Honor in the Line of Fire: Why our protest against the Philippine president is justified

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“The line of fire is a place of honor.”

–Lean Alejandro, Youth Activist in the Philippines

In the spirit of the countless generations of progressive and militant activists that have dared to stand up to state repression in the Philippines, community organizers here in the United States chose to confront Philippine President BS Aquino during his (unwelcome) visit to both New York City and San Francisco. On September 23rd, three activists publicly criticized Aquino and his failures to the Filipino people during a forum held by Columbia University. A protest led by the organizations of which these activists are a part was held simultaneously outside the university hall. On September 24th, progressive organizations based in the Bay Area rallied outside of a Wells Fargo building that Aquino was in. Anakbayan Silicon Valley (ABSV) holds the utmost respect for the individuals and organizations that stood in the line of fire to oppose and expose the crimes of the Aquino administration, and we are honored to call these people our kasamas, our comrades.

The actions at Columbia University and the streets of San Francisco are not isolated events, nor are they the work of any one individual, as the mainstream media paints them to be. A history of oppression faced by the Filipino people has led to the the formation of organizations that represent all sectors of society, from workers to peasants, youth to educators, womyn to queer-identified, and everything in between. Those that confronted Aquino last week are members of such organizations here in the US, and they have been championing the rights and welfare of Filipinos both in the Philippines and in the US for years. ABSV has been organizing in the South Bay not only to protest the criminal negligence and state repression led by the Philippine government, but also to address the issues facing Filipino youth in our communities.

Our collective anger, and the actions that result, stem from centuries of colonial exploitation of the Filipino people, decades of rule by a Philippine state that has chosen profits over people, and generations of families torn apart by forced migration due to landlessness and joblessness in the Philippines. In the last four years of Aquino’s administration alone, we have seen this violence time and time again.

We have seen it in the more than 200 victims of extrajudicial killings and more than 600 victims of illegal arrest and detention.

We have seen it in the failed government response to those affected by Typhoon Haiyan, both in the immediate aftermath and in the current conditions on the ground.

We have seen it in the money going into Aquino’s pockets as presidential pork barrel, money that could have been spent for the people.

We have seen it in the continued promotion of a labor export policy that treats people as remittance-generating commodities.

And we have seen it in the government’s blatant denial of national sovereignty for the Filipino people by re-opening US military bases, and by continuing to open the country to foreign industries that do not respect the human rights of the people.

Our demands for genuine change in the Philippines are rooted in this violence. We have an undeniable reason to yell. We have an undeniable reason to rise up. And we have an undeniable right to confront an individual who has played such a large part in countless crimes against the Filipino people. We cannot confine our calls for justice to a Q&A session. We will not wait in a queue. To do so would disrespect the gravity of the struggle faced by our kababayan and their clamor for a society that upholds and protects their rights. And it is the people to whom we should be showing our respect. Should President Aquino seek to be treated with respect, he must earn it first.

ABSV’s current campaign, Project FLAME (Filipinos Leading A Movement for Empowerment), seeks to provide an opportunity for youth to voice their struggles outside the confines of a classroom, as the brave activists in New York and San Francisco have done. Through a storytelling project within the campaign, we are organizing our community to speak out against the educational violence they face: lack of adequate college admissions guidance; the increasing costs of tuition, even in public schools; the student debt crisis; the inability of youth to find stable jobs to sustain themselves; and the ever increasing dropout rate of Filipino youth due to institutional obstacles. These issues are not isolated from those in the Philippines, with the US spending exponentially more on the military than on our education. This same military budget is going to increased military aid to and military presence in the Philippines, which again have led to countless human rights violations. Whether in the Philippines or in the US, Filipinos are suffering from a system that serves the interests of the minority rather than the majority.

Until the people’s demands are answered, we will continue to educate, organize, and protest, whether inside a university hall or out on the streets. We hope that more people will be emboldened by the actions of our fellow kasamas, if not to join us in protest, then at least to have conversations with us to understand why these protests are organized to begin with. The people’s struggle is not a mere shouting match, it is not a rude interruption. It is a place where the most marginalized and oppressed can speak freely. It is an honorable place to be.

JUSTICE FOR VICTIMS OF TYPHOON HAIYAN!
JUSTICE FOR VICTIMS OF STATE REPRESSION!
SHAME ON BS AQUINO!
CONTINUE THE PEOPLE’S STRUGGLE IN THE PHILIPPINES!

