Archive for May, 2009

ON THE 10TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE VISITING FORCES AGREEMENT, FILIPINA/O AMERICAN YOUTH CALL FOR ITS IMMEDIATE ABROGATION

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 27, 2009 by kulturalguerilla

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Reference: Ryan Leano, Secretary General, SanDiwa National Alliance of Fil-Am Youth
email: sandiwa.national@gmail.com

ON THE 10TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE VISITING FORCES AGREEMENT, FILIPINA/O AMERICAN YOUTH CALL FOR ITS IMMEDIATE ABROGATION

On May 27, 2009, Filipina/o American youth join with Filipina/os in the U.S., the Philippines, and throughout the world in globally coordinated actions calling for the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) currently in effect in the Philippines. Since going into effect on May 27, 1999, this unilateral agreement between the U.S. and the Philippines has allowed for unregulated stocking of war material, American troops full access to military and civic facilities in the Philippines, and immunity to offenses made by American military officials on Philippine soil, just to name a few. It also has allowed the U.S. to fund the Philippine military millions of dollars annually, a military responsible for over 1,000 cases of human rights violations against innocent civilians since the government of Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo took office in 2001. These human rights violations include intimidation, abduction, torture, and extrajudicial killings of innocent people whom the Philippine government and military target as enemies of the state. The victims of these atrocities were innocent people who simply addressed the problems of the Philippines such as poverty, landlessness, and broken education systems.

As a national alliance of Filipina/o American youth, SanDiwa, the youth and student arm of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), recognizes the harmful effects the VFA has on the people of the Philippines, both in the homeland and abroad. SanDiwa was born out of the Philippine Studies Program, an annual study abroad summer program in which Filipina/o American youth and students go to the Philippines to learn about the history, culture, and current conditions of the land of their heritage. The first batch of participants in 2003 returned to the U.S. inspired by their experience in the Philippines to establish a national organization that connected their issues as Filipina/o Americans to the issues in the Philippines, which eventually became SanDiwa. “How can our safety be guaranteed? With the increasing incidences of human rights violations, which run rampant and unchecked because of things like the VFA, Filipina/o Americans are concerned about their kababayan (fellow countrymen) in the Philippines as well as their own safety when traveling to the homeland, whether it be for visiting family or going on exposure trips,” stated Francis Leo Bronola, a member of a community based fraternity, Kapatirang Pilipino.

On May 19, 2009, a Filipina American activist named Melissa Roxas was abducted by elements known to be connected to the Philippine military. Fortunately, she was resurfaced and safe after being missing for five days. This is the first known case of an American citizen of Filipina descent being a victim of human rights violations in the Philippines. Roxas was a founding member of Habi-Arts in Los Angeles, a cultural organization that is also a part of NAFCON. She was in the Philippines volunteering as a health worker in Tarlac when she was abducted, along with her two companions Juanito Carabeo and John Edward Handoc. Carabeo fortunately was also resurfaced, however Handoc remains missing. Roxas and Carabeo are two of the very few victims who have resurfaced after being abducted by elements of the Philippine military, which is funded by U.S. tax dollars to carry out these atrocities because of policies like the VFA.

“As Fil-Am youth and students who have the privilege of going to the Philippines for study abroad programs and visiting trips, our safety while in the Philippines should not have to be compromised because of human rights violations, due to funded policies such as the VFA. Our tax dollars should have been funding our safety and security and not threaten the people of the Philippines and their Filipina/o American kababayan who innocently conduct humanitarian efforts to improve and uplift the country. It is because of trips to the Philippines that SanDiwa came into existence, to learn the rich history, culture, and current conditions of the homeland,” Anne Beryl Corotan, the national Chairperson of SanDiwa expressed, over the issue of VFA and the resurfacing of Roxas and Carabeo. “While we express joy over the resurfacing Roxas and Carabeo, the countless number of other victims of human rights violations is still of great concern and needs to be addressed. Therefore, SanDiwa calls for the immediate abrogation of the VFA, the resurfacing of John Edward Handoc and all victims of abduction, and an end to all forms of human rights violations,” Corotan ended.

SanDiwa, the youth arm of NAFCON, is a national alliance of youth, students, and community youth organizations, united to (re)educate, celebrate, and advocate for issues that affect our Filipino communities in the United States and in the Philippines. As an alliance, we seek to work cross-culturally in reclaiming our humanity and to work collaboratively with “other” minority groups to protect the rights and welfare of young Filipinos all over the United States.

