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Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Dear friends,

Greetings of peace!

As part of the JUSTICE FOR HAZEL, NO TO VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND MIGRANTS CAMPAIGN of MIGRANTE Japan (Interim Coordinating Body or ICB), we are circulating online this support petition to demand Justice for "Hazel" and other victims of rape and sexual violence perpetrated by abusive American soldiers stationed in the various US military bases in Japan and elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region.

We need to gather the widest and broadest support for "Hazel" from local and international friends and other concerned individuals and groups to add pressure and to block attempts to cover up this heinous crime.

MIGRANTE Japan (ICB) will appreciate it very much if you can help us circulate this support petition among members of your organization, friends, and networks.

Thank you very much!

Rosanna Tapiru
Campaign Secretariat


To: Peace-loving Peoples of the World

On February 18, 2008, "Hazel", a 22-year old Filipina, was raped by a US soldier barely 3 days after she arrived in Okinawa, Japan, to work as a cultural dancer. It's been more than 180 days now but so far no formal charge of rape has been filed against the accused, Specialist Sgt. Ronald Edward Hopstock Jr. The US Army Command in Okinawa is now conducting pretrial probe and will decide from now until November 2008 whether to press charges against the accused and conduct military court martial or to dismiss the case. Earlier, the Naha Public Prosecutor's Office had hastily dropped the case of "Hazel" (not her real name) citing "lack of sufficient evidence" as reason even though police and medical reports showed clear indications of sexual and physical abuse on the victim.

We, supporters and defenders of Hazel, the latest victim in a long string of sexual crimes committed by abusive U.S. military soldiers in Japan, are worried about Hazel and what will be the outcome of her case. We are afraid that like in many previous cases of rape and sexual abuse involving American soldiers, the accused may just go unpunished. The slow-paced legal process and the lack of resoluteness on the part of the Japanese prosecutors to pursue the case are clear indications of our worst fear.

We are also frustrated that the Philippine government has done very little effort to support the case of Hazel and to defend her rights. Instead of protecting her and providing all moral, legal and material support she needs, the Arroyo government through the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Office of the Philippine Honorary Consulate in Okinawa and the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo, has shown lack of sensitivity and resolve to safeguard the interest of the victim by not making any concrete legal action to pursue the case after it was dropped by the Japanese prosecutors. It virtually surrendered the case to the U.S. Army, and has persistently issued false statements to cover up for its inaction and neglect of the plight of Hazel and other Filipino migrants in Japan.

While we condemn the American soldier for the crimes he committed, we hold the Philippine government principally responsible for what has happened to Hazel and the ordeal that she has to go through for the rest of her life. Like millions of other migrant Filipinos, Hazel took the risk of leaving the country to work overseas because of poverty and serious unemployment problems in the Philippines. She went through all the legal procedures and paid all her dues to be able to legally work in Japan. But sadly, Hazel fell in the hands of unscrupulous talent promoters and club owners because the Philippine government failed to do its job and was nowhere in sight when Hazel needed assistance and protection.
We dare concerned officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo and the Office of the Honorary Consulate in Okinawa to immediately resign for failing to perform their mandated duties and obligations to its citizens in Japan. If they cannot protect and defend a rape victim like Hazel, then they have no right to hold any position in government.

We also challenge the U.S. and Japanese governments to side with justice and to refrain from making any cover up of the crime. We appeal for the speedy resolution of the case so that justice may be served to Hazel and members of her family who are also victims like her.

We support the call for JUSTICE for Hazel and other victims of rape and sexual violence committed by abusive American soldiers stationed in the various U.S. military bases and facilities throughout Japan and other countries in Asia. We demand that the accused be formally charged in an appropriate and impartial court and be punished commensurate to the crime he committed.

We will be watching the case closely. We will not allow any cover up much less a miscarriage of justice. In the past, we have seen many cases of rape and sexual abuse perpetrated by American soldiers in the Philippines, Japan, South Korea and elsewhere that have gone unpunished. We vow to relentlessly fight to end this impunity.