Filipino Youth of New Jersey Joins International Day of Outrage vs. Pork Barrel, Demand an End to Government Corruption in the Philippines

For Immediate Release

August 26, 2013

Reference: Bea Sabino, Chairperson, Anakbayan New Jersey

       (201) 779 6886; anakbayan.nynj@gmail.com

Filipino Youth of New Jersey Joins International Day of Outrage vs. Pork Barrel,

Demand an End to Government Corruption in the Philippines

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New York City, NY- Anakbayan New Jersey (AB-NJ) united with several other Filipino community organizations in the region for a historic 100-people strong protest action in front of the Philippine Consulate in NYC, demanding nothing less than the abolition of the pork barrel system in all branches of government.

In solidarity with the August 26 Million People March in Luneta, overseas Filipinos took to the streets and social media to express outrage and disappointment over the Aquino regime’s ineptitude at genuinely addressing the economic and social problems of the Filipino people.

In NYC, community members showed up wearing pig masks and brought signs that said, “Abolish Presidential Pork Barrel”, “Re-Channel Funds to Social Services” and “Investigate and Prosecute All Involved in Corruption”. There were also chanting of a revised popular protest slogan that goes, “Makibaka! Huwag mang-baboy!” in reference to the pork barrel fund and corruption. Speakers also from various organizations lashed out against the gross governmental misuse of public funds.

A member of Anakbayan NJ, tells his experience, “The protest meant a great deal to me because it’s great to see Fil-Ams in my area still be so connected to the troubles of our homeland.  [We sent the message] that we are angry that supposed public servants are breaking their promises and stealing the money of the Filipino public,” said Jan Aguilos.

Clearly, despite Aquino’s supposed campaign to eliminate corruption, trillions of pesos in pork barrel funds are being laundered and pocketed by politicians every year through sham non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and private investments; while the Filipino masses suffer under state budget constraints in education, health care, Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) protection, emergency relief and rehabilitation and other social services.

Scrap the Pork, Serve OFWs

The pork barrel scandal, where the exposé on Janet Lim- Napoles is but the tip of the iceberg, affects overseas Filipino workers as it affects their families back home. Corruption on the part of politicians is negatively connected to declining economic conditions in the Philippines, which push Filipinos to migrate abroad.

Nina Macapinlac, an AB-NJ member who migrated to the US 15 years ago, said, “This [government corruption] is outrageous because the pork barrel scandal illuminates the expansive pork barrel state of the Philippines, where power is so regularly used to exploit the public sphere. My family in the US works hard to send back money so this is just as much our concern as it is in the Philippines.”

Pork barrel funds include remittances sent home by Filipino migrants as well as millions more from tax impositions and state exactions through the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, and the Department of Foreign Affairs. These remittances reached a record high of $21.4 billion worth of personal cash and non-cash items and goods in 2012, according to Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

Despite OFWs’ undeniable contributions, protesters cited several examples of the Aquino government’s failure to provide assistance to thousands of OFWs. President Aquino’s P1-trillion pork barrel fund could well be spent on the repatriation costs of over 5,000 distressed and stranded Filipinos in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, as well as legal assistance funds for victims of labor trafficking in the United States.

Unity is People Power

The current surge of grassroots activism in the Filipino community around the world has been likened to the rumbles of the First Quarter Storm of the ‘70s. Participants of the protest action vowed to remain united and continue fighting until the pork barrel is abolished.

“Today, I saw the potential of our People here in the States to truly come together and stand up for something,” shared Daniel Santiago, an AB-NJ member, reacting to his experience witnessing the great turnout of Filipinos in the NY/NJ area. “There were people from varying spectrums of beliefs and focused on different aspects of what is going on with our People, but we managed to be united on certain things. It was a beautiful thing to be able to see [these organizations] come together as well as see so many Filipinos come out against the pork barrel to be in solidarity with those back home fighting to see it gone,” Santiago concluded.

Anakbayan is calling on Filipino youth and students in the United States to join the campaign against government corruption and hold Philippine public officials accountable. Sign on and endorse the Youth and Student Unified Statement vs. Pork Barrel and Corruption by August 28, 2013 by visiting anakbayannynj.wordpress.com or emailing anakbayan.nynj@gmail.com with your name, organization and contact information.