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Update: Melissa Roxas Surfaced but search continues for CARABEO & HANDOC

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 25, 2009 by kulturalguerilla

News Statement
May 24, 2009

Reference: Rhonda Ramiro, Secretary-General, BAYAN USA, email: secgen@bayanusa.org

MELISSA ROXAS’ SURFACING A VICTORY OF THE PEOPLE’S STRUGGLE, BUT THE SEARCH CONTINUES FOR CARABEO & HANDOC– BAYAN USA

The US Chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, or BAYAN USA, an alliance of 14 Filipino social justice organizations across the United States, is elated to confirm that Filipina-American activist Melissa Roxas, 32, surfaced hours ago in Manila as of Sunday, May 24th. BAYAN USA confirmed this report with the human rights group Karapatan. A detailed account about the circumstances of her surfacing is still forthcoming.

“We are happy to hear about Melissa’s surfacing, but we are still concerned about the whereabouts of her two companions, Juanito Carabeo and John Edward Handoc, who were abducted along with Melissa on May 19th and are still missing to this day,” states BAYAN USA Chair Bernadette Ellorin. “We fully intend to pursue the demand for the surfacing of Carabeo and Handoc, as well as justice for Melissa. This abduction should never have taken place.”

Roxas, Carabeo, and Handoc, all members of a medical mission team in La Paz, Tarlac, were reportedly abducted at gunpoint by at least eight masked men in the middle of the night last week. Upon learning of Roxas, Carabeo, and Handoc’s enforced disappearance, BAYAN USA, along with BAYAN Philippines and Karapatan, exerted strong efforts calling for their immediate surfacing, including releasing an online petition addressed to US elected officials that gathered hundreds of signatures in a matter of hours.

“Because more than five days had passed since their abduction, we believe Melissa’s surfacing is a direct result of rapid community response and international pressure exerted from the Philippines and the United States first and foremost,” Ellorin continued. BAYAN USA in Southern California has also been working closely with Roxas’ family in Los Angeles in their campaign efforts to surface Roxas and her companions in the Philippines.

Roxas, a founding member of the cultural organization Habi-Arts in Los Angeles and founding Southern California Representative for BAYAN USA, went to the Philippines in 2007 to pursue human rights advocacy full-time. Her move was set amidst an acute human rights crisis in the Philippines that includes reports of rampant extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, illegal arrest, torture, and summary executions. In 2005, Roxas participated in an international fact-finding mission investigating human rights violations throughout the Philippines under the Arroyo administration.

On Wednesday, May 27th, BAYAN USA member organizations across the United States will be launching actions denouncing the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), a military pact that allows for the basing of US military troops in over 20 ports throughout the Philippines. Included in these actions will be the call for justice for Melissa Roxas and for the immediate surfacing of Juanito Carabeo and John Edward Handoc. BAYAN USA firmly believes the continuing, unabated human rights violations committed by the Philippine military and death squads are generously funded by US military aid to the Arroyo government. BAYAN USA also ultimately holds the Arroyo government accountable for the pattern of killings and abductions against civilians critical of the regime since 2001.

“As we continue to campaign for justice for Melissa, Juanito, and John Edward, we are consciously raising awareness of the role of US tax dollars in funding these abductions and other human rights violations. There are hundreds more victims of politically-motivated abductions in the Philippines that are still missing to this day,” Ellorin ended. ###

NY TIMES
U.S. Woman Freed After Abduction in Philippines
By CARLOS H. CONDE
Published: May 25, 2009

MANILA — An American woman has been freed five days after armed and hooded men believed to have been military agents abducted her and two other companions in a province north of Manila, her colleagues said Monday.

Melissa Roxas, 31, an activist from Los Angeles who had been doing volunteer health work in Tarlac Province, was kidnapped on May 19 along with two other health volunteers for a nongovernment group.

She “surfaced this morning,” said Renato Reyes Jr., secretary general of the group Bayan, of which Ms. Roxas is a member. Mr. Reyes said it was not yet clear why only Ms. Roxas was freed. The fate of the two other workers, Juanito Carabeo and John Edward Handoc, remained unknown.

It was the first time that an American citizen had fallen victim to what Bayan and human rights groups here call “enforced disappearances,” or the abduction of activists by those suspected of being military agents.

Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner Jr., the spokesman of the armed forces, said the military had received a report on Ms. Roxas’ disappearance but declined to comment. “We are verifying it,” he said.

According to Mr. Reyes, Ms. Roxas and her companions were taken at gunpoint from the village where they were working and shoved into a van without license plates.

Mr. Reyes could not yet say whether Ms. Roxas was harmed by her abductors. “The circumstances of her release are still unknown to us, and there is concern for her safety as well even if she has been released,” he said. Mr. Reyes said that Ms. Roxas was resting with her family in Manila.

Ms. Roxas — who is of Filipino descent — moved to the Philippines in 2007 to pursue “human rights advocacy full-time,” Bernadette Ellorin, a colleague in the United States, said in an e-mail message.

According to the human rights group Karapatan, more than 200 Filipino activists have been kidnapped and never heard from since 2001, the year President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo came to power. Others have turned up dead or showing signs of torture. Groups including Human Rights Watch have said that the disappearances are part of the government’s counterinsurgency campaign against leftist rebels. The military has consistently denied such charges, calling it propaganda by leftist groups sympathetic to the three-decade-old Communist movement in the Philippines.
But the United Nations Human Rights Council, in a report last year prepared by its special rapporteur Philip Alston, called on Ms. Arroyo to institute reforms within the military as well as to investigate thoroughly what Mr. Alston called “credible allegations” that the military was behind most of these killings and abductions. Eduardo Ermita, Ms. Arroyo’s executive secretary and spokesman, called the U.N. rapporteur’s report inaccurate and said Mr. Alston was biased in favor of leftist groups.

SURFACE FILIPINO-AMERICAN ACTIVIST MELISSA ROXAS NOW!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on May 24, 2009 by kulturalguerilla

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 24, 2009

Reference: Kuusela Hilo, BAYAN-USA Vice Chair, 818-395-9207,
vicechair@bayanusa.org

Rhonda Ramiro, BAYAN-USA Secretary General, 415-377-2599, secgen@bayanusa.org

SURFACE FILIPINO-AMERICAN ACTIVIST MELISSA ROXAS NOW

BAYAN-USA, an alliance of 14 Filipino American organizations and
chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan Philippines), is calling
on President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the Department of National
Defense, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to immediately
surface Melissa Roxas, an American citizen of Filipino descent who was
abducted in the Philippines on May 19. BAYAN-USA also urgently calls
on our representatives in the U.S. Congress to act quickly to ensure
the safe return of Roxas.

Roxas is a well-known Filipino American activist, who served as the
first Regional Coordinator of BAYAN-USA in Los Angeles and co-founded
the cultural organization Habi Arts. Roxas is an active human rights
advocate and was instrumental in organizing a BAYAN-USA contingent
that participated in the International Solidarity Mission in 2005, an
international fact finding mission that called attention to the
escalating human rights violations in the Philippines. Roxas went to
the Philippines in 2007 to pursue human rights work, where she became
a full time volunteer health worker. She was abducted on May 19, 2009
at approximately 1:30 PM in Sitio Bagong Sikat, Barangay kapanikian,
La Paz, Tarlac. She was with two other volunteers, Juanito Carabeo and
John Edward Handoc.

Based on reports filed by the human rights group KARAPATAN and the La
Paz police, Roxas and her companions were taken by at least 8 armed,
hooded men riding two motorcycles and a Besta van without any license
plate numbers. There has been no word on the whereabouts and condition
of Roxas and her companions since the abduction. The circumstances of
Roxas’ abduction typify the abductions and enforced disappearances of
over 200 innocent civilians, allegedly last seen in the hands of
suspected state security forces.

“We are deeply concerned about the abduction of Melissa Roxas, Juanito
Carabeo and John Edward Handoc. We call for Melissa and her companions
to be immediately surfaced unharmed,” said BAYAN-USA Secretary General
Rhonda Ramiro. “We condemn the ongoing abductions and human rights
violations that have been rampant under the Arroyo administration and
victimized thousands of innocent people.”

The search for Roxas and her companions will be spearheaded by the
human rights organization KARAPATAN, while BAYAN-USA, its member
organizations, and allies will undertake an international campaign to
exert pressure on the Arroyo government to surface Roxas. “We appeal
to our elected officials, members of the Filipino American community,
and all people in the U.S. who believe in human rights to take action
to surface Melissa and her companions. Since we were founded in 2005,
BAYAN-USA has campaigned ceaselessly for an end to the human rights
violations in the Philippines, and we will not stop until we obtain
justice for Melissa and all victims of human rights violations under
Arroyo.”

