Berna Ellorin, BAYAN USA, email: ny @ bayanusa.org
Larry Holmes, Troops Out Now Coalition, email: larry @ action-mail.org
New York– Four individual members of the Troops Out Now Coalition (TONC), a national anti-war formation in the United States, stormed the Philippine Consulate in Manhattan today to confront Consul General Cecilia Rebong and Permanent Philippine Representative to the United Nations Laurel Baja with protest over, among other things, the significant escalation of political killings in the Philippines.
As they did so, members and allies of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) staged a protest action in front of the Consulate building denouncing the rise in death squads targeting Arroyo critics, reminiscent of the bloody Marcos era under Martial Law.
The most recent killings include Manny De Los Santos, a BAYAN peasant leader from Nueva Ecija, last June 11th, by two unidentified armed assailants riding a motorcycle. BAYAN MUNA representatives Noli Capulong and Sotero Llamas were also assassinated over the past week and a half. A recent report generated by BAYAN tallies over 70 killings in 2006 alone.
“BAYAN is a member of the Troops Out Now Coalition. We understand that over 680 of our allies under Bayan in the Philippines have been targeted and assassinated under the Arroyo regime. We are here to express our anger, our protest, and to demand a concrete response from the Arroyo regime. Her continuing silence and inaction with the obvious bloodshed is unconscionable and equal to condonment,” stated Sara Flounders, national co-director of the International Action Center, a member of Troops Out Now.
Together with fellow TONC organizers Arturo Perez-Saad, Sharon Black, and Dr. Ed Lewinson, Flounders entered the Consulate with letters of protest to deliver to Consul Rebong. The encounter stretched to an anxiety-filled three hour meeting with Rebong and Consul Ed Badajos that escalated in tension as the four protestors also put forth other demands such as the withdrawal of US troops in the Philippines, the withdrawal of the multi-million dollar US military aid package funding the Arroyo regime, and the release of Philippine Congressman Crispin Beltran of Anakpawis, an outspoken Arroyo critic, from illegal detainment.
Protestors also recalled fierce remarks from Consul Badajos defending the Department of Justice’s issuance of rebellion charges against 51 BAYAN members and allies.
“We are working with the United States. We have the right to go after them [rebels],” Badajos explained.
Flounders countered Badajos’ comments, stating the trumped-up rebellion charges are not only untrue, but concocted to specifically set a pretext for government suppression tactics going after the broad opposition movement.
“What a disappointment. What we demanded was a commitment from the Consulate to relay our messages and concerns to the Arroyo herself in Malacanag. What we got was three hours of lip service. Like Arroyo, the extent of the regime overseas is completely insincere in matters of basic human rights,” stated Sharon Black also of the Million Worker March, a national labor rights formation and member of TONC.
The protestors also acutely criticized UN representative Baja”s appointment in the UN Human Rights Council earlier this year.
“It remains glaringly revolting to us from the international community that a representative from a country whose government continues to commit the most heinous human rights violations against its people could hold such a position. Baja must resign. For as long as the killings ensue, the death squads act with complete impunity, and the silent Arroyo government clings to power, no Philippine diplomat deserves any seat in that council,” Flounders stated.
Pictures of slain BAYAN leaders and a miniature black coffin blocked the Consulate window display.
The protestors left with a pledge to Rebong to return in the coming weeks.
“This is not the end. We will continue to return and protest in front of the Consulate as long as the killings continue,” stated BAYAN representative Berna Ellorin.
BAYAN and TONC were joined by members of CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities, Fight Imperialism Stand Together (FIST), and the Million Worker March in front of the Consulate in New York.