The US Chapter of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP-US) supports Jerome Aba’s demand for an investigation into what happened to him at the hands of the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Agency last April 17-19 at the San Francisco International Airport.
In an April 20 press conference in Manila, Aba recounted being subjected to physical and psychological torture while being interrogated by CBP officials, who denied him access to a lawyer, before being forced to fly back to the Philippines. The account included being forced to undress and remain positioned for a prolonged period in front of an industrial fan; being denied food, water, and sleep for hours; and being asked repeatedly if Aba was a “terrorist” or a “communist.”
Despite Aba’s detailed testimony, the CBP has stated that its agents “treat all travelers with dignity and respect” and not admitted any mistreatment of Aba, a 25 year old Moro (Muslim) peace advocate from Mindanao who was granted a 10 year multiple entry visa to the US upon the invitation of several US church groups. Aba’s account of his treatment by CBP fits a an escalating pattern of abuse meted out by border agents against travelers and migrants since the declaration of the so-called “War on Terror” in 2001.
“The response of the US CBP is an outrageous lie. So many thousands of migrants have told horror stories of the violent attacks, withholding of food and water, intimidation and coercion, and humiliating and misleading interrogation they’ve experienced at the hands of CBP agents. It is well-documented that such abuse has become routine practice for the agency, but we will not stand for the CBP’s ‘business as usual’ behavior. The US government must answer for the CBP and Homeland Security’s inhumane treatment of Jerome, and a full investigation and accountability for the agents’ treatment must be secured,” said Pam Tau Lee, Chair of ICHRP-US.
Aba submitted a letter to Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Cayetano to formally demand an independent, impartial investigation into his torture, arbitrary detention and other mistreatment and rights violations inflicted on him by US Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection; hold accountable Philippine Consulate officers in San Francisco, US for their neglect of Aba; and to file a diplomatic protest against the US government on what had happened to him.
“Unfortunately, Jerome’s case is one of many. In addition to the rampant abuse of migrants at borders, the Trump administration’s ‘extreme vetting’ program is intended to bar activists, artists and other experts from entering the US to speak out on social and political justice issues. The detention and interrogation of Jerome Aba included repeated questioning about his human rights advocacy. This is an indication that they want to seek out and cause harm to the rightful organizing that has mobilized vast numbers seeking to amplify the voices of those victimized by the culture of impunity in the Philippines and the role of the US in supporting Duterte’s regime. It is my hope that a successful investigation into what happened to Jerome at SFO results in policy changes in how arrivals are treated, including legal representation at the point of entry and also recognition of the UN Declaration of Human Rights,” concluded Lee.
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