Archive for August, 2009


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

For Immediate Release

Reference: Ryan Leano, Secretary General, SanDiwa National Alliance of Fil-Am Youth


The SanDiwa National Alliance of Fil-Am Youth, in the strongest terms, expresses condemnation over the violent dispersal and arrests of several Filipina/o youth and students by the Philippine police at a recent rally in Manila.

On August 19, 2009, about 200 members of League of Filipino Students (LFS), Anakbayan (AB), and Student Christian Movement of the Philippines (SCMP), conducted a “lightning rally” in front of Malacañang Palace, the residence of Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Participants of the rally wanted to show the Arroyo administration their outrage and disgust over the expensive dinners Mrs. Arroyo and her entourage, including more than 20 administration congressmen, had in New York and Washington D.C., during her recent visit in the United States. These lavish dinners totaled in more than $40,000, garnering indignation of the youth and student groups, which they said are prime examples of the President’s insensitivity towards the majority of Philippines who live in immense hunger and poverty. The excess activities of the President had recently called into question about the over-budgeted international trips of the President, with very large entourage, and which put to question how much of the people’s money is being used to fund these excesses.

Among those arrested were students from Polytechnic University of the Philippines, University of the Philippines Diliman, and some high school students, who are members of the LFS, AB, College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) and SCMP. In addition to the arrests, some 17 youth also sustained physical injuries when the police attacked them with nightsticks. Witnesses said even some students emerged with their mouths bleeding after coming in contact with the police. The police detained the arrested students for almost an hour and their companions and legal representation were prohibited from checking on them. The arrested students were then to be brought to the Manila Police District (MPD) Headquarters after their medico-legal check at the Hospital ng Maynila for illegal assembly. The police did not inform the arrested students of their rights. The rest of the rallyists marched from Mendiola to UN Avenue and staged another rally outside the MPD Headquarters at around 1:00 to demand the immediate release of the 20 students. The student activists who were arrested were released later in the evening.

Filipina/o American youth finds the actions of the Philippine authorities absolutely unacceptable. Although though we are glad that our kababayan have been released, this brutal dispersal and arrests should not have even happened in the first place. As a country like the Philippines being recognized as having a democratic society, the freedom to express is a basic human right, and that basic human right was brutally violated. Incidents of police brutality is nothing new for Fil-Am youth and all youth of color. In 2008, Sandiwa members Rusty Fabunan and Wilfred Recaido were wrongfully detained for merely playing drums at the Philippine Independence Day Festival in New York. In 2007 in Oakland, CA, three Southeast Asian youth were wrongfully accused of murder. The police then conducted numerous raids targeting Southeast Asian youth in local high schools and youth centers. In San Jose, CA, eight police officers brutally beat down of Marlo Custodio, an 18 year old Filipino student, along with his brother and mother. Marlo Custodio was a much involved in school programs as well as a community youth organizer. In Seattle, an unarmed 13-year old Filipino youth was shot by police, mistaking a cell phone for a weapon. In 2006, Alan Alda, was arrested and detained by Jersey City police after seeking their help against an erring cab driver. A few months after the incident involving Alda, an unarmed individual named Sean Bell was shot fifty times by plainclothes and undercover NYPD officers on the day of his wedding.

As youth and students of Filipina/o descent in the U.S., we know what it is like to be criminalized by government authorities for fighting similar struggles as our kababayan (countrymen/women) in the Philippines are facing, such as poverty, unemployment, rising tuition and education costs, and human rights violations. Angelica Cabande, Chairperson of San Francisco Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (SF-CHRP), stated, “We our outraged with the constant abuse of power by the Arroyo regime by delegating the Manila police to conduct mass arrests and violent dispersal of youth activists. Again, we are witnessing the silent martial law the Arroyo regime is exercising towards our kababayan back home which is constantly denied by her administration.”

In the midst of constant harassment of urban youth and immigrant families, this incident serves as another reminder that we will not allow ourselves to be harassed by the government authorities, which is a problem plaguing urban youth and immigrant families in cities throughout the U.S. and our kababayan in the Philippines. Expressing our concerns and raising awareness about actions by the government that are to the detriment of the people they are supposed to serve are not crimes, but are basic rights of the people. Voices of disagreement and concern should be listened to, not brutally suppressed. The SanDiwa National Alliance of Fil-Am Youth, which includes U.S. chapters of League of Filipino Students and Anakbayan, stand in solidarity with their counterpart youth and student organizations in the Philippines. Therefore, SanDiwa relentlessly calls for justice for the 20 students who were unjustly and indiscriminantly arrested by the Manila Police District, for the investigation and prosecution of the police elements and commanding officer who were involved in the violent dispersal and indiscriminant arrests, and for the Philippine Government to be reminded that it is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and therefore accountable to protecting Human Rights when they are violated.

