A US Movement Grows in Opposition to Duterte’s Rising Fascism

Los Angeles, CA – On May 11th, the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP – US) and the Malaya Movement culminated the Stop the Killings Speaking Tour: The People’s Caravan for Peace and Justice in the Philippines with a 100-person rally in front of the Philippine Consulate in Los Angeles, home to the largest number of Filipinos in the country. Among the 100 people, a blue bus with the word “MALAYA” (meaning “free” in Tagalog) written on its windows was parked in front of the Philippine Consulate and had just traveled down the west coast to transport human rights speakers from Philippines and advocates from Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco to join the Los Angeles community in condemning the mass killings of Filipinos by President Rodrigo Duterte. The rally featured speakers of human rights experts, survivors of human rights violations, and faith leaders; street theatre and musical performances; and the delivery of a community-signed letter to the Philippine Consulate to garner their support in helping end the killings under Duterte’s drug war.

“The 20,000 extrajudicial killings in the Philippines continue to climb in number,” said Pam Tau Lee, Chairperson of ICHRP-US. “But beyond the gross number of killings, we see the Filipino people are under attack. Under Martial Law and a heightened crackdown on activists, the basic rights of the people are being thwarted.  As fellow human rights advocates and faith leaders, we are glad to have done this U.S.-wide speaking tour and caravan against the killings and the growing repression in the Philippines.”

Since the Government of the Philippines’ cancellation of peace talks with the National Democratic Front amidst a 50 year civil war, a rising dictatorship has emerged under the administration of Rodrigo Duterte. On Friday of last week, Duterte consolidated power over the judiciary, legislative, and executive branches and removed his Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. This follows last year’s declaration and extension of Martial Law in Mindanao despite widespread protests.

“Why does Duterte want to centralize power? To evade accountability for the repressive three wars of his government – his war against drugs, war on terror, and all-out war against human rights activists. All of these wars should really be called the war against the poor, or war against people. Why does he continue to extend and extend martial law? To displace people, especially indigenous people resisting the presence of mining and multinational corporations who are extracting from their ancestral land. Why does he criminalize activists? To justify the termination of the peace process. Instead of addressing roots of armed conflict, he wages these repressive wars against people and ignores legitimate demands by the people to implement genuine land reform, national industrialization, and respect the rights of people”, says Raymond Palatino, a two time former Philippine Congressman who traveled from the Philippines to join the national speaking tour.

Bernadette Ellorin Chair of BAYAN USA proclaims, “Beyond the killings, the people are growing more outraged over Duterte’s abuse of executive powers and fascist moves like the removal of Chief Justice Sereno. This is a page off the Marcos dictator playbook, which Duterte is not studying too well since Marcos fell at the hands of a people’s resistance to tyranny. History teaches us that dictators fall.”

The rally featured a street theatre performance by members of Anakbayan Los Angeles, a progressive youth organization, to commemorate and highlight the lives of victims killed by Philippine National Police (PNP), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and paramilitary troops. Many victims highlighted were members of peasant or indigenous organizations working towards genuine democracy in Philippines.

Alma Trinidad, Co-Convener of Malaya: A US Movement Against Killings and Dictatorship, and for Democracy in the Philippines, stated: “Our Inang Bayan/Motherland, the Philippines, needs our voice and support now more than ever. Duterte is following in the footsteps of the Iron Fist rule of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos.  As Filipinos in the United States, we must take a stand, speak up, and take action now to stop him, his mentality and sense of governance. Oppression there in the motherland is oppression here for us in the U.S.”

Attendees of the rally signed a poster-sized letter that was hand-delivered to the Philippine Consulate by Trinidad and her fellow Malaya co-convenors Father Toting of St. Matthew Church and Terry Valen, the President of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns. The letter featured the names and faces of the extra-judicial killings under Duterte and read: “20,000+ Filipinos have been killed under President Duterte’s war on the poor, the Moro, and human rights defenders. We urge you to #StopTheKillingsPH”.

Photo: Rally attendees signing a poster-sized letter condemning the 20,000 lives killed under the Duterte regime that was later delivered to the Philippine Consulate.

While the crisis in the Philippines has worsened, the U.S. has expanded support for the increasingly fascist regime. Trump has expressed admiration for Duterte and the drug war in the Philippines, and has promised more military aid while secretly beginning a new military endeavor, Operation Pacific Eagle, which creates provisions for endless spending similar to what occurred in Iraq and Afghanistan in the war on terror. In recent weeks, the U.S. provided $13.5 million dollars worth of surveillance drones to the Philippine military that continues to commit crimes against human rights defenders. “We urge U.S. authorities to withdraw U.S. military aid to the Philippines. Withdraw the drones deployed by the U.S. Army, and  stop supporting the repressive and deadly regime of Duterte. Filipinos will continue to defend our democracy, human rights, and quest for real freedom, justice, and peace”, says Palatino.

