NYCHRP Condemns War and Recovery Plan in Marawi City that is Disenfranchising 400,000 People

For Immediate Release

April 14, 2018

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

NYCHRP Condemns War and Recovery Plan in Marawi City that is Disenfranchising 400,000 People

The New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP) expresses its shock and condemnation at the continued disenfranchisement of the Maranaw people in the war and recovery plan imposed by the Duterte regime in Marawi City, Mindanao. The continued disenfranchisement of the Maranaw is a direct violation of the principle of free, prior, and informed consent, the right to self-determination, the right to be free from discrimination, and the right to develop and maintain the cultures of national minorities and indigenous people. NYCHRP also condemns the heavy hand of the United States in supporting a devastating siege of Marawi City and an economic recovery plan that centers the interests of the US military industrial complex.

Between May and October 2017, despite various efforts by local residents in Marawi to dissuade the government of the Philippines, the Armed Forces of the Philippines conducted airstrikes in Marawi City that led to the deaths of soldiers, civilians, and the destruction of property. During the 7th Mindanao Human Rights Summit on February 23, 2018, Sultan Atar recalled that the government decided to ignore the residents of Marawi and forewent local efforts to resolve the issue in order to carry out bomb runs in the city, targeting one group with suspected connections to the Islamic State. Around 400,000 people were internally displaced from Marawi City as a result of the decision. The government’s siege of Marawi was only part of the human rights issues and violations under Duterte’s all out war and martial law policy in all of Mindanao.

The siege of Marawi and the displacement of the Maranaw does not just affect the residents of Marawi City. People impacted by the military strike include the larger community of the Maranaw including friends and family who frequent the area or are connected to Marawi residents. According to one of the members of the United Mothers of Marawi (UMMI):

Alam mo ba na lahat ng tao sa Lanao ay connected sa Marawi? Kung meron pa na taga ibang municipalities na walang sariling bahay sa Marawi pero kapatid nila, anak, pinsan, nanay at tatay nila meron doon.” (Did you know that all of the people in Lanao are connected to Marawi? There may be people from other municipalities that do not own a house in Marawi but are siblings, children, cousins, or parents of the residents there).

The sense of community and sovereignty of the Maranaw are rooted in centuries of history. The Maranaw are the people of the lake, specifically Lake Lanao. The Maranaw are also among the multiple groups of indigenous communities in Mindanao. The Lumad and the Moro, a collection of communities and tribes of indigenous people, have fought colonization for hundreds of years, and their shared history and struggle is told through the origin story of the brothers Apu Mamalu, ancestor of the Manobo and Lumad, and Apu Tabunaway, ancestor of the Moro. As indigenous people and national minorities, the Maranaw defend themselves through struggle, a protection recognized by international human rights law and blatantly ignored by the Philippine government in its decision to strike down Marawi City.

The spectre of United States involvement and interest cannot be unstated in the wake of the devastation of the Marawi Siege. As part of its foreign relations efforts to the Philippines, the United States had already committed around $50 million in military aid to the Philippines in 2017. These funds generally cycle back to the US military industrial complex with the United States historically being the biggest supplier of military equipment to the country. In 2018, using ISIS and Marawi City as its excuse, the Trump regime has planned to increase its military engagement in the region and double military funding to the Philippines.

When the interests of two anti-people regimes collude, those that bear most of the impact are the people on the ground. Without regard to the return and recovery of the people that were displaced from Marawi City, the Philippine government presented a blueprint for recovery. The blueprint included plans to build malls, airports, and a military base that would house US troops. Moreover, the government plans to keep Marawi residents away from the city until such plans are implemented. Most people remain in evacuation zones and shelters.

The blueprint plans to cram the 400,000 refugees into community settlements. According to one Marawi resident: “Their almost mayhem scheming to displace our War zone idps [internally displaced persons] permanently so as to establish their ecozone and a military complex thereon. We have achieved that.” Residents are concerned that the settlements would make them vulnerable to more attacks in the future.

Since then, opposition to the recovery has grown as residents of Marawi City continue to be disenfranchised from the process. A recent appeal to the government on March 30, 2018 states:

Plans have been made without our participation. Plans that neither bear the stamp of our will nor reflect our culture. Plans whose mechanics and implementation are not clear to us. But one thing is clear: the people of Marawi are largely left out.  Those who came to present the plan dismissed our comments, recommendations, and protestations as though we knew nothing and have no business getting involved in rebuilding our very own city.

