Antipolo City, July 8, 2010—Filipino-Americans in New York had been partying since Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had stepped down from power. However, they have forewarned the new president, Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III, to be more careful on the policies that he will be implementing for he is in close watch.
Members of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-(BAYAN) USA, GABRIELA USA, Philippine Forum New York and New Jersey, KABALIKAT Domestic Workers’ Support Network, Anakbayan New York/New Jersey, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE), and New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP) held this different kind of street partying, complete with sounds and music and other performances, last July 2—two days after that Mrs. Arroyo is officially an “ex-president” of the Republic of the Philippines.
Mrs. Arroyo has the worst track record of HRVs
During the time of Mrs. Arroyo, there about 1,000 activists had been arbitrarily killed, allegedly by military and paramilitary men; more 900 had been missing; and thousands of civilians had been forcibly evacuated due to heightened military operations. Blame it to Operational Plan Bantay Laya (OPLAN BANTAY LAYA) 1 and 2, the counterinsurgency program of the past administration, says the members of BAYAN-USA.
“They have intended to crush the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) [using BANTAY LAYA] but they obviously failed. Now, in Noynoy Aquino’s term, we demand justice for the victims and to stop the OBL or anything similar, and to have Gloria Arroyo prosecuted for having these people — who had been critical of the government and who are only fighting for their rights — killed and abducted under her chain of command,” said Garry Labao of BAYAN USA.
In addition in giving justice to the victims of political killings, BAYAN-USA also asked Aquino to release all political prisoners, including the 43 health workers arrested due to rebellion charges. BAYAN-USA also reiterated the need to pursue peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Jackie Mariano of GABRIELA-USA that Mrs. Arroyo must also be held accountable for her alleged sins against women and children, citing the Morong 43 case.
Two women, who are about to give birth, Judielyn Carina Oliveros and Mercy Castro, were among the 43 health workers who were allegedly tortured, physically and mentally, and had suffered some forms of sexual harassment.
Oliveros is about to give birth this coming July 27 and Castro is on October.
“Arroyo has done more crimes than we can imagine, with women and children as her targets. It’s such a shame we had her as President. Now we’re more than happy to send her off,” Zabrina Collazo, a member of Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE-NYC).
One of the most corrupt presidents
During the nine years of the Arroyo administration, it was hounded with tons of controversies: the NBN-ZTE deal, the fertilizer fund scam, and other projects that had been allegedly the source of “hot money” for the First Family and their cohorts in different government agencies.
Though former Commission on Elections chair Benjamin Abalos and former National Economic Development Authority chief and now outgoing Social Security System president, Romulo Neri had been charged with graft and corruption before the Ombudsman, Mrs. Aquino and her family had been off the hook.
“Although there’s a new administration, the struggle is not over. We must fight and prevent corruption from happening again in this new government. Looking back, we have only seen lavish spending by the Arroyo administration instead of attending to the needs of the people and preventing national man-made calamities. We do not want any more of those in Noynoy’s term,” Joyce Pena of Philippine Forum New York in a statement said.
No to intensified labor export
Fil-Ams also asked President Noy to stop the massive labor export.
During Mrs. Arroyo’s time, there had been a massive diaspora of Pinoys and Pinays. The Philippine Overseas Welfare Administration (POEA) statistics show that everyday, there about 3,500 of our kababayans had been leaving the country to work abroad.
As countries in Asia, Europe and even in some parts of Africa and the Americas had been praising Pinoys and Pinays for the quality of their “service,” a significant number of the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) had been subjected to different kinds of abuse.
In the US, the cases of Sentosa 27++ and the Avalon 11, the Filipino nurses who had fell victims of illegal recruitment and unfair labor practices, had become popular because of the names involved in the case.
“These health workers had been asking the former government to help them but they were turned down. They even filed a case before the Philippine National Labor Relations Commission, but to no avail. Their case, though backed by strong evidences, had been scrapped,” Jonna Baldres, NAFCON NorthEast Coordinator, said.
Meanwhile, Michelle Saulon, coordinator for the KABALIKAT Domestic Workers’ Support Network also said that the previous government had not been very efficient in addressing the needs of Filipinos working here in the United States.
“The cases of Ate Fely Garcia in 2007 and Ate Putli Anjiali 2008, domestic workers who died while working here in New York, were concrete examples of the Philippine government under the Arroyo administration not heeding the calls of the common Filipino people. These campaigns would not be possible if not for the Filipino community coming together. And their remains would not be sent back to the Philippines had the Filipino community here in New York not pressured the Philippine consulate,” Saulon lamented.
The groups also called on Noynoy to fulfill his promises to OFWs, that he will be making more jobs in the Philippines so that labor export could be prevented.
“What we truly need is a Philippine government that places National Industrialization and Genuine Agrarian Reform as its primary agenda. These alone can generate jobs enough to sustain economic development and to pull the nation back from the ashes of economic instability that Arroyo had left us in. Only when these matters are addressed can LEP and the forced migration of Filipinos be stopped and prevented,” stressed Baldres. (See another version of this story in CBCPNews.com)