Elmer Labog – Chairman of Kilusang Mayo Uno, a democratic labor center in Philippines – added, “It is inspiring to see that in this side of the world Filipino people and American people are uniting to highlight the deadly regime of Duterte and support the Filipino struggle for democracy and change.”

The tour started in Washington D.C. with Ecumenical Advocacy Days and moved on to New York and Chicago before traveling down the west coast to Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles by bus. The tour is scheduled to continue on to Hawaii next month. Across these tour stops, the speakers joined meetings with congressional offices and community events to educate the public on the human rights crisis in Philippines. After the rally, Malaya Movement hosted a mixer and cultural night at Precious Blood Catholic Church wherein 150 people attended to learn more about the human rights situation in Philippines and how to build a movement to stop the killings. The mixer event had co-emcees, Filipino talk show host and producer, Giselle “G” Tongi and Roger Rigor, singer of the popular Manila disco group VST & Co.

“As repression in the Philippines grows with the backing of Donald Trump, we call on all people to join the Filipino people in calling for an end to the killings in the Philippines,” said Lee. “We are seeking the broadest possible support and calling on the U.S. Senate to end US military aid to another fascist dictatorship in the Philippines. The voices of the people cannot go unheard until there is just and lasting peace in the Philippines”

 

Investigate the CBP! Justice for Jerome Aba!

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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references:

 

https://theintercept.com/2018/04/27/muslim-ban-supreme-court-trump-vetting-muslims/

Revealed: The FBI’s Secret Methods for Recruiting Informants at the Border <- this is interesting

Complaints Describe Border Agents Interrogating Muslim Americans, Asking for Social Media Accounts

Lawsuit: US agents harassing Muslims at border

‘Psychological Torture’: CAIR Sues U.S. Gov’t to Prevent Religious Questioning of Muslims at the Border

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/apr/20/trump-extreme-vetting-activists-censorship-immigration?CMP=share_btn_link

http://www.mindanews.com/mindaviews/2018/04/first-person-account-i-am-jerome-succor-aba-i-am-a-muslim-human-rights-worker-from-mindanao-not-a-terrorist/

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ICHRP US rallies for #NoMuslimBanEver and #Justice4Jerome

This morning, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Hawaii v. Trump, to decide whether one of Trump’s latest Muslim Bans – which permanently bans nationals from six Muslim-majority countries – violates federal law as an overreach of a president’s authority and the Constitution.​

ICHRP US members joined Muslim community groups in their rally and call for #NoMuslimBanEver. And Muslim community leaders stood with ICHRP US members to support our call for #Justice4Jerome.

​8 days ago – Jerome Succor Aba became the first Moro, a Filipino Muslim, to fall victim to US President Trump’s Muslim ban. For 28 hours, Jerome was detained at SFO airport by the Customs and Border Patrol, denied access to any outside communication, and suffered brutally inhumane treatment before being sent back to the Philippines. He had been invited to the U.S. by church groups and rights advocates to be a featured speaker in the Ecumenical Advocacy Days and in the national Stop The Killings speaking tour hosted by ICHRP US and Malaya.

​For the past 8 days, the more than 40 member organizations of ICHRP US across the country have been rallying to demand #Justice4Jerome and we will continue to do so from Washington D.C. to SFO to the Philippines.

As Moro leader Amirah Ali Lidasan stated in her article today: “It is high time that the American people put a stop to the discriminatory and inhumane treatment of the US CBP and Homeland Security agents to innocent travelers that they accuse of being terrorists… It is high time to get rid off and stop supporting policies that promote Islamophobia, xenophobia, and disregard of the democratic rights of the people masquerading as policies to “secure” the people of the United States of America. In the words of the victims of 9-11, “Not in our name!”

 

Philippine Peace Activist Recounts Guantanamo Bay-Type Torture Tactics During 28- Hour Detention at SFO

Jerome Succor Aba, the 25-year old peace advocate from Mindanao, Philippines who was denied entry to the US at the San Francisco International Airport (SFO) on Tuesday, April 18,  spoke for the first time at a press conference in the Philippines yesterday about his ordeal during the 28 hours he was detained and held incommunicado by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Aba’s testimony was spoken in Tagalog and was translated to English

Aba opened up his testimony with the following:  “First I want to say that this is the first time that I am facing the media since this happened to me at the hands of the Homeland Security agency in the United States. I am a human rights worker. I documented human rights violations during the time of the Mamasapano encounter. I was there during the Kidapawan massacre on April 1, 2016. I also documented human rights violations that happened in Marawi and during the martial law of President Duterte. I am not used to being the one now directly victimized.”

