Contact: Rhonda Ramiro
Secretary General, BAYAN-USA
On the 37th anniversary of the declaration of martial law in the Philippines, BAYAN-USA called on the administration of President Barack Obama to break with tradition by ending over 100 years of US support for dictatorial regimes like that of Ferdinand Marcos in 1972 and President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo today.
“For the past eight years, Arroyo has impersonated Marcos with her brazen corruption and brutal human rights record. But the US should admit its own guilt for these atrocities, because American military and economic policies have made it possible for tyrants like Marcos and Arroyo to not only ascend to power, but to rule with impunity year after year,” said Berna Ellorin, Chair of BAYAN-USA.
With a reported 1, 013 extra-judicial killings, 202 enforced disappearances, 223 political prisoners, and 1,036 incidences of torture since 2001, the Arroyo regime’s human rights record rivals that of Marcos and has drawn sharp criticism from the United Nations, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and KARAPATAN. Among the victims is poet and human rights activist Melissa Roxas, the first known American victim of torture in the Philippines under Obama’s presidency. During that same time period, US military support for the Philippines has skyrocketed, increasing by a staggering 1,500% according to a 2007 report by the Center for Public Integrity.
“Obama’s carefully manicured speech telling ‘those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent’ that they are ‘on the wrong side of history’ of course falls on deaf ears, because in his next breath he calls Arroyo to affirm US commitment to the Visiting Forces Agreement and then designates the Philippines as the official coordinating country between the US and ASEAN,” continued Ellorin. “That’s like telling a bully to stop terrorizing children on the playground, but giving him a baseball bat so he can hit his next victim,” continued Ellorin.
Although US militarization in the Philippines has intensified since 2001, it began over 100 years ago when the US seized control of the Philippines after the Spanish-American War and usurped power from Philippine revolutionary forces. Numerous agreements between the US and the Philippines have guaranteed a constant American military presence in the Philippines since then, despite widespread opposition. The historic Philippine Senate vote in 1991 to not renew the US military bases agreement was undermined by the enactment of the Visiting Forces Agreement in 1999. US intentions to maintain its forces in the Philippines indefinitely were underscored at the end of last month, when US Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced that the US has been keeping a 600-strong Joint Special Operations Task Force in the Philippines since 1999 and would keep them there indefinitely. Reports that US troops were involved in a shooting in Jolo, Sulu that resulted in damage to a mosque last week on September 14 have been met with an attempted cover-up by Philippine authorities and silence by the US military.
“Rather than enforcing the status quo in Philippine-US relations, Obama should begin the process of reparations to the victims of Marcos and Arroyo,” stated Ellorin. “He could start by immediately withdrawing US troops, terminating the Visiting Forces Agreement, and cutting off all military aid to the Arroyo regime. There would also be a lot more money available for universal health care, if the US stopped sending tens of millions of dollars to the Philippines every year to enforce virtual martial law.”
BAYAN-USA is an alliance of progressive Filipino groups in the US representing organizations of students, scholars, women, workers, and youth. As an international chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN-Philippines), BAYAN-USA serves as an information bureau for the national democratic movement of the Philippines and as a campaign center for anti-imperialist Filipinos in the US. The online petition against the VFA can be found at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/JunkVFAnow/.