International Solidarity Delegation to the Philippines
As you know, the Filipino group, BAYAN (New Patriotic Alliance) is a member of UNAC. They had invited UNAC to send delegates this summer to join a delegation of international activists to visit the Philippines. The delegation was a response to the growing crises in their homeland: human rights abuses, multinational corporate globalization, land grabbing and other violations of indigenous rights, extra judicial killings, political prisoners, and more.
In Chicago, the Anti-War Committee has been working closely with several local groups that are close with BAYAN: the local chapter of NAFCON (National Alliance of Filipino Concerns) – a human rights group mainly addressing issues affecting issues concerning the Filipino community in the U.S. – and the local chapter of AnakBayan (Youth of the Nation) – a patriotic organization of Filipino youth. The local activists had approached us six months ago to consider being part of the mission.
I took part in the Chicago delegation, along with 3 Filipinas from here. We first joined in the International Solidarity Mission, which brought over 150 activists from 25 countries. Most of these were Filipinos; about 100 were from the U.S.; about 25 were from Canada; and there was a smattering from Australia, Kenya, the U.K., Hong Kong, Belgium, and elsewhere.
I wrote about my experiences for FightBackNews, including the mission I was part of in Western Mindanao:
After the four days in the rural areas, we traveled to Davao, the largest city in the southern island of Mindanao. Mindanao is the main focus of militarism in the country. That’s the island where the Muslim minority lives, and so the location of the U.S. counter insurgency “war on terror.” There we attended the International Conference on People’s Rights, and the conference of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines.
I also had the opportunity to interview a number of leaders in the movement there, including the head of the labor federation, the Kilusang Mayo Uno, the May First Movement.
The timing of our delegation was auspicious. Not only was their international delegation much larger than prior missions that they had organized; the movement in the Philippines had made advances – for example, the region I visited, Western Mindanao, until a few years ago was not one of the provinces where the movement has significant organization. In addition, the election of the new president, Duterte, was seen by the movement as a turning point. He is not part of the neo-liberal consensus that has been in power for 30 years. He has called for peace talks with the National Democratic Front; for releasing political prisoners; and has appointed 4 movement leaders to his 20 member cabinet.
The importance BAYAN placed on UNAC and the movement in the U.S. was evident by several tasks I was asked to do. I was at first tasked to be one of the press spokespersons for the international delegation. Later, I was upgraded to being the spokesperson for the international delegation.
I contributed a quote to a press release that Bernadette Ellorin distributed before we left the U.S.:
I took part in a press conference with an indigenous activist, and the bishop for the Philippine Independent Church for Mindanao:
I had met the indigenous activist, Josephine Pagalan, on the U.S. tour of Lumad or indigenous people that took place in April. Later, I saw her on TV in a late night meeting with Duterte following the SONA. She was part of a small group of Lumad that he agreed to meet with.
After the press conference, I was interviewed by several local publications, including one of the main dailies, the Philippine Enquirer:
Coincidentally, at the International Conference for Peoples' Rights, they had a book party for Jose Maria Sison's new book. I bought a copy, and it included the 2010 statement he made on behalf of the International League of People’s Struggles about the FBI raids on the ant-war and international solidarity activists!
Then, to top off the two weeks, I was asked to be the speaker for the international delegation at the 30,000 person rally they held outside the SONA:
The message I reiterated in my remarks was the U.S. “pivot” to Asia will require a response from the anti-war movement. The pivot is designed to counter the economic rise of China, and to maintain the relative hegemony that the U.S. holds over the Pacific region. The U.S. is moving to expand its bases and sea power in the region. The U.S. will need to maintain its control over the Philippines, using it as a platform to project military power in the region, thus the recently completed EDCA (Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement). The TPP is another way to strengthen the U.S. position in the Pacific.
The U.S. has been unable to achieve the pivot that Obama envisioned because the Middle East continues to be challenging for U.S. objectives, and the U.S. intervention in Eastern Europe – especially Ukraine – has taken more attention than Obama was thinking when he gave the pivot speech back in 2012.
Currently our movement is at a low point, but a likely administration of the hawk, Hillary Clinton, could see revived activity. Ties with the movement in the Philippines can’t but help us to prepare for the struggles ahead.
Finally, I would be remiss to fail to mention that the delegation from Chicago has only raised about 1/3rd of the funds we needed for the trip. If anyone can contribute, any amount will help.
In struggle –