Defend Philippine Sovereignty! Flash Mob Condemns Return of U.S. Military Bases to the Philippines on Second Anniversary of EDCA

For Immediate Release
April 28, 2016

Reference:
Natalie Agosto, Mass Campaigns Officer, New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines
Nina Macapinlac, Regional Coordinator, BAYAN USA Northeast
bayanusa.ne@gmail.com

Defend Philippine Sovereignty! Flash Mob Condemns Return of U.S. Military Bases to the Philippines on Second Anniversary of EDCA

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Protesters in Columbus Circle on the National Day of Action Against EDCA (PC: Roman Damaso) 

NEW YORK – Filipinos and concerned allies held a flash mobilization on April 27 at Columbus Circle to condemn the return of U.S. military bases to the Philippines and to mark the second anniversary of the signing of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). Protesters unfurled a large banner at the feet of the Christopher Columbus statue to condemn unequal military agreements like EDCA and to call for the removal of all U.S. troops from the Philippines. The rally denounced the opening of five U.S. military bases in the Philippines, which was made official this past March, and called for the defense of Philippine national sovereignty.

EDCA is a supplemental agreement to the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), a controversial executive agreement signed in 1999 that led to the indefinite permanent presence of hundreds of U.S. troops; dozens of annual war games between U.S. and Philippine troops; and unlimited docking and travel of U.S. warships in Philippine ports and through Philippine land and airspace. EDCA, which was signed on April 28, 2014 in Manila by Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg, expands the same military strategy set by the VFA. EDCA allows U.S. troops to use Philippine land and facilities without paying rent; to store arms including nuclear arms in the country; and to use the Philippines as a launching pad for U.S. military intervention and war in the Asia Pacific region.

Earlier this year, the Philippine Supreme Court ratified EDCA and confirmed its legality contrary to provisions set out by the Philippine Constitution that require treaties related to foreign troops, bases, and facilities be approved by the Philippine Senate. The Supreme Court disregarded Senate resolutions arguing the illegality of EDCA, effectively overturning the historical decision of the Senate in 1991 to kick out U.S. military bases and signaling the return of the bases. This past March, after conducting secret talks to identify locations for the U.S. bases, the Aquino government announced five U.S. military bases throughout the Philippines. This month, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced plans to open up even more Philippine bases beyond the five bases forged in the midnight deal with President B.S. Aquino. The return of the U.S. bases and the ratification of EDCA mark a huge blow to the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Philippines.

EDCA and the return of the bases to the Philippines are a central component of escalating U.S. intervention in the Asia Pacific region, which is part of a deliberate foreign policy strategy called the “U.S. Pivot to Asia.” This so-called “pivot” is a “rebalancing” of more than half of U.S. military forces abroad to the Asia Pacific in order to consolidate and ensure U.S. hegemony in the fastest growing economic region in the world. By taking advantage of the Philippines’ strategic location in the Asia Pacific, the United States is able to use the country as a launching pad to secure trade routes, markets, and territories as well as isolate its competing world power China through militarization and war.  “EDCA gives the U.S. a closer vantage point in checking China as a world power,” said Rodrigo Bacus, a member of New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines who recently returned from an international solidarity mission to the Philippines with the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers to investigate the legality of EDCA. “It allows the US to reach new markets and military positions in Burma and Japan. This unequal treaty allows the US to assert its economic interests even in the Philippines itself. Yet, the people are not so lucky and the Philippines gets little in return.”

Indeed, U.S. military intervention has a proven track record of creating the conditions for rampant human rights violations and environmental destruction. Protesters at Wednesday’s rally spoke on an especially egregious example of violence under EDCA–the case of Jennifer Laude, a trans Filipino woman murdered by U.S. Marine Scott Pemberton, who was stationed at Olangapo City in October 2014. With chants of “Junk junk EDCA! Justice for J Laude!” protesters gave agitating speeches on the lack of justice for Jennifer Laude and on the facilitation of impunity for U.S. military abuse under agreements like EDCA. Even though Pemberton was convicted of homicide for Laude’s death, his sentence was recently lowered to a maximum of ten years. He is currently being detained under American custody at the Joint U.S. Military Assistance Group (JUSMAG) headquarters at Camp Aguinaldo despite the fact that the crime was committed on Philippine soil. “It is agreements like EDCA which allow for US troops to leave women brutally murdered in bathrooms,” cried Cole Carothers, chairperson of GABRIELA NY. “It is agreements like VFA which allow for conditions of violence to exist for Filipino women and children with little to no consequence.”