We appeal to you to let Marawi be rebuilt the way our ancestors did: one house at a time, one masjid at a time. One village at a time. We welcome those who are willing to help us in this endeavor, for the challenges are daunting and the costs are high. We appeal though that please help us rebuild according to our will in pursuit of the will of Allah(swt). Stand with us, help us, please, be one of us.

Mr. President, please put a stop to the proposed Eco zone and military camp plans until we have been heard, until our dreams and aspirations, our cultural sensitivities and our faith find expression in the rebuilding of Marawi City, our home.

However, opposition of the people on the ground is being met with more state violence. Although the Marawi Siege was declared to be over, government militarization persists and residents have reported harassment and the presence of plain clothes people with firearms:

This early morning i woke up to a call from a friend in Bayanihan village. may ni raid daw na bahay dun at hinuli isang residente. The wife and other household members saw a member of the raiding team naglagay ng 38 caliber tsaka sashe na drugs daw.” (This early morning I woke up to a call from a friend in Bayanihan Village. There was another raid in someone’s house where they arrested the resident. The wife and other members of the household saw that the raiding team had placed a .38 caliber gun and a sachet of drugs).

When Marawi residents demonstrated to voice their concerns, numbering to about 800 internally displaced persons out on the streets, protesting and trying to make their way back to Marawi, the police arrested them.

NYCHRP calls on fellow human rights advocates to condemn the ongoing human rights violations in Marawi City, Mindanao and for the government to immediately enact a recovery plan that is led by the directly impacted people on the ground.

Stand with Marawi

US Out of the Philippines! US out of Marawi! US out of Syria! US out of everywhere!

From Palestine to the Philippines, Stop The US War Machine!

Fight injustice and organize with NYCHRP!

Learn more about the Human Rights Situation in the Philippines by going to the Stop the Killings Speaking Tour 2018 on April 26, St. Francis of Assisi Church, Migrant Center in 34th Street.

https://www.facebook.com/events/202289853709004/

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New York Human Rights Advocates Call for the Release of Rafael Baylosis and All Political Prisoners

New York Human Rights Advocates Call for the Release of Rafael Baylosis and All Political Prisoners

27540630_2061889917171263_1768405012304447907_nOn February 5, 2018, human rights advocates and peace-loving people, including members of BAYAN USA and International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP USA) entered the Philippine Consulate General of New York to demand the release of all political prisoners, including Rafael Baylosis. Bernadette Ellorin, of BAYAN USA, and Hank Broege, of ICHRP USA and NYCHRP, led the group in delivering a letter of concern to Consul General Ma. Theresa B. Dizon-De Vega. The consul general refused to meet with the advocates sending a delegate instead. Ellorin requested that the letter be delivered and demanded to release Baylosis, all political prisoners, and raised concerns about the 13,000 victims of extrajudicial assassinations under President Duterte. Meanwhile, the group started chanting, and calling for the release of Rafael Baylosis, with signs in hand. The security personnel threatened to call the NYPD on the activists.

“The consul general was caught off guard. I hope that they were embarrassed that these human rights violations are ongoing. I hope that we were able to convey that what Duterte is doing is very unpopular and that many people condemn the atrocities that he is committing. I hope that they are more careful with what they do, how they represent themselves, and the issues in the Philippines. People all over the world are finding out about what is going on in the Philippines and the government should feel that pressure under scrutiny,” commented Broege.

On January 31st, peace activist Rafael Baylosis, 69 years old, and his companion, Roque Guillermo Jr., were arrested by members of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-National Capital Region  (CIDG-NCR) on trumped-up charges. Rafael Baylosis is a long-time activist and labor leader. He is also a peace consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). The arrest of Baylosis violates the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) and Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), which the government of the Philippines is obligated to follow.

On January 26, 2018, President Rodrigo Duterte, repeated his vow to crush the New People’s Army (NPA) within the year, including the so-called ‘legal fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). With these recent threats, the Philippine government has executed a renewed round of harassment against activists including Vencer Crisostomo (Chairperson of Anakbayan), Einstein Recedes (Secretary General of Anakbayan), Teddy Casino (BAYAN MUNA Partylist), Renato Reyes Jr. (Secretary General of BAYAN), and Representative Carlos Zarate (BAYAN MUNA Partylist) in addition to the arrest of Baylosis.

