NYCHRP Remembers and Condemns Martial Law!

For Immediate Release

Sept. 23, 2019

Reference: Louie Sawi, Chairperson, New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP), nychrp@gmail.com

NYCHRP at Sept. 20, 2019 Rally to remember 47th Anniversary of Marcos’ Martial Law in the Philippines and condemn the Duterte regime at the Philippine Consulate.

September 21st, 2019 marks the 47th anniversary of when then President Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law over the Philippines in 1972 by issuing Proclamation No. 1081. Martial Law granted Marcos absolute control of the Philippines through military rule. Considered one of the most gruesome periods in all of Philippine history, scores of human rights violations were committed under Marcos. According to Amnesty International, about 70,000 people were imprisoned while 34,000 were tortured, 77 disappeared, and over 3,200 were killed during Martial Law from 1972 to 1981. These included activists and oppressed people, protesting about the rising national debt, underdevelopment of industries, government corruption, privatization of basic services, and landlessness of peasant farmers who made up the majority of the population. 

We must never forget the legacy Marcos’ Martial Law left behind. And when we talk about legacy, we’re talking about the lived experiences from survivors of the abduction, detainment, torture, beatings, and rape. Philippine history books in schools do not mention any of this, so we must combat this revisionism and ensure that the over 3,200 that were killed under Martial Law are not forgotten. We are living in dangerous times where the truth is being distorted and lies become facts. History has a tendency to repeat itself.

In 1981, Proclamation 2045 announced an end to martial law under Marcos, but it was not until the People Power Revolution in 1986 that martial law under Marcos truly ended. Today, under the President Duterte, we see many of the same kinds of human rights abuses that were carried out by the Marcos administration. Since 2017, Senator Leila de Lima, an outspoken critic of Duterte’s war on drugs, has been imprisoned after falsified drug charges were brought against her by the Duterte administration; among the first arrests under martial law under Marcos were those of Senators Benigno Aquino Jr. and Jose W. Diokno. In February of this year, Maria Ressa, journalist and founder of Rappler, a news site that has been critical of Duterte, was arrested on trumped up charges of cyberlibel. Marcos not only ordered the takeover of some of the largest news outlets, but also arrested those working for independent publications, including Teodoro Locsin, Sr. of the Philippines Free Press and Jose Burgos of We Forum. Last year, the Philippine National Police set up outposts in several large cities in the US, claiming they would respond to the needs of overseas Filipinos, but in actuality are another form of surveilling the movement against Duterte. We are reminded of Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes, two Filipino- American cannery workers and anti-Marcos activists who were murdered in 1981; both Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos were found by a US District Court jury to be liable for their deaths.      

Under Duterte, martial law is in effect in the Philippines, through Proclamation No. 216 on May 23, 2017, which placed the entirety of Mindanao under martial law. The Congress of the Philippines has since voted to extend martial law three times, through the end of this year; a fourth vote is due later this year, to extend martial law in Mindanao and possibly place other regions of the country under martial law as well. In the two years since martial law was enacted in Mindanao, human rights group Karapatan has estimated that over 800,000 instances of human rights violations have taken place, including 93 extrajudicial killings, over 400,000 forced evacuations, and the closures of 79 Lumad schools. No formal of declaration of martial law throughout the country has been made, but none would be needed, as the Philippines remains in a state of de facto martial law.   

As our kababayans continue to fight the killing machine of the Duterte government, we must do our part to support them, especially here in the belly of the beast. In July, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution to investigate the Philippines on the human rights crisis. While the United Nations General Assembly is taking place right now in New York until next week, we must take advantage of the opportunity to lobby the UN member states that voted on the resolution to ensure that the investigation actually happens. Last year, the U.S. government sent hundreds of millions of dollars to the Philippine government. Our tax dollars funded the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to perpetuate the human rights violations in Mindanao, as well as the drug war killings that has plagued the entire nation. We must act now to demand that Congress cuts U.S. aid to the Philippines before October 1st, the deadline to pass the Appropriations bill.