Arguments in support of increased U.S. military presence often cite the need to defend the Philippines from China’s incursions in the West Philippine Sea. China was recently discovered to be creating artificial islands on tops of reefs or rocks, known as the “Great Wall of Sand,” in an attempt to strengthen territorial claims on the strategic waters. BAYAN USA Northeast condemns the encroachment of China into Philippine territory, but does not believe the solution is to welcome U.S. military intervention and occupation. As competing superpowers, both China and the United States are primarily interested in geopolitical power and resources. The U.S. and Aquino administrations propagate that the increase in U.S. military presence is a reflection of the two countries’ longstanding alliance. However, this alliance is one-sided in the favor of U.S.’ imperialist interests.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash speaks of helping the Philippines “modernize” its military equipment to defend against China. The United States has even increased its military aid to the country from $50 million to $79 million of U.S. taxpayer money, with nearly $500 million of military aid since 2002. Within that time, the Armed Forces of the Philippines has only increased its number of human rights violations against civilians, especially indigenous communities in Mindanao. The Filipino people did not benefit from U.S. economic aid and investment–rather, the Philippines remains one of the most impoverished nations in the Southeast Asia and income inequality only widened despite auspices of economic “growth”. Rather, the Philippines must resist territorial incursions from both China and the United States, and to assert its national sovereignty.  

BAYAN USA Northeast calls on Filipinos and allies in the United States to demand for an end to unequal military agreements like EDCA and VFA, and to call for a stop of U.S. military aid to the Philippines. More than half of U.S. taxpayers’ money goes towards military spending which is money that could have been spent on jobs, housing, and education for people in the United States. Instead, the United States government is financing war and militarization abroad to bid for power and resources at the expense of working class and poor people in countries like the Philippines. As long as unequal military and economic agreements are allowed to exist, the people will continue to face human rights violations because of military occupation. Only through collective action and people power can the Philippine people assert national sovereignty and achieve genuine independence.

U.S. troops out of the Philippines!
No to the U.S. bases!
Defend Philippine sovereignty!

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IMG_0383Holding signs calling for removal of U.S. troops from the Philippines and an end to militarization (PC: Roman Damaso)

IMG_0362GABRIELA NY Chairperson Cole Carothers calling for removal of troops and justice for Jennifer Laude (PC: Roman Damaso)IMG_0367Protesters with BAYAN USA Northeast hold a speakout on the steps of the Columbus Circle fountain (PC: Roman Damaso)

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BAYAN-USA Northeast Queer Caucus Continues to Stand in Solidarity and #AlignWithAries against Homophobic Backlash

For Immediate Release
April 24, 2016

Reference:

Lean Deleon, Coordinator, BAYAN USA Northeast Queer Caucus, bayanusa.ne@gmail.com
Devyn Mañibo, Member, BAYAN USA Northeast Queer Caucus

BAYAN-USA Northeast Queer Caucus Continues to Stand in Solidarity and #AlignWithAries against Homophobic Backlash

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BAYAN-USA Northeast Queer Caucus continues to stand in solidarity and #AlignWithAries Dela Cruz and other LGBTQIGNC (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Intersex, and Gender Non-conforming) people who face backlash for successfully pressuring Nike to drop endorsement of Filipino boxing legend Manny Pacquiao. Two months ago, Aries Dela Cruz released a change.org petition that garnered nearly 4,500 signatures globally, calling Nike’s attention to Pacquiao’s deeply offensive homophobic comments that suggest people in “same-sex relationships” are worse than animals. Despite Pacquiao’s public apology, Dela Cruz is still bombarded with homophobic backlash, receiving hate mail and death threats.