BAYAN USA and ICHRP then took their call to the streets outside of the Philippine Consulate, calling for the release of Baylosis and political prisoners saying “activism is not a crime.” The initial advocates who entered the Philippine Consulate were joined by other members of BAYAN USA and ICHRP. Solidarity allies also joined and spoke against human rights violations. Many spoke out against martial law, fascism, human rights violations, and supported the call for peace talks and the release of political prisoners. Speakers highlighted the solidarity between the Philippine liberation struggle and the black liberation struggle. Joined by NYC Shut It Down: The Grand Central Crew #blacklivesmatter, advocates then marched to Times Square to share to the broader Times Square public 5 facts about Baylosis’ arrest and the interconnectedness of liberation struggle and repression.

The U.S., under Trump, has given over 100 million dollars to support military operations in the Philippines. These tax dollars are used to fund the active martial law operations in Mindanao and military repression elsewhere in the country. Duterte has arrested at least 145 people for politically-motivated reasons, including six peace consultants, a Bishop, and other faith leaders, bringing the total to over 486 political prisoners under his administration.

Meanwhile, human rights advocates such as members of NYCHRP continue to call for the resumption of peace talks, to continue the negotiation on the Comprehensive Agreement for Socio Economic Reforms (CASER), to end martial law, and to end fascist impunity.

 

Free Rafael Baylosis and All Political Prisoners! Activism is not a crime! Never again to fascist dictatorship! Resume the Peace talks!

NLG International Committee and NYCHRP Support Ten Years of People’s Lawyers Fighting for Human Rights

The following statement of greetings to the convention of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) in the Philippines was co-authored by the New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP) and the NLG International Committee.

September 16, 2017 marks 10 years that the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) has been upholding, promoting, and fighting for the rights of the oppressed and the people of the Philippines. The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) International Committee (IC) and the New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP) stand in solidarity with the mission and work of the people’s lawyers. We strongly commend their ten years of ongoing struggle with the people!

We support NUPL’s continued lawyering for the people. The NUPL has pledged legal counseling and assistance to the hapless and helpless drug war victims, while denouncing those responsible for the cold-blooded, unmitigated premeditated, and brutal murders. One such victim was Kian Loyd Delos Santos, a 17-year-old who was killed during a police anti-drug operation in Caloocan in mid-August.  He was a victim among many other cases of systematic murders of drug suspects by the state forces of Duterte. Coupled with Duterte’s purported drug war is the still ongoing martial law he declared in Mindanao in May as a response to ISIS elements in Marawi City by the combined forces of the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups. The martial law declaration was overly broad, covering all of Mindanao despite the target groups solely being in Marawi City. The City continues to be bombed and the Armed Forces of the Philippine have taken the declaration as a signal to generally target workers, the Lumad, and the Moro people.

President Duterte’s “War on Drugs” implicates multiple violations of people’s rights to life, liberty, and due process. The War on Drugs is just a small part of the President’s larger attacks on human rights, including the region-wide declaration of Martial Law and militarization of Mindanao. President Duterte disregards fundamental international and domestic human rights by instructing and goading the police and military to shoot and bomb innocent people and then promising to protect them from reprise. Further, the Duterte government’s application of any right is anti-poor, killing them and effecting intrusive searches and tests.

With the theme of “Addressing the Escalating Human Rights Violations: The Role of the People’s Lawyer in the Struggle to Attain Just and Lasting Peace,” we are confident that the NUPL will continue its legacy of human rights defense to address the burning issues of the Philippines today.

NLG is a national association of lawyers, law students, legal workers, and jailhouse lawyers in the United States dedicated to using the law as an instrument for attaining social justice. Formed in 1937 with a mandate to advocate for the protection of human and civil rights, it is the oldest human rights/public interest bar association in the nation.

NYCHRP is a volunteer-run education and advocacy group based in New York City that works to promote social, economic and political alternatives that foster democracy and peace based on justice in the Philippines and for Filipinos in the diaspora today. NYCHRP shares the vision of human rights advanced by the National Democratic movement of the Philippines.

As human rights advocates and members of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines, the NLG IC and NYCHRP echoes the concerns of the NUPL and the people they serve regarding the violations of people’s fundamental rights. We support the efforts of NUPL to link human rights work to a movement that demands the improvement of the Philippines from a political, economic, and social system burdened by semi-feudalism, bureaucrat capitalism, and imperialism to one that serves its people and allows for their participation in society.

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