SF CHRP (San Francisco Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines) is a San Francisco based human rights advocacy group. Latest news and views on human rights in the Philippines.
In a press release BAYAN-USA, the progressive national democratic alliance in the U.S., stated:
As President Barack Obama takes his inaugural oath for the second time, progressive Filipino American organizations under the banner of BAYAN-USA reflect on his next term with a critical eye, especially as this day also commemorates Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and having been critical of Obama’s domestic and foreign policies during his first term.
“Obama’s first term not only continued many of the policies of the Bush administration, it sullied Dr. King’s revolutionary legacy,” stated Bernadette Ellorin, Chairperson of BAYAN-USA. “In 1967, in a famous speech delivered at the Riverside Church in New York City against the Vietnam War, Dr. King warned, ‘A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.’ President Obama’s track record shows disregard for King’s caveat.”
In 2012, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced a strategic pivot of 60% of the U.S. military to the Asia-Pacific region. Under the guise of national and global security against China, BAYAN-USA interprets this pivot as a tactic to secure imperialist interests in the region. Said Ellorin, “This pivot is an opportunity for the U.S. to sell more arms to its allies and build a military stronghold to maintain economic dominance. For hundreds of years, the U.S. has used the Philippines as strategic bases.”
More recently, despite the closing of U.S. bases in the 1990s, the U.S. has been increasing its visits to the Philippines and trampling over Philippine sovereignty through the continued implementation of the Visiting Forces Agreement. Last week, the USS Guardian rammed itself into the Tubbataha Reef of the Philippines, greatly harming an endangered natural ecosystem. The U.S. government has only apologized for the incident and refused to reveal vital information about the true conditions of the reef. “The U.S. exercises complete arrogance in this matter. It is equally disappointing that Philippine President Aquino’s administration has not responded swiftly to hold the U.S. accountable and has instead given way to U.S. imperialist reign,” said Ellorin.
In the U.S., a class action lawsuit is currently being filed against Grand Isle Shipyard (GIS), an oil refinery and exploration company based in New Orleans, Louisiana. Hundreds of Filipino workers are stepping out from the shadows to hold the company accountable for human trafficking, dangerous working conditions, slavery, wage theft, and discrimination, among other labor and human rights violations. For years, Filipino workers were forced to work for six to seven days a week, 12 to 14 hours a day without overtime pay, for up to four straight months on oil rigs offshore, and with thousands of dollars in over-blown “room and board” deductions unlawfully withheld from their paychecks. In November 2012, the Black Elk Platform on which GIS employees were working exploded, killing 3 Filipino workers. BAYAN-USA and other concerned groups claim that deliberate oversight caused the explosion. GIS has been guilty of over 300 labor violations that have not been investigated thoroughly by either the U.S. or Philippine governments.
“This is a blatant case of modern-day slavery. The U.S. was built on the backs of African slaves. The Capitol building that Obama made his inaugural oath on was built by slaves,” states Ellorin. “The U.S. prospers from the exploitation of cheap slave labor, and as a result, Filipino workers and other migrant workers face the dangerous brunt of this while big corporations that work hand-in-hand with Obama profit greatly.”
“We need to build a movement that will push for comprehensive immigration reform to combat the systemic trafficking of our migrant work force! We need to expose the U.S. military’s culpability in violating Philippine sovereignty! We need to fight for access to basic social services and jobs!” exclaimed Ellorin. In the legacy of Dr. King, BAYAN-USA will continue to contribute to building a movement in the U.S. against imperialism, while organizing the broadest support from the U.S. for the Philippine movement for genuine freedom and democracy, no matter who sits in the White House.