For Immediate Release
March 23, 2015
Reference: Joelle Eliza Lingat, Chairperson, Anakbayan New Jersey
Defend the Defenders; Activism is Not a Crime: Stop the Political Vilification and Harassment of Human Rights & Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Defenders in Ifugao, Cordillera, Philippines
Anakbayan New Jersey condemns the increased political vilification and surveillance of members and leaders of the Ifugao Peasant Movement (IPM), barangay officials, local organizations, and indigenous people’s rights advocates. As activists ourselves, we believe in the basic rights of individuals and organizations to freely express their political beliefs and to advance their peoples’ rights in the Philippines, the U.S., and across the world.
As of the last quarter of 2014, there has been an increase in the ostracization and red-baiting of local people’s organizations as communist fronts or members of the New Peoples Army (NPA). Not only are these accusations false, but they attempt to turn the public against these community advocates as “enemies of the State” or “terrorists.” This is a direct result of the Philippine government’s counter-insurgency policy, Oplan Bayanihan, which continues to uphold a culture of impunity and injustice.
History has shown that increased political vilification is a prelude to illegal arrests based on trumped up charges, enforced disappearance, and even extrajudicial killings. After the Philippine Army’s release of a “Target List,” William Bugatti, one of those listed, was extrajudicially killed on March 25, 2014. It is a grave injustice to demonize these individuals and organizations that have dedicated their lives to empowering the oppressed, poor, and most vulnerable to government neglect through social services and livelihood assistance.
Those targeted are: Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, Alliance of Concerned Teachers, Cordillera People’s Alliance, Center for Development Programs in the Cordillera, Montanosa Research and Development Center, Amianan Salakniban, Katinnulong Dagiti Umili iti Amianan, Tebtebba, Igorota Foundation, and more. Among the individuals are: Nestor Peralta, Claudine Panayo, Billy Karty, Ben Calingayan, Edwin Bumolyad, Nonoy Bangtiwen, Dick Tangid, Ricardo Mayumi, James Tayaban, and Brandon Lee.
The last person named on this list, Brandon Lee, is of particular relevance to us as a former member of the League of Filipino Students – San Francisco State University. He entered college as an everyday student and left as an activist in service of the people. Not even Filipinx, this Chinese American man found a place within our homeland in a way that very many Filipinx youth in the U.S. have never even engaged with. He has come a long way from his first exposure program to the Philippines as he has permanently moved to work as a defender of indigenous peoples’ rights with his wife and daughter.
However, this is not the story of a single person, or even a single region of the Philippines. It is of a culture of impunity that is plaguing the homeland our families have been ripped from. Political vilification and military repression extends from the northernmost tip of Luzon to the southernmost tip of Mindanao, and in most recent incidents, from Ifugao to Mamasapano. Our very own members of Anakbayan New Jersey have integrated with students whose schools have been bombed and farmers whose lands have been stolen.
There have been too many “final straws.”
It is our duty as Filipinx Americans of the diaspora to stand in solidarity with our Filipinxs back home in our demand of truth, accountability, and justice of the Philippines government and the especially the president, BS Aquino. We also call on the American taxpayers to demand that the US government cut all military aid to the Philippines. We demand an end to BS Aquino’s bloody counter-insurgency campaign, Oplan Bayanihan. We also demand that the Philippine government respect human rights and adhere to international humanitarian law. End the culture of impunity! Long live international solidarity!###