Finally, we ask you to support our friend, fellow Philippine-based American human rights activist Brandon Lee, who was shot multiple times in front of his home in Lagawe, Ifugao by agents of the Philippine military. Brandon had been targeted by the Duterte Administration because he had raised awareness about the human rights abuses in the Philippines. He was also a climate justice advocate in a nation that was listed by Global Witness as the deadliest country for environmental and land activists in 2018. Brandon is recovering from an operation in a hospital, but needs to be airlifted to the U.S. for proper medical treatment and safety. The airlift costs $200,000. We demand House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to fund his airlift, but we also ask of you to donate what you can. You can help Brandon Lee by donating to https://www.gofundme.com/f/save-brandon-lee.

As we look back to the dark times of the Philippines and continue the fight today, let us remember that NO DICTATOR has succeeded in ruling over the Philippines. THE PEOPLE have and will always rise up to overthrow the dictators into the dustbin of history.

Never Again to Martial Law!

Stop the Killings in the Philippines!

Defend Democracy!

Rise, Resist, Unite Against Duterte’s Tyranny!

Sources:

Amnesty International (2019, Sept. 16) https://www.amnesty.org/download/Documents/ASA3591392018ENGLISH.pdf

Chua, M (2019, Sept. 12) https://www.academia.edu/7968581/TORTYUR_Human_Rights_Violations_During_The_Marcos_Regime

Rappler (2019, Sept. 10) https://www.rappler.com/newsbreak/iq/142723-martial-law-declaration-philippines

Robles, Raissa (2016). Marcos Martial Law: Never Again. Filipinos for a Better Philippines, Inc.

NYCHRP stands with Malaya Movement on the National Day of Action to Defend Philippine Democracy

Reflections by KP, Organizational Development Chair, New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines

I don’t get how elections work in practice. I mean, I understand that in theory it gives governed people an opportunity to express their opinions peacefully, to demonstrate dissent without fear of retaliation, that it is a means of transferring power peacefully, and that it’s necessary to democracy and justice. But can we really say that this is what happened in the Philippines? What should happen in the event there are… “discrepancies” and “irregularities” in the voting process? I’m sure it’s complex enough without the added headache of so-called “interventionists” raising their voices in unison. There have been quite a few reports of “inconsistencies” and violations of the election code in the recent Philippine midterm election, both in the motherland and at polling locations around the world. Over a week since the election, the COMELEC still has yet to adequately address myriad concerns from a vocal sector of the voting public affecting the validity of election results. So what exactly is a governed people to do when a government legitimizes an election that the people have clearly experienced as a scam?

On Friday May 17, the New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP) joined other member organizations and solidarity allies of Malaya Movement Northeast to expose and oppose the ongoing offenses against democracy and human rights perpetrated by the US-Duterte Regime. Over 70 concerned individuals convened outside the New York Philippine Consulate, the edifice of the same government that failed to fully account and accommodate the rightful votes of Philippine citizens.

Every OFW’s ballot is a love letter sent home in hope of improving the motherland, in hope of electing officials who will generously and selflessly prioritize the needs of their constituents. They are artifacts of trust, remnants of the political relationship that tether OFWs to the place of their birth and the economic-political system that drove them abroad in the first place.  Failing to properly account for their votes implies the true sentiment of the current Philippine government: “Keep your opinions, but feel free to remit your wages.” Yet, this is the message that the Philippine government sends with its blatant violations of civil and political rights and Philippine law.