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.

Student rally at Mendiola turns violent

You may send your communications to:

H.E. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
President of the Republic
Malacanang Palace,
JP Laurel St., San Miguel
Manila Philippines
Voice: (+632) 564 1451 to 80
Fax: (+632) 742-1641 / 929-3968
Cell#: (+ 63) 919 898 4622 / (+63) 917 839 8462
E-mail: / opnet

Director General Jesus Versosa
Chief, Philippine National Police (PNP)
Camp General Rafael Crame
Quezon City
Tel: +63 2 726 4361/4366/8763
Fax: +63 2724 8763

Hon. Leila de Lima
Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg., UP Complex
Commonwealth Avenue
Diliman, Quezon City
Fax: (+632) 929 0102


Hon. Agnes Devanadera
Secretary, Department of Justice
Padre Faura St., Manila
Direct Line 521-8344; 5213721
Trunkline 523-84-81 loc.214
Fax: (+632) 521-1614

Jesus D. Dureza
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process
*Office of the Peace Process
7th Floor Agustin Building I
Emerald Avenue
Pasig City 1605
Voice: +63 (2) 636 0701 to 066
Fax:+63 (2) 635 9579

Mr. Ambeyi Ligabo
Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to
freedom of opinion and expression
1211 Geneva 10
Tel: +41 22 917 9177

Ms. Hina Jilani
Special Representative of the Secretary General for human rights defenders
Room 1-040
1211 Geneva 10
Tel: +41 22 917 93 88


My Tribute to Tita Cory

Posted in Uncategorized on August 5, 2009 by kulturalguerilla


I’ve been posting a lot of tributes on facebook/twitter since Cory Aquino‘s passing. I guess it was my way of processing until I could find my own words.

I kept asking myself why this even matters to me, as a person of Filipino descent born and raised in the U.S., far removed from the tumultuous and triumphant events in the Philippines since the martial law years to today. My first time to the homeland was in 1989, and although I was only 9 years old, I still remember. I remember seeing my paternal grandparents for the first time. I remember seeing the impoverished street kids, the malls, the palengkes, the shantytowns, everything my parents told me to expect. I later learned that we were able to go at that time because the Philippines was once again safe to return to, not to be fearful of a brutal dictatorship. My parents never really said so, but I would bet my money that their reasons for leaving the homeland “to provide a better life for the family” must have been driven to escape the uncertainty of that life under the Marcos dictatorship. I would hear stories of the People Power uprising and how it made the Philippines free and safe to go to again, and of Cory Aquino, who became the face of that movement after the assassination of her husband, opposition leader Ninoy Aquino.

As I grew older and made extended trips back to the Philippines in 2004 and 2006 for cultural integration and exposure trips, the more I learned of the movement against tyranny, oppression, and government corruption in the homeland. And the more individuals like Ninoy and Cory became inspirations to me, standing up against a brutal and oppressive dictatorship. Under Tita Cory’s leadership which ousted dictator Marcos through a bloodless uprising, the road to restoring democracy in the Philippines began. One of the first steps she took in restoring democracy was having all political prisoners who were imprisoned by Marcos freed, such as political activist Professor Jose Maria Sison,

Cory Aquino and Prof. Jose Maria Sison after his release from fascist prison in 1986.

Cory Aquino and Prof. Jose Maria Sison after his release from fascist prison in 1986.

as well as beginning peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, led at the time by current Bayan Muna leader Satur Ocampo.

Satur Ocampo, right of Cory Aquino, in 1986

Satur Ocampo, right of Cory Aquino, in 1986

Although reluctantly, she became a source of hope and courage when the people were afraid to stand up against Marcos. She became the face of restoring democracy in the Philippines. And she did it with strong conviction in her morals and faith in God.

