” she said.

The lawyer said a rape case cannot necessarily file rape case against Jones with “the people of the Philippines” acting as respondents.

“Kailangan pa rin niya na initiate ang pagsampa ng reklamo at dadaan pa rin siya ng preliminary investigation [Vanessa still has to initiate the rape case and undergo a preliminary investigation],” she said.

Rape?

During Thursday’s press conference at Gabriela’s main office in Quezon City, Vanessa – with her face covered – read out to reporters a detailed account of the events that happened on the day she was raped. In the middle of her speech, Vanessa broke into sobs.

Vanessa, a 22-year-old college student, claimed she was sexually assaulted by Jones on April 19 at hotel in a five-star hotel in Makati City.

Vanessa said she met Jones on April 10 in a bar in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City and had a series of text messages after that.

On the wee hours of April 19, Vanessa went out to a bar with her cousin and friend. Minutes later, Jones texted Vanessa and asked if he could also dropped by the bar where she was.

Jones arrived at the bar along with three other female friends. The US serviceman then asked Vanessa to accompany him to the Makati hotel where he was billeted, saying they would later be joined by other friends.

But to Vanessa’s surprise, no other people arrived in Jone’s room. It was at that time that Vanessa said she was raped. After the incident, Vanessa rushed to the hotel security to report the incident.

Vanessa was later asked to go by policemen to get a certification for her rape allegations before she underwent a medico-legal examination.

Prepared for raps

Gabriela said it currently does not have enough information about Vanessa’s alleged abuser except that Jones is a US Marine belonging to the Joint United States Military Assistance Group sent to the Philippines for this year’s Balikatan Exercises.

Ursua said they currently have no idea whether or not Jones has already left the country.

In case Vanessa changes her mind and decides to file charges, Ursua assured that they have all the required documents needed in the case including the victim’s sworn affidavit, a medico-legal report, as well as a photograph of the US serviceman.

Ursua lamented how violently Vanessa was treated by the US serviceman, saying bruises have appeared on the victim’s neck – a point Vanessa’s camp could use against Jones if the case goes to court. “Ang physical evidence ay nakita ng doctor na tumingin sa kaniya [The doctor who examined her saw physical evidence].” with Sophia Dedace, GMANews.TV

News Release

May 14, 2009

VFA discourages rape victims of US troops from filing cases – Bayan

Amid the latest incident involving an American soldier raping a Filipina, the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan blamed the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement as the “main obstacle” that prevents victims from pursuing their case in court.

In a press conference with the women’s group Gabriela, rape victim “Vanessa” disclosed how she was lured by a US military from the Joint US Military Assistance Group (JUSMAG). According to the women’s group, the victim has not decided to file a case against her rapist though there are already documents to support her claim.

“The bigger tragedy in the recent rape case is the view of the victim that she cannot get justice under Philippine law. The Nicole case and the acquittal or rapist Daniel Smith discourages victims from pursuing their case in court,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

“So long as the VFA remains an anchor of RP-US relations, it will always weigh heavily on any criminal case involving US troops. So-called US relations will always take precedence. What can the victim expect from a legal system that acquitted Smith and called rape a ‘romantic episode’?” he added.

Bayan called on the Philippine Senate to exercise its oversight function and review the VFA, 10 years after Senate ratified it on May 27, 1999.

“The VFA has spawned so many problems, from rape to corruption, to human rights abuses. It is high time that the agreement be exposed for what it really is. It is a grossly one-sided pact that undermines our sovereignty and legal system,” Reyes said.

Bayan called the JUSMAG as “a permanent US military and intelligence outpost on Philippine soil”. The head of the JUSMAG is the representative of the Commander of the US Pacific Command. Its office is located at the US embassy in Roxas Boulevard in Manila.It used to be known as the Joint US Military Advisory Group.

“The JUSMAG has long operated in the country through the cold-war relic that is the Mutual Defense Treaty. It encompasses a broad range of activities including advising the AFP, conducting joint military exercises and facilitating various forms of military assistance,” Reyes said.  ###