BAYAN-USA Northeast Queer Caucus staunchly condemns these acts of anti-LGBTQIGNC violence against Dela Cruz and calls on all LGBTQIGNC organizations and human rights organizations to show support through letters and social media posts with the #AlignWithAries hashtag.

#MuteManny and go #LouderForLaude      

Despite Manny Pacquiao’s video apology to the LGBTQIGNC community for his homophobic statement, the boxer is steadfast in his anti-gay marriage position. Until Pacquiao’s actions reflect his sentiments, human rights groups like BAYAN Northeast Queer Caucus will continue to be vigilant in holding his position as a boxer with a global platform and as a congressman with the Philippine House of Representatives, accountable to the people he is sworn to protect.

Homophobic sentiments, words, and beliefs translate to real danger and violence. In the Philippines, no bills or laws exist that protect the LGBTQIGNC community. The anti-discrimination bill which aims to protect LGBTQIGNC workers and penalize violators is at a standstill. Even if the bill is to be passed into law and institutionalized, it does not necessarily mean protection as seen with the growing trend of trans women of color in the US being discriminated, harassed, and murdered. Jennifer Laude, a Pinay transwoman who was murdered in 2014 by US marine Joseph Scott Pemberton, is a name that should come to mind when talking about how homophobic and transphobic sentiments like Pacquiao’s can have damaging and irreversible effects. Despite admitting to choking Laude in a moment of alleged “trans panic,” Pemberton took a slap on the wrist and was only charged with homicide, rather than the more serious crime of murder. He has also recently had his sentence reduced to 10 years in prison rather than 12.

More important than being a watchdog to what Pacquiao says, organizing the LGBTQIGNC communities both here in the US and in the Philippines is a primary task of all BAYAN-USA member organizations. This task is especially important as LGBTQIGNC people are mostly workers struggling in a widening rich-poor divided world. It is only through organizing the marginalized sectors into a mass movement or mobilizing large segments of our population, that change will be accomplished. Yesterday it was Pacquiao, and tomorrow might be another person with a global platform. Anti-LGBTQIGNC sentiments will always be espoused until we change concrete conditions that continue to exploit marginalized sectors such as LGBTQIGNC workers, migrants, and trans women of color. This can only be done through social movements. We have to #MuteManny on his reactionary statements and never forget Jennifer, we must go #LouderForLaude.

#AlignWithAries against the backlash against queer resistance!
#MuteManny for his sentiments against LGBTQIGNC communities!
#Louder4Laude, justice must be serve for Jennifer!

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Rice Not Bullets! Filipino Community and Allies Protest Massacre of Drought-Stricken Mindanao Farmers at the Philippine Consulate

For Immediate Release
Press Statement
April 5, 2016

Reference:
Nina Macapinlac, BAYAN USA Northeast Regional Coordinator
bayanusa.ne@gmail.com

Rice Not Bullets! Filipino Community and Allies Protest Massacre of Drought-Stricken Mindanao Farmers at the Philippine Consulate

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BAYAN NE and allies in front of the Philippine Consulate (PC: Roman Damaso)

NEW YORK – Yesterday, almost one hundred Filipinos and allies gathered at the Philippine consulate to condemn the massacre of drought-stricken farmers and indigenous Lumads by the Philippine National Police in Kidapawan City, Mindanao. Called for by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) USA Northeast, the protest carried through despite the rain and police barricades, joining the international outcry against state repression and violence towards the Kidapawan farmers. From Los Angeles to Hong Kong, Filipinos are joining together in outrage, demanding that justice be served for the farmers and that the Aquino administration be held immediately accountable.