While her strong conviction in her morals was her greatest strength, it also proved to be her greatest weakness. Although her presidency restored democracy to an extent in the Philippines, as well as restore much of what Marcos had brutally taken away from the people, it was also plagued by many failures. I, like many other progressives, are among her harshest critics. Her morals and conviction in her faith just made her too damn nice, as she always tried to see the good in all people. Such a person carries the threat of being taken advantage of, and the failures of her presidency can’t totally fall on her, but the people she had to work with as well, mostly those carried over from the Marcos dictatorship. Her administration failed to implement land reform that benefitted the peasants who rightfully own the land they live and work on, leading to the Mendiola Massacre of indignant farmers in 1987 at the hands of the Philippine Military, the same military that served Marcos, a psyche the military carried over into her administration. Instead of having Marcos’s cronies jailed and face trial for their crimes of graft and corruption, many of them still held their positions in government. Her maiden name being Cojuangco, for generations her family owned Hacienda Luisita, a vast and fertile land in Tarlac, whose residents include hundred of peasants tilling the land, who are among the most exploited and abused. This land is infamous for the Hacienda Luisita Massacre in 2004, in which the Philippine National Police sprayed the protesting farmers, fighting for their basic rights, with bullets and tear gas, leaving 14 dead and 200 wounded. As far as I know, Cory has not made a statement on her family’s behalf on this injustice.

Her shortcomings notwithstanding, which pale in comparison to Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, she no doubt took up the challenge of leading the people when they needed a leader the most. Despite her reluctance, she did so because she felt the responsibility to continue the fight her husband Ninoy help lead against the dictatorship that placed democracy seemingly out of reach. Even after her presidency, she continued to stand against tyranny, government corruption, and undemocratic abuse of power, when presidents after her sought to extend their terms by trying to undo the 1987 Constitution, a constitution established under her presidency that set the road to restoring democracy. She was and continues to be a symbol of democracy. To the very end, she fought against tyranny by urging the current President of the Philippines, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, to “make the ultimate sacrifice” by stepping down from the presidency, given her horrendous track record of human rights violations, graft, and corruption, a horrendous track record that surpasses Marcos, whose dictatorship Arroyo is seemingly trying to emulate.

Watching the memorials for the past few days, I come to realize that as progressives, we tend to be so harshly critical that sometimes, it can dehumanize. Despite the imperfections of her presidency, we must not forget that she is also a human being who believed and fought for the same things we want, democracy and social justice. Though we did not always agree with the ways to go about restoring democracy in the homeland, one can not deny her sincere love for the Filipin@ people, and our fight for true democracy and against tyranny and corruption continues on. I was glad to see progressives like Satur Ocampo, Bayan-Philippines, Gabriela, and Migrante present at the funeral giving their sincere respects. One said that the best way to honor Tita Cory is to continue the fight for true democracy, especially now against the brutal, corrupt, and oppressive Gloria Macapagal Arroyo regime, whom Cory strongly opposed until her last breath.

Perhaps I’m emotional right now also because just a couple days ago, I along with my fellow progressives under Bayan-USA, Gabriela-USA, and National Alliance for Filipino Concerns, staged an emergency protest at Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s last stop in her recent U.S. visit. As her motorcade drove by us, we shouted and expressed our indignation at her through her untinted window. That is probably the closest we’ll ever get to the fascist leader responsible for graft, corruption, and human rights violations against our own people. I got so angry that I started tearing up. I let out all my anger and love for our people as I screamed my lungs out into my bullhorn pointed directly at her window, well worth the 5 seconds her motorcade drove past us. The look on her face was priceless. It was an emotionally overwhelming experience to be one of the spearheads of the collective action, and watching Tita Cory’s funeral afterwards, I finally allowed myself to cry. Cry for Tita Cory is no longer physically with us, cry for all victims of human rights violations, and cry at the overwhelming task of continuing the fight.

With Tita Cory’s passing, along with the recent passing of many cultural workers and activists, I feel their torch in leading the fight for democracy and justice has now fallen into our hands. We will carry on their love for the people and commitment to social justice. The fight is not over. People Power did not end in 1986, it did not end in 2001, and certainly will not end until we see the day true democracy is restored in our beloved homeland. With a country as unstable and fractured as our beloved Philippines is, one must wonder if there is hope for us. But as Ninoy and Cory proved, and the masses prove daily in giving their lives for the people, the Philippines, and the Filipin@s, “are worth fighting for.”

Maraming salamat, at paalam, Tita Cory.