SANDIWA- NATIONAL ALLIANCE OF FILIPINA/O AMERICAN YOUTH RECOGNIZES APOLOGY OF BALDWIN BUT DEMANDS AN END TO ANY INSULT TOWARDS FILIPINA WOMEN.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on May 21, 2009 by kulturalguerilla

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Reference: Ryan Leano, Secretary General, SanDiwa National Alliance of Fil-Am Youth
email: sandiwa.national@gmail.com

SANDIWA- NATIONAL ALLIANCE OF FILIPINA/O AMERICAN YOUTH RECOGNIZES APOLOGY OF BALDWIN BUT DEMANDS AN END TO ANY INSULT TOWARDS FILIPINA WOMEN.

SanDiwa- The National Alliance of Filipina/o American Youth acknowledges Alec Baldwin’s apology with the recent derogatory jest he made but demands an end to any insult to Filipina women. During the May 12th interview at the Late Show with David Letterman, Baldwin, expressed that he would like to have more children, and was quick to add that he was “thinking about getting a Filipino mail-order bride at this point…or a Russian one.” Followed by Letterman’s response, “Get one for me, for later.” This dialogue reflects the mainstream media’s tendency to underrate the Philippines and the Filipino people. Baldwin has recently posted an apology and the Filipino community is still demanding one from Mr. David Letterman.

But while many are angered by the actors’ jests, their comments have provoked the Fil-Am youth to look at the problem at a grander scale. “The thought of a mail order bride is degrading, but it also speaks a lot about the current state of the Philippines. Alec Baldwin, a famous & rich American actor, even commenting about getting a mail order bride from the Philippines juxtaposes the world’s most powerful country with one of the poorest. It’s a tragedy, the homeland needs help, and it’s coming through social commentary. In the end it’s sick, but it’s a very true reality,” says Margarette Anne Galeon, former president of the International Filipino Association at NYU.

These comments are an affront to Filipinas who are prone to being typecast as sexual commodities readily available at one’s disposal. These Filipinas range from professionals to those forced into domestic and sexual labor in order for them and their families to survive the immensely impoverished conditions in the Philippines.

Though SanDiwa recognizes Baldwin’s apology, we also emphasize the added insult to Philippines’ overwhelming injury— its impoverished conditions have forced poverty-stricken Filipinas to engage in prostitution and/or become mail order brides. The sad reality of this type of inter-country marriages likely leads to cases of domestic abuse, and human trafficking. Which is why this insult must end with Baldwin and Letterman’s statements.

This is not the first time Filipina/os have been devalued on in the mainstream media in a negative light. Do not forget, in the mid-1990s, Filipinas were mentioned as mail-order brides in an episode of Fraiser. In 2007, the validity of Filipino doctors was belittled and denigrated in an episode of the American sitcom Desperate Housewives. Further, Filipina maids were “comically” portrayed as sex entertainers in the British comedy show Harry & Paul in 2008.

After several negative portrayals of Filipina/os in mainstream media, Fil-Am youth and the larger Filipina/o community must unite to stop these insulting remarks.“ It must end at Baldwin’s comment, as an alliance that is committed to (re)educate, celebrate, and advocate for issues that affect our Filipina/o communities in the United States and in the Philippines, SanDiwa strengthens our commitment in addressing and ending the issue of negative and insensitive portrayal of our community in mainstream media. We will continue to work towards addressing what causes people in mainstream media to show and say such things—neo-colonial policies in the Philippines that give rise to poverty, migration, government corruption, human trafficking and human rights violations,” states Anne Beryl Corotan, National Chairperson of SanDiwa.

SanDiwa is a national alliance of youth, students, and community youth organizations, united to (re)educate, celebrate, and advocate for issues that affect our Filipino communities in the United States and in the Philippines. As an alliance, we seek to work cross-culturally in reclaiming our humanity and to work collaboratively with “other” minority groups to protect the rights and welfare of young Filipinos all over the United States.

Rest In Power, Uncle Al Robles

Posted in Uncategorized on May 4, 2009 by kulturalguerilla

dsc02501

I am a roller coaster of emotions right now. When I first got news of Uncle Al‘s passing, I was in line with a group of friends to get into the theater where the Pacquiao fight was being shown. We were all in utter shock because although we knew he was sick, he was recovering. We all looked at each other and were all thinking the same thing…Should we even be watching the fight right now? But knowing Uncle Al, he would have wanted us to. He was the type of person who was happy if everyone else is happy.

