Monday, December 10, 2007


"TAO PO ?/!"

An Art Exhibit presenting the Human Rights Conditions in the Philippines and Abroad
by the Artists' Collective of Anakbayan NY/NJ and Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE)

When: 16 December 2007
Where: Alwan for the Arts, # 16 Beaver Street, 4th Floor (between Broad and New Streets, 1 block east of Whitehall & Bowling Green)

"TAO" is the Tagalog term for "human," and "PO" is a word used to show respect. When used conjunctively "TAO PO" is an expression used in the Philippines (by the Tagalogs) when one calls out to see if anybody's home. It usually comes with a knock on the door.

On December 16, in celebration of the International Human Rights Day featuring members of the artists' collective of Anakbayan New York/New Jersey and Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE), "TAO PO" takes on double meaning, thus the punctuation marks "?/!"

"TAO PO?" (with the question mark) calls out and knocks on other people's doors to heed the calls of Human Rights victims in seeking for justice.

"TAO PO!" (with the exclamation point) on the other hand, simply and straightforwardly asserts the HUMANITY of those who have been subject to oppression and exploitation. This proclaims that they are HUMANS and that they deserve the RESPECT due to them as human beings with rights and a life to uphold.

Taking off from the reality of human rights conditions back in the Philippines, wherein 900+ activists and progressives had been killed and 200+ missing, including children, youth and women, since the de-facto Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo took office in 2001, and at the same time, from the human rights conditions of Filipinos abroad who have been the leading export of the country in form of cheap labor for the past few years/decades, "TAO PO?/!" calls out to all entities of society: "WE'RE NOT ANIMALS! WE ARE HUMANS!"

"Let the Stones Cry Out," a community forum on peace and justice in the Philippines by the NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP) will also be held at 7-930pm on the same day and venue.

For more information, please contact Christina Hilo (818-281-3134) or Hanalei Ramos (201-790-0995).


News Release
December 10, 2007

Reference: Katrina Abarcar, National Coordinator, GMA WATCH, email:

Human Rights Groups in the US Launch GMA WATCH, Citing Arroyo the Most Significant Violator of Human Rights in the Philippines Today

E-Letter-Writing Campaign Launched to Pressure US Congress to Further Restrict US Military Aid to Arroyo Government

Several Filipino-American human rights advocacy groups are banding together this International Human Rights Day (December 10th) to launch a broad coalition called GMA WATCH: A Network for Human Rights, Government Accountability, and Justice in the Philippines. The initiative also comes upon the pledge of former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark as well as several labor and church officials to pay close attention to the grave human rights crisis in the Philippines under the administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA).

Clark and others in the network were branded and watchlisted as terrorists by the Philippine Department of Justice for their outspoken condemnation of the leadership of GMA and human rights crisis in the Philippines by way of over 886 extrajudicial killings and nearlty 300 enforced disappearances since 2001.

"We convened and named our network GMA WATCH, instead of referencing the entire Philippines because the human rights campaign is not sharp if we do not isolate the commander-in-chief of the Philippine military-- the biggest obstacle to human rights in the Philippines today-- and that is GMA herself," stated GMA WATCH national coordinator Katrina Abarcar. Abarcar also serves as coordinator of the DC-based Katarungan: Center for Peace, Justice, and Human Rights in the Philippines, a grassroots advocacy group that has been participating within the Ecumenical Advocacy Network (EAN) formed last Spring after the US Senate hearing on the extrajudicial killings in the Philippines chaired by Senate Foreign Relations Committee head Barbara Boxer of California.

Membership to the network have also been integrated in broad advocacy initiatives to restrict more US military aid going to the Philippines, a campaign that led to the inclusion of restrictive language and distinct pre-conditions set on the Philippines to improve its human rights record before the release of Foreign Military Financing (FMF) the country, tagged as the 4th largest recipient of US military aid in the world. The pre-conditions were also significantly placed after the release of the country report of United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings Philip Alston earlier this year.

This week, members of Congress are attempting to finalize several appropriations bills that could affect US military aid to the Philippines. GMA WATCH is also appealing to others across the US to continue urging key lawmakers in Congress to restrict more US military funding to the Philippines, which are being used to fund human rights violations in the country. An e-advocacy campaign can be accessed at

Other GMA WATCH members and conveners include Fr. Benjamin Alforque of the US-Filipino Catholic Ministries in the Archdiocese of San Bernardino, the NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP), United Students Against Sweatshops, Teamsters Local 763, ML King County Labor Council in Washington State, the San Francisco Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, the Portland Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines and Seattle's Philippine US Solidarity Organization (PUSO). Popular Filipino-American hip-hop artists Kiwi (formerly of Native Guns) and the Seattle-based Blue Scholars are also part of the network.

