SANDIWA NATIONAL ALLIANCE OF FIL-AM YOUTH JOIN THEIR FELLOW FILIPINA/OS AROUND THE WORLD IN VOICING THE PEOPLE’S STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS

For Immediate Release
July 27, 2009

SanDiwa Statement on GMA’s 2009 State of the Nation Address

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

SANDIWA NATIONAL ALLIANCE OF FIL-AM YOUTH JOIN THEIR FELLOW FILIPINA/OS AROUND THE WORLD IN VOICING THE PEOPLE’S STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS

On July 27, 2009, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will be giving her annual State of the Nation Address (SONA) to boast on the social, economic, and political progress that her administration believes the Philippines as a nation has made. This will mark her ninth SONA and potentially, her last. However, as in years past, the Filipina/o people are expecting the same rhetoric that does not reflect the reality of immense poverty, government corruption, human rights violations, and increasingly unattainable education.

This year’s SONA may very well be her last, and with an approval rating of only 26 percent, the majority of the people have high hopes it will be so. Recognizing this, Arroyo’s administration has orchestrated a plan in order to stay in power beyond her presidential term, taking the form of Charter Change, or “Cha-Cha” as it is commonly called. If “Cha-Cha” is approved, the current Philippine Constitution will be changed so that the current system of government will be changed to a parliamentary system, allowing Arroyo to become Prime Minister for an unspecified length of time. Given her administration’s horrible track record of government corruption, rampant human rights violations that even surpasses former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, and worsening poverty, “Cha-Cha” is a desperate move for her to cling to power and is highly unpopular with the people. This political maneuvering will only result in the continuing worsening poverty, government corruption, and human rights violations, clearly at the people’s disadvantage.

The Filipina/o people know that because of these conditions in the Philippines, about 3,000 Filipina/os leave the country everyday to escape the poverty and find work abroad. Filipina/os living abroad often work to send money back to their families in the Philippines, and billions of dollars in remittances is what is keeping the Philippines’ already fragile economy afloat. If Arroyo’s boasts of economic progress were only true, then Filipina/os would not be leaving the country just to find work. “Cha-Cha” would only perpuate, if not worsen, these conditions. As Fil-Am youth in the United States, we are all too familiar with this situation, being children of Filipina/o immigrants who left their homeland for greener pastures in order to provide for their families.

The worsening economy has also made the Philippines unsafe for those who simply wish to address these social issues. Many journalists, workers, students, and even innocent civilians who have chosen to organize and speak out against poverty, corruption, and injustice have experienced human rights violations in the form of abduction, forced disappearance, torture, and extrajudicial killings. Their only crime was seeking justice. With the increasing incidences of human rights violations, which run rampant and unchecked, Filipina/o Americans are growing increasingly concerned about their kababayan (fellow countrymen) in the Philippines as well as their own safety when traveling back to the homeland, whether it be for visiting family or going on exposure trips. Recently, Melissa Roxas, an American citizen of Filipina/o descent, was abducted and tortured by elements known to be connected to the Philippine military. Fortunately, she was resurfaced and safe after being missing for five days. 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 on an extended exposure trip simply doing volunteer healthcare work. After being resurfaced and returning to the U.S. to be reunited with her family, she is now back in the Philippines to testify about her abduction and torture before the Commission on Human Rights. SanDiwa applauds and commends her courage to return to the Philippines and speak not only for herself, but for all victims of human rights violations. Her courage is inspiring to SanDiwa and all people working towards social justice.

What is also happening in the Philippines that Filipina/o American youth can closely relate to is the rising cost of tuition at universities throughout the nation. More and more funding is being taken out of education, and college is becoming more and more unaffordable. Similar situations are happening in the U.S. In New York, the City University of New York system cut $51 million from its budget as the governor’s plan to address the state’s finances in the current financial crisis. In July 2009, The California State University system increased student fees by 20% and is not accepting applicants for Winter 2010 and Spring 2010 terms. In addition, classes are being cut and in effect lengthening the time for students to graduate. It is the students who are directly and severely affected by these budget cuts and tuition increases. These are just two examples of countless others throughout the U.S. What we see is less investment on education and more funding towards law enforcement and military, which is a very similar situation in the Philippines.

Yet despite all these unjust conditions, Filipina/o American youth stand in solidarity with our kababayan (countrymen/women) in the Philippines taking to the streets and voicing the true state of the nation, standing up against “Cha-Cha,” human rights violations, and rising college tuition fees. While our people in the Philippines struggle with these injustices, we realize that our struggles as Filipino Americans are closely connected, with the criminalization of immigrants and youth, the rising student fees at colleges and universities, and budget cuts to education that goes towards military funding instead. Our work as a National Alliance of Fil-Am youth is especially important here in the United States, because it is our U.S. tax dollars that support the GMA administration. In this new era of “hope” and “change,” we will tirelessly work to make those words hold true, for a better Philippines, for a better United States, for a better world.

SanDiwa, the youth and students arm of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (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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One Response to “SANDIWA NATIONAL ALLIANCE OF FIL-AM YOUTH JOIN THEIR FELLOW FILIPINA/OS AROUND THE WORLD IN VOICING THE PEOPLE’S STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS”

  1. kailan mo kaya maririnig ang pinakamagandang SONA para sayo…

    magkakaroon nga kaya ng SONA na kakatuwaan ng lahat?

    hnnnmmmm parang napaisip ako dun ahhhh…

    padaan lang po

    Mabuhay ang samahan ninyo!!!

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