The massacre in Kidapawan began when 6,000 farmers blockaded a national highway in the southern Philippine province of Cotabato. They were protesting for the release of 15,000 bags of rice as part of calamity funds to support their families in the face of severe El Niño-induced drought. Mindanao farmers lost almost 70% to 100% of their food crops, resulting in thousands of households starving and without livelihood, many forced to eat their own feed. The protest escalated on April 1st when Philippine National Police indiscriminately opened fire at the human blockade, leaving 6 dead and 116 injured. Those killed were already on their knees when they were shot by the police and many were beaten with batons and water cannons. Now, thousands of farmers are seeking refuge in the Kidapawan Methodist Church, which is currently under threat of getting their business permit revoked by the municipal government for “harboring the leaders and members of illegal demonstrators.”

This massacre is not the first time that Philippine farmers and indigenous peoples have faced repression from their own government when they organized and protested for their rights. Both Aquino administrations have been responsible for numerous incidents of state-inflicted violence and terror towards peasants, with a track record of the Mendiola massacre, Hacienda Luisita massacre (which was owned by the Cojuangco-Aquino family), Mamasapano massacre, Lianga massacre, and now the Kidapawan massacre. Recognizing this, protesters at yesterday’s rally held bloodied rice bags as props, decrying President Aquino as the massacre king. They chanted “Bigas hindi bala! Bugas dili bala! Rice not bullets!” calling on the Philippine government to be accountable to its people by providing food and relief, not killing or terrorizing the people who are already being deprived of their basic human right to food and livelihood.

The Kidapawan massacre also comes at a time in which the island of Mindanao faces intensifying militarization and human rights abuses. More than 6,000 indigenous Lumads have been forcibly displaced by military forces, leaving them without access to their land and livelihood. More than 60% of the Armed Forces of the Philippines is deployed to the one island of Mindanao, acting as “Investment Defense Forces” to secure land for local and foreign corporations that seek to extract the island’s trillion dollars worth of minerals and natural resources. “While we condemn the grave human rights violations of the Philippine government and its military and police forces, we must recognize how foreign imperialist interference plays a direct role in this violence against the people in the countryside of Mindanao,” said Theresa Endoso, member of Anakbayan New York, who stayed with indigenous Lumad communities for four months and saw first hand the plight of peasant and indigenous farmers. “Had it not been for the World Bank funded Public-Private Partnership Program (PPP) which is rapidly privatizing irrigation systems across the Philippines, the farmers in Cotabato may not have been as severely affected by the drought. These farmers are indentured to a semi-feudal land system, exploited by neoliberal markets when they are growing crops, and when they are unable to grow crops, they are still not fed even by calamity funds.”

BAYAN USA Northeast calls on the international community, especially Filipinos living abroad, to condemn the Kidapawan massacre and ongoing state repression of communities and activists, and support the struggle for a truly just and peaceful society. “The vast majority of Filipinos overseas left the country in search of livelihood. We still cannot find jobs in our own country and so we leave to ensure our families can eat. In essence, the diaspora is a result of the same conditions of poverty, hunger, and landlessness that drives farmers and Lumads into misery,” said Berna Ellorin, chairperson of BAYAN USA. “We are with the farmers and Lumads standing for their right to food, land, and livelihood. As overseas Filipinos, our dollar remittances keep the Philippine economy afloat. This economic power must also translate to political power. We have a responsibility to act in favor of an alternative system that is sustainable and puts people’s needs over profits.”

The Northeast region of BAYAN USA will join the call for a Global Day of Action on the Kidapawan Massacre on April 8th. Submissions of solidarity statements are encouraged from allied organizations to strengthen the international call for justice and accountability for the victims of the Kidapawan massacre. There will also be a human rights forum on May 21st in New York as part of Lakbay Lumad USA, a speaking tour with indigenous Lumad activists who are traveling throughout the United States to advocate against the ongoing militarization of Mindanao and to educate on ways to get involved and contribute to their fight for genuine peace with justice.

STOP THE KILLINGS!
JUSTICE FOR THE VICTIMS OF THE KIDAPAWAN MASSACRE!
BIGAS HINDI BALA! FOOD NOT BULLETS! 