Denial of Right to Counsel

Aba described what happened immediately after he was taken by CBP agents for secondary screening: “They took my personal belongings, my laptop and cell phone, without my consent. That is already a violation of my right to privacy and I started asserting my human rights. I have the right to access a lawyer. They said I have no right, because I’m not a citizen of America. I am not a US citizen, but I am entitled to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They said ‘you are not entitled to that.’ While that was happening, I was handcuffed.”

Inhumane Treatment/ Physical Threats

Aba described his cruel and inhumane treatment.  “In an empty room, stainless room, while they were questioning me, they commanded me to undress. Then I asserted that this is illegal, this is cruel, this is inhumane, this is a violation of human rights. Over and over they repeated, ‘you are not entitled.’ I took off my clothes. It was cold, and they made it colder. They brought in a very big electric fan, they turned it on. It was so cold. I was naked. They left me there with the fan.”

Aba continued: “I was afraid to use the restroom, because they might make a drama that I was trying to escape and they might shoot me.” He was escorted to the restroom by 5 agents.  He remembers the main interrogator, an agent bearing the badge Lopez, telling him, “‘Be good here, be nice here, if you do anything bad, I will not hesitate to shoot you.’ Every time I moved he would reach for his side arm (firearm).”

Targeted for Human Rights Work and being a Muslim

Aba was extensively interrogated about his affiliations, his political beliefs, and his cultural effects.  Aba was asked about his participation in rallies, views on U.S.-Philippine relations, Martial Law in Mindanao and Duterte’s Drug War that has taken over 13,000 lives.  Aba was repeatedly accused of being a “terrorist” and a “communist”. On two separate occasions he was left in a room with a gun and later a grenade, as if attempting to entrap him into using the items. Said Aba, “What do they want? Do they want to portray me as a suicide bomber? Is that how they want to show how Muslims are?”

Aba described how he was offered food only after 24 hours of detainment.   Adding insult to injury, CBP disrespected his religion by deliberately serving him pork.  “They asked, ‘What do you want to eat?’ I said, ‘I don’t eat pork.’ [They replied,] ‘What do you think of Ham?’ [He said] ‘Ham is pork and is also a violation of my religious belief.’ They gave me bread with ham, pork.”

COERCION AND COVER- UP

Aba also testified about the coercion he experienced: “[Lopez] He said in order to be released, sign this. It’s a blank paper. Because I was so exhausted, I signed it. I tried to write ‘UP’ to mean ‘under pressure’ but he took the paper, and made me sign another piece of paper. So I did it.”  Before Aba was released, the agents also shredded in front of him a foot-tall stack of papers that the agents purported were their profile on him and he was made to record a statement on video that he was not tortured.

While Aba was held incommunicado and denied access to legal counsel, an attorney from the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) was at SFO trying to talk with CBP to represent Aba.  Rachel Lederman of the NLG called CBP offices repeatedly and was told she would be called back. Rachel Lederman and Judith Mirkinson, SF-Chapter President of the NLG were at SFO from approximately 8 am to midnight of April 18 and were not allowed access to Aba.  Meanwhile, CBP officials contacted by offices of Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi and Senator Diane Feinstein were informed that Aba was being detained on a “soft disposition” or “something that could easily be overcome.”

CBP  spokesman Jaime Ruiz also made the statement that “U.S. Customs and Border Protection does not consider country of origin or human rights activism to be determining factors for admissibility.”  Meanwhile, Aba was extensively interrogated about his national affiliations, his political beliefs, and his cultural effects and was repeatedly accused of being a “terrorist” and a “communist”.

Aba was invited by the General Board of  Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, US Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines – US, to speak in the Ecumenical Advocacy Days and a peace caravan in the US this April 19 to May 14.   He was given a 10 -year multiple entry visa by the US Embassy in Manila and was scheduled to meet with several congressional offices and human rights organizations.

“All of us at at the Ecumenical Advocacy Days were deeply disturbed to hear about Mr. Jerome Aba’s mistreatment and subjection to harsh and degrading measures while detained for over 24 hours without access to a lawyer.  That a human rights defender like Jerome Aba would be so harshly mistreated and denied entry only redoubles our conviction to address both urgent human rights crisis in the Philippines and to call for investigation into his treatment by CBP,” said David Wildman, Executive Secretary for Human Rights and Racial Justice of the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church.

