“The memorial at Journal Square was meant to raise awareness about the poor state of human rights in the Philippines. State sponsored killings and abductions of activists and community leaders continue under President Aquino. Anakbayan NJ, together with JCPM, addressed an important issue that he [Pres. Aquino] failed to mention in his third state of the nation address,” said Bea Sabino, Chairperson of Anakbayan New Jersey. “As US taxpayers, we demand an end to US military aid to the Philippines. $30 million in tax dollars go to the Armed Forces of the Philippines, which is notorious for gross violations to human rights. We also demand justice for Willem Geertman. We call on the Aquino administration to take decisive steps on investigating these cases and also to prosecute former President Arroyo and former AFP general Jovito Palparan as perpetrators of human rights violations in the Philippines,” Ms. Sabino concluded.
Currently, there are 100 recorded victims of extra-judicial killings under the 2 year-old administration of President Aquino. Willem Geertman, a community development worker is one of the most recent victims. He was killed last July 3rd, colleagues and family claim, for his advocacy in land, indigenous people and environmental issues. He is the Executive Director of a disaster relief NGO Alay Bayan Inc and has resided in the Philippines for the past 46 years. He spoke fluent Filipino and has worked among poor farmers in rural communities. He is a known anti-mining advocate. Geertman is the second European NGO/community worker killed under the Aquino regime, after the death of Fr. Pops Tentorio in Mindanao on October 2011. Geertman’s death came a month after the Philippine government appeared before the United Nations Universal Periodic Review in Geneva, where it was scrutinized for its inaction towards the elimination of extrajudicial killings, torture and enforced disappearances in the Philippines.
Activists linked the issues of human rights violations in the Philippines with the US-military aid and involvement in the internal affairs of the Philippines. Since 2001, The U.S. government has spent $507 million since 2001 in military aid for the Philippines. $30 million is scheduled to be released again this year. According to activists, this could have been used to fund social services here in communities like Jersey City.
“Our stolen tax-dollars must be re-channeled from endless wars and bank-bailouts, back to the people, including the working-class, the elderly, the sick, the homeless and the youth,” said Erik Anders-Nilsson, Director of Jersey City Peace Movement. “The corrupt powers of Imperialist America vying for global hegemony must be challenged and struggled with. Jersey City Peace Movement calls for the end to all U.S wars abroad, an end to all U.S. military bases in the Philippines , and the liberation of all oppressed peoples, from Palestine to Jersey City, to Manila,” Mr. Nilsson concluded.
Activists say they will continue to raise awareness, and lobby to uphold human rights in the Philippines until the US government cuts military funding to the Philippines.