Filipino activists mount SONA protests across America

By Steve Angeles, Henni Espinosa and Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

July23, 2013

Redwood City, Calif – Filipinos from across the United States staged protest actions following Philippine President Benigno Aquino’s State of the Nation Address before the joint session of congress.

‘False promises of hope’

In Los Angeles, Filipino American activists gathered before the Philippine Consulate denouncing Aquino’s speech.

“We’re just criticizing, exposing the deceit of president Aquino’s state of the union address. We can see injustices still happening in the Philippines, poverty, corruption and the false promises of hope,” said Joshua Jimenez of Bayan-USA.

They said that despite the president touting high remittances and improved economies, and recent economic visits by Philippine officials to the US, majority Filipinos remain in poverty.

“One of the  things we’re opposing is the labor export program of president Aquino where he systematically exports Filipino people and uses them and their labor, remittances to hold up the economy,” added Terry Cervas of women’s rights group Gabriella, “while they export Filipino people they don’t do anything to protect their rights.”

‘Culture of impunity’

In San Francisco, over a hundred Filipino-American activists marched to the San Francisco consulate, saying the Aquino administration is not doing enough to stop human rights violations in the country.
They alleged that since Aquino took office, there have been 142 cases of extrajudicial killings, that they said were committed by the Philippine military against those who speak up against the government.

“Statistics speak for themselves.  There’s been no action from the government at all,” pointed out Pastor Dennis Duhaylungsod of the National Ecumenical Forum for Filipino Concerns.

As part of their SONA action, the protesters launched a petition addressed to U.S. senators, telling them to stop sending U.S. tax dollars to the Philippines — until the injustices and human rights violations stop.

No relief for human trafficking victims

In Hoboken, New Jersey, a group of Filipino human trafficking victims gathered to share their thoughts about Aquino’s speech.

 

After getting their T-visas and work permits, many of them have now found jobs — mostly as servers in restaurants around New Jersey.

 

But the case they filed against their alleged abusive employer remains unresolved.

Better known as the Florida 15, the story of their plight inspired many other Filipino trafficking victims in the US to come out and share their stories too.

 

Lester Campos, a survivor of modern day slavery said, many of them were hoping that President Aquino’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) would outline the administration’s plans to help OFWs.

 

“Ang nakakasama lang ng loob, sa amin dito victims ng human trafficking, panay silang papunta ng Pilipino sa ibang bansa, pero pagpunta namin sa ibang bansa wala silang tulong,” Campos said, “Sa Sona ni President Aquino wala kaming narinig na konting tulong sa mga biktima.”

 

Members of the Florida 15 said they hoped to hear about concrete programs and policies that would stop illegal recruitment and trafficking of Filipinos abroad.

 

“Sa totoo, mas palawakin niya yung saklaw ng ahensiya niya na tumutulong sa mga katulad namin at hindi lang puro pangako,” said Florida 15 member, Anna Sibayan.

 

“Yung pondo para sa mga Overseas Filipino Workers eh talagang manipis, halos wala, pag may nangangilangan ng tulong na mga migrante dito halos wala silan mailabas na legal assistance fund,” added Bayan USA’s Yves Nibungco.

 

Overseas Filipino Workers who are often touted by politicians as “modern-day heroes” for the dollars they remit to the Philippines say, it would be great if government provided them with more than just lip service.

2 Comments on this post.

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  • jorge buesa
    23 July 2013 at 7:27 pm - Reply

    Yes your all right, but look at the politicians around president Aquino, some of them is no good, to make it right for philippines, it starts with good politicians that can help the people and the president Aquino. That’s the #1 that the people of philippines has to do ! Get rid of the bad politicians, when i was in the philippines in april this year 2013,i couldn’t believe the politicians was buying votes give the people 200 pesos for they vote, WOW !

    • Delia
      24 July 2013 at 6:54 pm - Reply

      @Jorge , Philippines is no exception on vote buying lol, it happens here in USA and in other corrupt country as well , here in USA they give a cell phones , a cartoons of cigarettes , a bottle of whiskey , and a gift cards with the amount of $50.00 to $100.00 dollars for a vote. Politicians are a jokes , but of course people in need will take the bribes regardless if its legitimate or illegals .

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