These Fil-Ams, together with members of the international solidarity mission say they’re on a “fact-finding mission” in the Philippines to investigate the massacre of 8 Lumad members in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato in Mindanao.
They are also studying the impact of the Duterte’s martial law in Mindanao.
Among them is GABRIELA New York chairperson Julie Jamora.
“We faced a lot of harassment at the military checkpoints, my cell phone was actually forcibly grabbed out of my hand by police officer for taking a picture and a video,” said Jamora. “It wasn’t illegal to take picture and documentation of what was happening.”
According to Jamora, on the way back from Coronadal to General Santos City on February 22, they were again stopped at another PNP/AFP checkpoint.
After being held for an hour, Jamora says showing their passports and immigration cards were not enough to verify their identities.
So they were escorted to the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Bureau of Immigration, where Jamora says they were held for at least 2 hours.
“We asked specifically why we were being detained, why were we stopped at the military checkpoints facing harassment every step of the way. They stated that it’s martial law, we have the authority, you’re in our country…”
Until finally they were told the real reason behind their detention.
“The police officer said to us, do you really wanted to know the real reason? It’s because you went to a critical area, after the AFP/PNP warned us not to go, because there’s martial law, terrorism that happened in Marawi, that we are linked with isis the terrorist organization. We are not ISIS, we are not terrorists.”
The Philippine consulate general in New York declined to comment at this time and has deferred BA to their counterparts in Manila.
At the time of this broadcast, emails to presidential spokesman Harry Roque and Major General Delfin Lorenzana have not been answered.
Members of GABRIELA in New York say Jamora and her group are not terrorists, but are human rights defenders.
“These detentions in the Philippines and arguably in the US are was to intimidate those who want to speak on the behalf of oppressed, those who want to pursue the truth, those who want to hold the leaders accountable,” said Melissa Reburiano.
These young Fil-Am activists say they are planning to bring the results of their human rights fact-finding mission to the US Congress.