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IMG_0231Protesters condemn President Noynoy Aquino as massacre king (PC: Roman Damaso)

IMG_0238Bloodied rice bags bear the calls “Bigas Hindi Bala!” or “Rice Not Bullets!” (PC: Roman Damaso)

BAYAN USA Northeast Queer Caucus Condemns Pacquiao’s Homophobia and Supports Aries Dela Cruz and LGBTQIGNC Resistance

For Immediate Release
February 22, 2016

Reference:
Katrina Cortes, Coordinator, BAYAN USA Northeast Queer Caucus, bayanusa.ne@gmail.com

BAYAN-USA Northeast Queer Caucus Condemns Pacquiao’s Homophobia and Supports Aries Dela Cruz and LGBTQIGNC Resistance

BAYAN-USA Northeast Queer Caucus stands resolutely with Aries Dela Cruz and other LGBTQIGNC (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Intersex, and Gender Non Conforming) people standing up against Manny Pacquiao’s offensive homophobic comments that suggest people in “same-sex relationships” are worse than animals. In an admirable act of resistance, Dela Cruz released a petition calling for Nike to “[end] their sponsorship deals with Pacquiao and [remove] him from their marketing and outreach materials.” However, Dela Cruz is facing backlash from global homophobia and receiving hate mail and death threats. BAYAN-USA Northeast Queer Caucus staunchly condemns these acts of anti-LGBTQIGNC violence against Dela Cruz. As a National Democratic alliance, BAYAN-USA Northeast recognizes that these homophobic and transphobic sentiments reflect the reactionary culture of a semi-feudal and semi-colonial society. On top of holding individuals accountable, it is extremely important to free the Filipino people from backward thinking through the promotion of a progressive and scientific culture.

Pacquiao Claims Homosexuals Worse than Animals
Internationally renowned boxer and member of the Philippine House of Representatives, Pacquiao claims that he is not condemning LGBTQIGNC folks but rather “just the marriage, committing sin against God.” Unfortunately and unsurprisingly, Pacquiao is not alone in holding such homophobic sentiments that can be traced to the semi-feudal and semi-colonial character of current Philippine society.

With the advent of Spanish colonization in 1521, Catholicism and its institution of marriage was used as a tool to colonize the Filipino people—as its legitimacy rests on the gender binary and the patriarchal notion of the husband’s dominance over his wife—of marriage as ownership and  private property.

The strong presence of homophobia in the Philippines is a symptom of centuries of Spanish colonization that continues under US imperialism, enabling Pacquiao to make unfounded and unscientific suggestions that animals do not engage in same-sex relationships. The scientific community, however, easily knows that Pacquiao’s statement is a fallacy and that in fact there are at least 450 animals that engage in same-sex behavior, as evidenced in Canadian biologist Bruce Bagemihl’s Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity.

Dela Cruz Petitions for Nike to Drop Pacquiao
To combat Pacquiao’s homophobia, graduate student and Philippine Forum member Aries Dela Cruz started a petition for Nike to end its endorsement of Pacquiao. Dela Cruz appeals to Nike’s support of past LGBT athletic events, pointing out that Pacquiao’s comments do not align with Nike’s image.

Dela Cruz has been attacked internationally with hate mail, death threats, and even a persona non grata. However, the legal feasibility of the persona non grata is laughable as Article 9.1 of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations makes concessions for granting persona non grata for issues related only to diplomacy—not to subjective claims of treason where the basis is a graduate student fighting for the basic human rights of LGBTQIGNC Filipinos.

The Real Enemy of LGBTQIGNC Filipinos
Though public figures should be held accountable for what they say, we must not lose sight of the fact that the real traitors in this battle are U.S. multinational corporations such as Nike and imperialist powers.