A contingent of the Philippine National Police (PNP) was caught electioneering, extending the war on drugs into a war on democracy. When the entity whose motto is “to serve and to protect” violates impartiality during elections, we have to ask: whose interests exactly are they serving and protecting? We anxiously await a report from the investigation, but how can we trust the fairness and cleanliness of the investigation? The unlawful electioneering of the PNP has been  covered by reputable sources such as the Inquirer, MSN, and Karapatan. Despite the evidence of unlawful behavior, the Philippine government has patted itself on the back while legitimizing the fraudulent election.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte himself has shamelessly said, “The practice of buying votes has been an integral part of an election in the Philippines.” A politician truly invested in the genuine interests of the electorate would reject such a notion, would gladly accept the will of the voting public at the cost of their own career and legacy, would never have to justify the acceptability of bought votes. And a politician doing their job–acting in the best interest of the people and properly enacting their will–should never have to make that distinction just as a citizen should never have to choose between compensation and their genuine opinion. When citizens are simply trying to survive, the ability to turn down a bribe–to choose their political interest over their economic interest–becomes a luxury.

This is not to mention the threats sent to potential voters to dissuade them from going to the poll booths, the deaths of elected officials such as Attorney Bernadino Patigas, and the fact that Senate winners had been declared while most of the overseas votes still left uncounted – 34.51% of ballots reported as of May 21, 2019. When is it time for people to preserve and repair what’s left of an already eroding democracy?

No matter the country, there is a certain luxury in the apathy of those who have been afforded the opportunity to exercise their civil and political rights but don’t: the right to vote, the right to protest, the right to speak freely, et al. Maybe they don’t see the value of their vote or the point in voting in what they see as an inevitably, incredibly corrupt political scheme. Maybe they’re genuinely ignorant of the consequences of their inaction. Maybe they’re perfectly content with the status quo, with whatever societal advances that have come at the cost of inherent human dignity. Around 100,000 Marawi refugees still waiting to return home, the extension of unconstitutional declaration of martial law in Mindanao, nearly 30,000 killed to date in a relentless drug war without foreseeable end, all somehow rationalized as acceptable collateral damage in the onward march of so-called progress. Nevertheless, this is an onward march towards authoritarianism and Marcos style dictatorship.

At the same time, there’s an irony in the outrage of people not directly affected by these mechanisms of the Philippine government and its failings. What is our investment in genuine democracy half a world away? Why do we risk being called ignorant, interveners; risk being insulted or worse? We are overcome with a sense of duty towards our fellow Filipinos and their constitutionally protected political rights. We are obligated to our fellow human beings and obligated to upholding their inherent dignity. As the Filipino diaspora and deeply concerned allies, our love for the fellow oppressed, for the people of the Philippines, is not bound by the constraints of time, space, or political geography. We see the interminable hypocrisy, injustice, and impunity and we demand better; We continue to demand fair and clean elections.

We are three long years into the Duterte presidency and unless the people assert their will, or by some act of God we have at least three more long years to go. With all three branches of government consolidated under Duterte circles of influence the Philippines is on the brink of charter change (ChaCha), federalism and outright dictatorship.

In a true democracy, every vote counts, every voice matters through fair and just elections. So what more can be done to make our concerns heard? Plenty. Many joined the Malaya Movement and contingent organizations at local Philippine Independence Day Parades in protest of the abuses to democracy. We wore black at these events as a sign of outrage and solidarity. On June 2nd, Malaya Movement Northeast presented an active voice in the Philippine Independence Day Parade. Join NYCHRP in the never-ending fight for human rights in New York and the Philippines.

Philippine independence is a continuing history of resistance. The struggle for true democracy and true independence from intervention is ongoing and this will be a summer of amplified indignance. Discrepancies, cheating, and irregularities could never silence the voice of the people but we must not remain resigned to accept injustices as foregone conclusions. Join the Malaya Movement; Join the People’s State of the Nation Address whether in DC or locally.

Laban Bayan! Kontra Daya!

NYCHRP Condemns the Negros Farmers’ Massacre, Calls for an End to the Hacienda System and Demands Justice for the Sagay 9!

Reference: Glenn Ramirez, Organizational Development Chair, New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP), nychrp@gmail.com 

NYCHRP CONDEMNS THE NEGROS FARMERS’ MASSACRE, CALLS FOR AN END TO THE HACIENDA SYSTEM AND DEMANDS JUSTICE FOR THE SAGAY 9!