I attended a community memorial in his honor the next day at the Manilatown Center to pay my respects. It was because of him, Manilatown is here today. He was a champion of the poor and disenfranchised. He was a community activist working for housing rights and seniors’ rights. He, along with the late Uncle Bill Sorro, were among the tenants of the original International Hotel who fought for their right to fair housing until they were ultimately violently evicted. The eviction and eventual demolition of the I-Hotel did not stop them from fighting for the basic human right to fair housing, which then led to the rise of the new I-Hotel and Manilatown Center, which is located on the very same spot of the original I-Hotel.

Above all, he was an artist, whose writings and poetry served purpose. His work told the stories of our Man@ngs who came from the Philippines to find greener pastures, mostly in the farmlands of California. He was and still is an inspiration to me as an activist and an artist. What I remember most about him was his humanity. He loved the community and regarded each and every member as his own family. I remember seeing him at the most random moments in the South of Market Area (SOMA) of San Francisco, where I work at the Filipino Education Center (FEC) with Filipin@ elementary and middle school students. He was always out and about in the ‘hood, hardly ever staying indoors, because he liked being with the people.

My fondest memory with Uncle Al was when I was taking my students to Mendelson Community Garden in the SOMA, where there is a huge Filipin@ American Mural. As I was describing the mural, Uncle Al shows up out of nowhere and says hello to me and the kids. He then helps me a little bit by talking about the history of the mural and the community who made it happen. He must’ve had 4 bags full of groceries, but he put them all down just to be with us. That alone speaks volumes of how much he loved the community. Aside from being the students’ mentor, I also teach them Hiphop dance, and every year my students perform a Hiphop piece I teach them at the anniversary of the I-Hotel. Uncle Al and Uncle Bill have always expressed to me that they always look forward to seeing the FEC kids perform at the anniversary every year. That meant a lot to me coming from one artist to another, and from a community member who absolutely loved the youth.

At the community memorial for Uncle Al, people were sharing their memories of him, both funny and profound memories. He loved to laugh, he loved to write, and he loved music. Kuya Phil, another community artist, was really close to him, and being an ukulele musician, Uncle Al always asked him to play “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” every chance he got to. Kuya Phil got tired of Uncle Al’s constant song request after a while, but it meant the world to him to play it one last time for Uncle Al at the memorial. I could not hold my tears back any longer and cried my eyes out as Kuya Phil played and sang that song. That song truly embodies what Uncle Al was all about.

I then went to babae‘s and LFS‘s 7th annual Diwang Pinay after the memorial. I had been tasked out to do staging and sound, which was hard at first. But after paying tribute and a moment of silence to Uncle Al’s memory at the start of the program, I knew he would have wanted us to carry on with the show, because of its importance to the community and to Pinay women worldwide. I know he was enjoying the show just as much as we were.

Uncle Al, I love you, and you mean so much to me and other activists and artists in the community. You’re not just a dear friend, but a true kasama. Your kind words and love for the masses are inspirational to all. I know your spirit is now watching over us as we continue the struggle for basic human rights and dignity. Your poems and songs will live on forever in our hearts. And though you’re no longer in the pain you’ve been recently suffering, I want to be selfish enough to say I wish you were still here. Rest In Power, Kasama. Makibaka, Huwag Matakot!

All My Workers Raise Your Fists High!

Posted in Uncategorized on May 1, 2009 by kulturalguerilla

ipaglaban
“ipaglaban” by artivista

On this day of International Workers’ Day, to my fellow workers around the globe, from the street corners of the world’s slums to the offices of corporations, working to live and provide for our families, and fighting to keep that basic human right, TODAY, and everyday for that matter, is OUR day. Our strong fists raised are the pillars of society. If you’re a fellow laborer, whether it’s on the street or the office cubicle, I salute you. See you as we take over the streets today.

SF-CHRP’s Press Statement on May 1, International Workers’ Day

“It seems we never get paid what our labor is worth / that’s why we’re often in a daze on our way to our work / and when we get there, we can’t wait to get out / so let me tell you what it’s about”
-Blue Scholars: “Proletariat Blues”

Proletariat Blues – Blue Scholars