While the Pacman has in some instances supported Filipino workers such as backing a P125 wage hike in 2011, Nike generated a global revenue of approximately 28 billion U.S. dollars in 2014, stolen from the backs of 56,500 exploited workers worldwide. In 2015, Nike’s revenue continued to increase, amounting to over 30 billion U.S. dollars. While Nike may choose to cut off Pacman at this moment out of fear that their profits will plummet if they refuse, they will still continue to maintain their system of exploitation, including the exploitation of LGBTQIGNC workers. Pacquiao must realize that to be a true champion of Filipino workers, he must wage the struggle of the working class, and not contribute to the exploitation of a few, particularly, as someone running to represent the people in the Philippine Senate.

Because of the layers of oppression that LGBTQIGNC people face including job discrimination and unequal pay, the majority of LGBTQIGNC Filipinos are working class. Anti-LGBTQIGNC sentiment perpetuates economic violence and impoverishment against LGBTQIGNC Filipinos as they are exploited for cheap labor. In an environment that upholds and fosters homophobia and transphobia, LGBTQIGNC folks are often isolated from their families which forces them into work with employers who enforce discriminatory policies that lead to smaller wages, into sex work, or to the system of unemployment and underemployment. This means that we must support the working-class struggle in order to support the largest number of LGBTQIGNC Filipinos.

U.S. Imperialism and the Murder of Jennifer Laude
A recent case of violence that highlights how U.S. imperialism is the primary enemy of LGBTQIGNC Filipinos and Filipino women is the murder of Jennifer Laude, a Filipina trans woman, by U.S. Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton.

Laude’s murder reveals another ugly face of imperialism that affects LGBTQIGNC Filipinos: U.S. military presence and militarization. Throughout Pemberton’s trial, Pemberton claimed “trans panic defense” to justify his murder of Laude, claiming that he felt “scammed” and felt that he needed to “defend his honor.” That Pemberton was given a lesser charge of homicide and continues to be held in U.S. custody even after conviction by the Philippine justice system not only shows how transphobia is dangerously upheld by legal institutions but also how transphobia, U.S. imperialism and militarization are inextricably linked and uphold one another.

Pemberton was stationed in the Philippines because of unequal treaties the Philippines has with the U.S. such as the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). Such treaties violate Philippine sovereignty by allowing the U.S. military ambiguous discretion, autonomy, and control which then allow for U.S. crimes against Filipinos such as Jennifer Laude to continue without any accountability.

Both the U.S. military and Nike are arms of U.S. imperialism, the basic problem and enemy perpetuating economic violence against LGBTQIGNC and working class Filipinos.

Conclusion
BAYAN Northeast Queer Caucus supports the work of Aries Dela Cruz to hold Pacquiao accountable for his inflammatory comments which only further uphold and foster a homophobic and transphobic environment in the Philippines. Justice for LGBTQIGNC Filipinos must go beyond Nike dropping an international figure like Pacquiao. BAYAN USA Northeast Queer Caucus stands for the advancement of a mass-oriented, scientific and patriotic culture to combat the colonial, feudal, and reactionary culture that harbors backwards sentiments against LGBTQIGNC people.

Justice is not a superficial apology on Facebook that does not create material change or progress for oppressed people—Pacquiao and other candidates must take note to respect and understand the needs of their constituents as they run for Senate and other offices in upcoming elections.

Justice for LGBTQIGNC Filipinos is supporting those who stand up for their rights. Justice for LGBTQIGNC Filipinos means providing them with their basic needs: healthcare, housing, and human rights that they do not have access to because the largest number of LGBTQIGNC people are working class and face the exploitation of big multinational corporations like Nike.

By liberating our communities from colonial mentality through the propagation of pro-people and scientific ideas, we can impel our communities to struggle for the overthrow of their oppressors. Only by educating and organizing Filipinos in the US to take up the struggle of the poor and working classes, especially that of LGBTQIGNC working-class people, can genuine justice be achieved.

STOP ANTI-LGBTQIGNC VIOLENCE!
STAND UP FOR LGBTQIGNC RIGHTS!
HEALTHCARE, HOUSING, AND HUMAN RIGHTS FOR TRANS AND GENDER-NONCONFORMING PEOPLE NOW!
STRUGGLE FOR A PRO-PEOPLE, MASS ORIENTED CULTURE!

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