Sagay City, Negros Occidental – On October 21, at Hacienda Nene, a sugarcane plantation, in Sagay City, nine sugarcane workers were killed. The workers who were slain in this heinous incident are identified as follows:

Angelipe Arsenal
Alias Pater
Bingbing Bantigue
Dodong Laurencio
Eglicerio Villegas
Joemarie Ughayon, Jr.
Morena Mendoza
Marchtel Sumicad
Neknek Dumaguit

Sources report that the farmers were ambushed Saturday evening while eating dinner inside their tents by several armed men who opened fire. It was further reported that three bodies among those killed were mutilated and/or set on fire. Four others were also injured, two of whom were minors. We express our outrage as well toward the recent illegal arrest made on October 24 of one of the minors who had survived this atrocious massacre.

It is heart-wrenching and deplorable that so many farmers been brutally killed. October marks National Peasant’s Month in the Philippines, which is meant to be a time to commemorate the struggles of farmers and peasants. Why were these farmers killed, seemingly at random? There are still details that we do not yet know, and there is a lot of misinformation that appears to be going around.

As human rights advocates who fight for and uphold the rights of the people in the Philippines, we are skeptical at the lack of accurate information and abundance of misinformation regarding the massacre at Hacienda Nene. We know that to stand in solidarity with the Filipino people means to educate ourselves and others on the history of oppression of the people in the Philippines, the larger political climate, and the current situation of Philippine society, in addition to linking arms with those marginalized through our solidarity work.

We acknowledge that the peasants slain in this massacre were farmer-activists, part of the National Federation of Sugarcane Workers, a local, left-leaning union of farmers. The farmworkers killed had been preparing their bungkalan, or the occupation of an empty plot as part of a Land Cultivation Area, a place to grew crops to ward off hunger and sustain their community through the dry season. The truth is that this recent massacre is not the first of its kind, even in recent times. This swath of killings now brings the number of farmer-activist deaths under the US-Duterte regime to an utterly devastating toll of 197. We are left to wonder, therefore: what could possibly justify the killing of people who were trying to feed their own? Is it a crime to be an advocate, as these farmworkers were, of genuine agrarian reform?

Land reform is at the heart of this issue. The massacre occurred while workers were occupying hacienda land. Haciendas, or tracts of land forcibly acquired for the production of export-oriented cash crops, are part of a feudal system implemented during the Spanish colonial era to deprive the people ownership of their land, thereby maintaining control over the people. Despite the era of Spanish colonial rule in the Philippines ending 120 years ago, the country is clearly not free from the dominion of its past–haciendas still exist today. And like this most recent incident, we acknowledge that it is on hacienda land and because of haciendas that gross human rights violations have occurred. We remember the senseless violence of the Hacienda Luisita massacre in 2004, which the people still have not received justice for.

There are farmers who are fighting for land because they have yet to see effective policy change that offers true ownership of the land that they till. Across the country, these farmers are advocating for land reform because they are starving in the export-oriented, import-dependent economy that has been implemented in the Philippines. We see these deaths in the current political climate of the US-Duterte regime as related to the increased attacks on the peasants and the workers.

We mourn the lives of innocent lives that have been lost and vehemently condemn this senseless killing. We denounce the human rights violations that have occurred in haciendas and throughout the country, especially under the US-Duterte regime. In the true spirit of National Peasant’s Month and commemorating the struggle of the peasants, we call for an end to the system that continues to exploit, oppress, and kill the peasants. We demand genuine agrarian reform now. We call on the Commission on Human Rights to conduct an independent, thorough, and unbiased investigation on the massacre. We stand in solidarity with the surviving victims in the Sagay massacre and their families in their call for justice.

We support National Federation of Sugar Workers, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, Karapatan, and other human rights and people’s organizations as they begin their two-day National Fact Finding Mission on the massacre. Please contact nychrp@gmail.com if you are looking for information on how to support the fact finding mission and support justice for the Sagay 9.

JUSTICE FOR SAGAY 9!
STOP THE ATTACKS!
STOP KILLING FARMERS!