Gloria Macapagal Arroyo Condemned for Corruption, Human Rights Violations and Failing Filipino WWII Veterans During Bay Area Martial Law Anniversary
SAN FRANCISCO – On Thursday, September 25, 100 people gathered at the St. Patrick's Church to commemorate the 36th anniversary of declaration of Martial Law. While the Philippines suffered under Martial Law from 1972-1986 under then-President Ferdinand Marcos, San Francisco was an active center of the international anti-martial law movement and the site of regular protests against the daily slayings and abductions of those who dared challenge the tyranny of U.S.-backed Marcos regime.
Thirty-six years later, the Philippines is widely considered to be under de facto martial law again, as hundreds of social justice advocates, journalists and church leaders have once more fallen victim to abductions and extra-judicial killings. The common denominator linking all of the victims is that they have been outspoken critics against the corruption and repression of the President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
Entitled "Looking Back 36 Years After Martial Law: An Ecumenical Program on Human Rights," the program featured Reverend Dave Rodriguez of the United Methodist Church who spoke about his experience under the dark days of Martial as never-before-seen video footage of interviews with the Desaparecidos, families of those who have been disappeared from Marcos times to those under the U.S.-backed Arroyo regime.
Participants signed a petition calling for the release of James Balao of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance, the most recent victim of enforced disappearances in the Philippines. Balao has reported being surveilled by people he believed to be military intelligence personnel before he went missing on September 17th. His disappearance is attributed to his staunch advocacy for indigenous people's rights, social justice, and human rights.
Participants also signed postcards addressed to their Congressional representatives urging the withdrawal of U.S. military aid to the Philippines and instead requesting Congress to direct the funds towards Full Equity for Filipino WWII Veterans. Church and community groups were successful last year in passing human rights monitoring language attached to some of U.S. military aid to the Philippines. Immediately after the restrictive language was included in the Foreign Appropriations bill, Arroyo immediately contracted with a Washington D.C. lobby firm for half a million U.S. dollars. When criticized for wasting public funds to try to clean up her human rights record, Arroyo countered by saying that the D.C. lobby firm was hired to advocate for issues important to Filipinos such as Equity for Filipino World War II Veterans.
"Its ironic that it was while Arroyo was back in the U.S. that the Filipino WW II Veterans pension provisions were cut out of H.R. 1315 to the dismay of the whole Filipino community. Arroyo has done nothing for the Filipino Veterans. Her real agenda in repeated coming to the U.S., and its to ask for more U.S. military aid in order to maintain her hold on the Presidency despite her plummeting popularity." Said Rachel Redondiez of the Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines.
The program honored the martyrs of Martial Law and the over 1000 recent victims of extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances with a special performance by Chat and Pendong Abad of the legendary Philippine folk rock band Asin performing Siglo and Batingaw. Following the ecumenical program, the attendees lit candles for the victims of human rights violations and held candle-light vigil outside the church.
The commemoration took place during the same week when Arroyo was in the U.S. for the second time this year. Filipino American community members have criticized Arroyo for bringing an entourage of 71 people on this trip, an amount considered excessive for a country that remains in economic shambles after the devastation of last summer's hurricane, the food crisis, and the intensified conflict and destabilization in Mindanao. The expenses for a contingent of this size are projected to top $1 Million.
Outside the church, speakers from BAYAN USA, and GMAWatch including babae, a Filipino women's organization based in San Francisco, League of Filipino Students—SFSTATE, and AnakBayan- East Bay, condemned Arroyo for her blatant corruption, human rights abuses, and failure to advocate for Filipino WWII Veterans.