“We are appalled at the inhumane and cruel treatment of Jerome Aba and the  physical and psychological abuse he was subjected to including physical threats, intimidation, and coercion.” said Pam Tau Lee, Chairperson of the U.S. chapter of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines.

“Mr. Aba’s rights were violated. He was subjected to blatant racial profiling and anti-Muslim accusations.  His legal and human rights were wholly disregarded. It is so reprehensible that Mr. Aba travelled to the U.S. so that he may be a voice for the hundreds of thousands of urban poor, indigenous people and national minorities being victimized under Philippine President Duterte’s brutal drug war, martial law and counter-insurgency war, only to become a human rights victim himself suffering dehumanizing treatment at the hands of Homeland Security agents at SFO.” Continued Lee.

“Mr. Aba’s treatment at SFO, in our “sanctuary city” goes against everything we stand for as San Franciscans. We call on our federal representatives and all City officials to condemn these horrendous attacks on human rights in our own backyard,” added Pam Tau Lee who is a long-time San Francisco resident and labor, indigenous and environmental rights activist currently in Washington DC participating in the Ecumenical Advocacy Days.

As Duterte Rises towards Dictatorship, A US Movement Grows

Filipinos and Advocates Announce US Wide Speaking Tour and Caravan for Peace and Justice in the Philippines

From April 20 – May 11, the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines US Chapter and the Malaya Movement will host the Stop the Killings Speaking Tour: The People’s Caravan for Peace and Justice in the Philippines. The tour, which will feature human rights experts and survivors of human rights violations from the Philippines and US-based Filipinos and faith leaders, will span seven major US cities from coast to coast.

“The 14,000 extrajudicial killings in the Philippines continue to climb in number,” said Pam Tau Lee, Chairperson of ICHRP-US. “But beyond the gross number of killings, we see the Filipino people are under attack. Under Martial Law and a heightened crackdown on activists, the basic rights of the people are being thwarted.  As fellow human rights advocates and faith leaders, we are glad to announce a U.S. Wide Tour Speaking Tour and Caravan against the killings and the growing repression in the Philippines.”

Since the Government of the Philippines’ cancellation of peace talks with the National Democratic Front amidst a 50 year civil war, a rising dictatorship has emerged under the regime of Rodrigo Duterte. While the Filipino people have remained steadfast in the struggle for just and lasting peace, upholding demands for the basic social and economic reforms, President Duterte, like his hero Marcos, has paid no heed to the basic rights of the people. In just over a year and a half as President, Duterte has committed 14,000 killings against poor and innocent Filipinos; encouraged soldiers to rape; placed human rights activists, like UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, on a terrorist list; and, he is pushing legislation that would result in the extension of his Presidency beyond the current limitations set by the Philippine constitution.

Alma Trinidad, Co-Convener of Malaya: A US Movement Against Killings and Dictatorship, and for Democracy in the Philippines, stated: “Our Inang Bayan/Motherland, the Philippines, needs our voice and support now more than ever. Duterte is following in the footsteps of the Iron Fist rule of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos.  As Filipinos in the United States, we must take a stand, speak up, and take action now to stop him, his mentality and sense of governance. Oppression there in the motherland is oppression here for us in the U.S.”

While the crisis in the Philippines has worsened, the U.S. has expanded support for the growing fascist regime. Trump has expressed admiration for Duterte and the drug war in the Philippines, and has promise more military AID while secretly beginning a new military endeavor, Operation Pacific Eagle, which creates provisions for endless spending similar to what occurred in Iraq and Afghanistan in the war on terror. Within the past week, the U.S. provided 13.5 million dollars worth of surveillance drones to the Philippine military that continues to commit crimes against human rights defenders.

Set to begin in Washington DC for Ecumenical Advocacy Days, the tour moves on to New York, Chicago, and on to the West Coast. ICHRP-US and the Malaya Movement invite friends of the Filipino people to join the caravan alongside the Stop the Killings tour bus, which has planned  stops in Seattle, Portland, Oakland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

“As repression in the Philippines grows with the backing of Donald Trump, we call on all people to join the Filipino people in calling for an end to the killings in the Philippines,” said Lee. “We are seeking the broadest possible support and calling on the U.S. Senate to end US military aid to another fascist dictatorship in the Philippines.”

This year’s tour happens in wake of the 2017 Peace Tour, in which ICHRP-US hosted human rights advocates and indigenous people from the Philippines to advocate for the now stalled peace talks. “We remain steady in our call for the peace talks to resume between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the Philippine government” Alma Trinidad reiterated. “The voices of the people cannot go unheard until there is just and lasting peace in the Philippines.”