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!

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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!

NYCHRP Condemns Unlawful Dispersal and Arrest of NutriAsia Workers, their Family Members, and Journalists

August 1, 2018

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

NYCHRP Condemns Unlawful Dispersal and Arrest of NutriAsia Workers, their Family Members, and Journalists

nutriasia nychrp

Marilao, Bulacan — The Philippine National Police and over 100 private security personnel violently dispersed 300 Nutriasia workers, their families, and supporters while an ecumenial mass was held at the picket line. Many of the 300 were injured and/or arrested while many more remain missing. The police and security personnel then proceeded to destroy the personal belongings of the workers and the picket line that the workers built.

NutriAsia workers have set up a picket outside the Marilao plant since June 2, 2018. The primary demand of the workers, led by labor organization Nagkakaisang Manggagawa ng Nutriasia (United Workers of Nutriasia, NMN), is to end contractualization and regularize workers. In the Philippines, a majority of workers are trapped in a loop of contractual work where workers are fired every four to six month cycles. As a result, workers are left out of work. Workers were also protesting the unjust termination of workers after they formed a union, along with the subsequent illegal dismissal of 50 more workers after the latter showed support for those who were initially terminated.

The picket line was previously harassed and violently dispersed on June 14, after hundreds of policemen and company security personnel forcibly removed makeshift camps, physically assaulted workers and drove them out of the area.

In February this year, the Department of Labor Enforcement (DOLE) had already ordered NutriAsia to regularize over 900 workers after concluding that the company is engaging in labor-only contracting practices. The Department also reported that NutriAsia is violating labor laws and general labor standards, including illegal deduction for workers’ uniforms and underpayment of basic wages.

“The violent dispersal of the workers is a violation of their right to assembly and their right to form and join unions. Moreover, the police engaged in arbitrary arrests and detentions when they took 19 people in the area to jail without actual evidence of charges against them. The Philippines has been a signatory to the International Convention of Civil and Political Rights since 1986. The Government of the Republic of the Philippines is also a signatory to the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) since 1998. The actions of the Philippine National Police are clearly in contravention of the spirit of these human rights documents and the Philippine government needs to be held accountable for these violations,” said Rodrigo Bacus, Chairperson of New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP).

“We see this attack on workers as a blatant attack on our people and our ancestors. We will counter the attacks by police forces protecting exploitative corporations that are stealing people’s land and committing human rights abuses by any means necessary. We never hesitate to defend the rights of workers and the rights to land for our present and future generations. At the end of the day, these are rights that will not truly be upheld by any court or institution. They are human rights upheld by the people who call for liberation across the globe. Only when our people are liberated and only through workers struggle will human rights truly be sustained,” added Lauren Quijano of NYCHRP.

Journalists Hiyasmin Saturay and Eric Tandoc of Altermidya were among the people arrested by the Philippine National Police. They are currently still in jail despite a release order declaring that there was not enough evidence to hold them. The NutriAsia 19, as the arrestees have been called, were held for over 36 hours without charges and an unexecuted release order.

NYCHRP urgently requests that all organizations of workers including, unionized workers and those currently fighting for unionization, to join in calling attention to this workers strike. We ask for workers to show solidarity with Filipino workers by writing public statements of support that amplify the call to action to boycott all NutriAsia products and to seek justice and accountability for all those arrested at the NutriAsia picket line.

NYCHRP recognizes that when workers organize, they win and sees the courage and persistent struggle of B&H workers, laundry workers, nail salon workers, fast food workers, cab drivers who have organized and gone on strike all over New York City. We call for the end of the Trump-backed Duterte regime’s union repression and union-busting tactics. We demand NutriAsia immediately comply with the demands of the workers including regularizing the entire workforce, providing safe and healthy working conditions, providing a livable wage, and upholding their right to unionize.

If you would like to become a member of NYCHRP or another partner organization or to host an educational session about the NutriAsia strike with your organization, please contact nychrp@gmail.com. The educational session will be for workers to learn about current boycott efforts, and how to get involved in upcoming actions with Filipino migrant workers in solidarity.

SIGN THE PETITION TO SUPPORT NUTRIASIA WORKERS:  https://goo.gl/forms/sFQ4XsCVXgErDMe13

NutriAsia Donation (2)