The Filipino people, across various sectors of society, are stepping up and starting to question President Aquino’s eroding “daang matuwid” (righteous path). “The pork barrel scam is an unavoidable symptom of larger systemic problems in Philippine society. A bright, sustainable future depends on our determination to realize the demands of the campaign to abolish pork barrel and the system that perpetuates it through organized actions and people power. This broad movement for justice seeks to prove that the truly righteous path is the one we pave ourselves as a united force at home and abroad for the rights and welfare of our kababayans,” ended Bea Sabino, chairperson of AB-NJ. ###

Filipino Youth Overseas Demand an End to Government Corruption in the Philippines

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We, Filipino youth and students overseas, stand with our sisters and brothers in the Philippines who are taking to the streets in the “Million People March vs. Pork Barrel”.

We join the call to abolish the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the presidential Special Purpose Fund (SPF). For too long, these discretionary funds have been used to fatten the pockets of corrupt politicians at the expense of our people’s welfare.

We demand that the Philippine government prioritize funding our people’s needs and not their own luxurious lifestyles. In the upcoming 2014 National Budget, the Aquino administration is set to allocate P1.2 trillion ($28.2 billion) for the president’s SPF and P25 billion ($565 million) for congress and senate’s PDAF. Despite his “Tuwid na Daan” (“Righteous Path”) rhetoric, the amount of pork barrel fund has actually doubled during Aquino’s administration and government corruption has only worsened. We demand the immediate rechanneling of all these funds directly to vital social services that our poorest sisters and brothers need, such as public education, health, housing, protection and welfare for overseas Filipino workers and even flood control.

We also call for the immediate, independent, and thorough investigation and prosecution of all parties involved in the misuse of the people’s money. The Pork Barrel must be emptied and the stench of all corrupt politicians and public officials must be aired out. Investigation and trial must be led by independent entities and not the politicians in senate and congress themselves. This process must be made public and televised. We want justice and accountability.

We recognize that this is bigger than Janet Lim-Napoles and the corrupt politicians involved in the current Pork Barrel Scam. This is about a system that breeds corruption and serves the interests of the wealthiest few while neglecting the poor majority of our people. We understand that it is exactly this type of corruption that is one of the main root of the ongoing economic crisis in our homeland, which forces millions of migrants like our parents to search for livelihood in other countries.

That is why, though we are thousands of miles away from our motherland, we are one with the people in fighting against systemic corruption in the Philippines. August 26th is only the beginning. No damage control nor deception by Aquino’s public relations team can stop the growing tide of people’s anger. The entire corrupt system must be changed in order for future generations to live in a society that is truly just and free.

ABOLISH ALL PORK BARREL FUNDS NOW!

RE-CHANNEL FUNDS TO SOCIAL SERVICES!

INVESTIGATE AND PROSECUTE ALL INVOLVED IN CORRUPTION!

ORGANIZATIONAL SIGNATORIES

United States:

Active Leadership to Advance the Youth (ALAY)

Anakbayan- USA

Anakbayan Los Angeles

Anakbayan San Diego

Anakayan East Bay

Anakbayan Silicon Valley

Anakbayan Seattle

Anakbayan Chicago

Anakbayan New York

Anakbayan New Jersey

Asian American Student Union – Saint Peter’s University

Barkada – Farleigh Dickinson University

Filipino American Student Association at Oberlin College

Filipino American Student Association of the University of Washington

Filipinos Uniting Nations at Kean (FUNK) – Kean University

Filipinos Uniting Students in Other Nations (FUSION) – City University of New York, Baruch College

Kasama – University of North Carolina Chapel Hill

Katipunan – University of California Riverside

Laya Migrant Youth for Change and Action, Daly City

League of Filipino Students – San Francisco State University

Maganda Magazine

PEACE – City College of San Francisco

Philippine Union of La Guardia Students Organization (PULSO) – City University of New York, La Guardia Community College

Pilipinos of Hunter (POH) – City University of New York, Hunter College

Kaibigan – Portland State University

Samahang Pilipino – University of California Los Angeles

Youth of Iglesia Filipino Independiente – Diocese of Tampa (Eastern USA & Eastern Canada)

 

Canada:

Anakabyan Montreal

Anakbayan Toronto

BAYAN- Canada

Binnadang – Migrante Canada

Filipino Student Association of Toronto (FSAT) – University of Toronto

 

Australia:

Anakbayan Melbourne

Netherlands:

SAMAKA – Netherlands

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To be a signatory now, click here.