Other planned upcoming activities of GMA WATCH include a February speaking tour of Edith Burgos, mother of Philippine labor activist and high-profile abductee Jonas Burgos, and a peace delegation to Mindanao in May 2008 to investigate the character of US military presence in the Philippines which have already generated positive responses from groups such as Human Rights Watch. ###

Sunday, December 9, 2007

National Lesbian Day in the Philippines

For Reference:
Joanne Alcantara
Chair, Pinay sa Seattle

Pinay sa Seattle Recognizes December 8, National Lesbian Day in the Philippines

Seattle, WA. On December 8, National Lesbian Day in the Philippines,
Pinay sa Seattle would like to honor our lesbian, bisexual,
transgender, intersex, gay and queer organizers in the struggle for
nationalism and democracy in the Philippines. According to Julie
Palaganas, founding member of Lesbians for National Democracy
(LESBOND), it was on December 6-8, 1996 that the Philippines held its
First National Lesbian Rights Conference in Cavite. From this
conference, National Lesbian Day was declared.

Today, LESBOND stands out as one of the only lesbian women's
organizations of its kind. Beginning in the early 90s as a support
group for lesbian women in Baguio City, it developed into a political
center for lesbian concerns and issues. In 1993, LESBOND organized a
forum called "Lesbianism and Homophobia," bringing a speaker to
discuss health care concerns for lesbian women. Understanding the need
to integrate lesbian issues into broader working women's concerns,
LESBOND joined with Innabuyog-GABRIELA to advocate for lesbian issues,
such as workplace discrimination and homophobia. LESBOND continues to
be an active force in pro-people demonstrations, linking issues of
poverty, corruption, land-grabbing, militarism and imperialism to
sexism and homophobia.

As sisters fighting in the same struggle for genuine democracy and
liberation in the Philippines, Pinay sa Seattle would also like to
honor our LGBTIQ kasamas* in the United States. With the majority of
the women in our collective identifying as lesbian, bisexual and/or
queer, we understand that in order to create a society where all
people are valued and their rights respected, homophobia and
heterosexism must be addressed. Joanne Alcantara, Chairperson of Pinay
sa Seattle states, "As queer Filipina women, we have even more reason
to join the National Democratic Movement in the Philippines. We are
part of the International League of People's Struggle, a unique
movement that is willing to address both imperialism and homophobia as
we work to build a more just society."

Happy National Lesbian Day!
Mabuhay to all the lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex, gay and
queer kasamas in the struggle!


* Kasama means companion or comrade. It is used in this case as an
affectionate term for fellow organizers in the movement for
Nationalism and Democracy.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

More than 200,000 Pinoy children victims of HR violations

More than 200,000 Pinoy children victims of HR violations
Thursday, December 06 2007 (www.philstar. com)

More than 200,000 Filipino children were victims of human rights
violations from 2001 to mid-2006, a majority of them caught in the
middle of armed conflicts, according to a report of the Children's
Rehabilitation Center (CRC).

The report was included in the book "Uncounted Lives: Children, Women
and Conflict in the Philippines, " commissioned by the United Nations
Children's Fund (Unicef).

The CRC is a non-government institution serving children and families
who are victims of state violence in the Philippines. It focuses its
services on children in the rural and urban areas who suffer physical
health problems, emotional disorders, and social maladjustments due to
traumatic events like arrest, torture, forced displacement, strafing,
bombing, massacre, disappearance, and other forms of human rights

The CRC has documented 800 incidents of human rights violations
involving 215,233 children as victims from 2001 to July 2006.

These cases include 58 children killed and another 58 who survived
attempts on their lives. Some 40 children were maimed and 17 children
were subjected to different forms of torture and humiliation.

The CRC said 215,060 children were forced to evacuate as a result of
counter-insurgency operations.

The CRC also reported that 10 children have disappeared or become
"desaparecidos. " Five children were victims of sexual harassment and
three were victims of rape by the military, 51 were victims of illegal
search and seizure, 63 were victims of coercion, 69 were victims of
illegal arrest and detention, 40 were victims of physical assault and
injury and 196 were victims of threats and intimidation.

In the period covered, the CRC also said there were 106 orphaned
children who witnessed the killing of their parents or relatives.

Unicef country representative Dr. Nicholas Alipui said that the
continuous persecution of children in war-torn areas makes them "grow
naturally into acquiring knowledge of war, conflict, how to use arms,
how to spy and how to report."

"This whole new phenomena which is really about children in armed
conflict is totally unacceptable to Unicef," Alipui told reporters,
adding that "children should be in school and any child that is
remotely or directly linked within an armed group should be released
and freed to be able to pursue childhood aspirations, go to school and
be peaceful."

Alipui said based on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of
the Child, "one child is more than enough to be involved in any armed

"Apart from the loss of the mother or parent I don't believe that
there is more devastating (experience) for a child than to be caught
in armed conflict. It is actually immaterial how many children we are
talking about because universally every child whether one, 10, 20 or
100, has the same right everywhere," he said.

Alipui said armed conflict adversely affects children's health,
education, protection and social well-being, and called on the
government to protect children from the effects of armed conflict and

"Let us keep the focus on the impact of armed conflict and violence
against children because for as long as that continues, this country
will not be at peace," he said.

Meanwhile, Alipui said they would furnish the government, including
the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police and
the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of
Health, and the Department of Education, copies of the book to give
their side on the results of the study. – Helen Flores

Copyright 2007. Philstar Global Corp. All rights reserved. This
article cannot be published or redistributed without the permission of
the publisher.