We also reiterate our demand to the Arroyo government to implement programs that truly guarantee protection to all migrant Filipinos regardless of their legal status; and to STOP treating migrants like commodities or mere source of dollar revenues for the bankrupt Philippine economy.

We commend the courage and conviction shown by Hazel to fight for justice not only for herself but also for other victims of rape and sexual violence committed by American soldiers, to advance the legitimate cause of women and migrants around the world, and to defend Philippine sovereignty and the dignity of the Filipino people.

We strongly believe that true justice for Hazel and other victims can only be achieved through the combined efforts of people struggling for peace and acting in solidarity with one another to resist all forms of abuse and violence against women and migrants.

We, therefore, appeal to all Filipinos and peace-loving peoples of the world to rally behind Hazel and to stand up for the rights and dignity of women and migrants around the world.


The Undersigned

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Mabuhay, Ka Bel!

Dear Friends, Sisters and Comrades,
Apologies for cross posting.

Please find attached GABRIELA Philippines' statement on the death of our beloved comrade Crispin "Ka Bel" Beltran. He passed away yesterday, May 20, due to head injuries sustained when he accidentally fell from the roof of his house while repairing it. His remains are at the Philippine Independent Church in Taft Avenue, Manila. He will be cremated on May 27.

Emmi de Jesus
Secretary General



GABRIELA National Alliance of Women mourns with the people with the passing away of Ka Crispin Beltran, representative of Anakpawis Party List, representative of the working class Filipinos.

Ka Bel was relentless in serving the oppressed people, enduring the most difficult of trials, the latest of which was his detention for more than a year for rebellion case orchestrated by the Arroyo regime. His dedication to the working class was such that he inspired and encouraged his own children and grandchildren to become part of the people's struggle.

Ka Bel was an ideal man – passionate in his commitment to serve, devoted to the cause of the people, dependable in the most trying of times.

Ka Bel's death is a great loss but more importantly his life, tirelessly dedicated to serving the oppressed peoples, will forever serve as an inspiration to continue the people's struggle for genuine freedom and democracy.

Mahal ka namin, Ka Bel, we will sorely miss you.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Thank you for a GREAT MAYDAY!

FiRE received a lot of press (that we arer still trying to track down!) But here's Jackie on the NYT Slideshow!


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Senate Historic Vote on FilVets a Result of Filipino Unity for Full Equity and People's Struggle

News Release
April 28, 2008

Reference: Berna Ellorin, Secretary-General, BAYAN USA, email:

Senate Historic Vote on FilVets a Result of Filipino Unity for Full Equity and People's Struggle
Fil-Ams Demand House of Representatives to Complete the Process of Righting a Historical Wrong

The US Chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, or BAYAN USA, commends the perseverance of the Filipino WWII Veterans, their families, and the many grassroots organizations who have fought decades for full recognition and equity for Filipino World War II Veterans. The recent passing of US Senate Bill 1315 (S.1315), the Veterans Benefits Enhancement Act of 2007, is a major step towards righting this historical wrong. It is important to underscore that it was only through unrelenting advocacy and massive struggle of many individuals and organizations including our own member organization, that the Filipino WWII Veterans will get their full recognition. And as we await the vote of the House of Representatives, it is important to intensify our advocacy for justice and to demand that the bill will not be watered down.

"It was the blood, sweat, and tears of the Filipino World War II Veterans themselves, their families, and their supporters, marching on the streets for over six decades that made the US Senate turn its head our direction," states BAYAN USA Chair Chito Quijano. "Otherwise, the appalling institutional racism in the United States and historical unequal relationship between the US and Philippine governments would continue to enforce the painful 60 year-old status quo of mass deprivation of basic pension benefits for our aging veterans, many of whom have already passed away."

Last week, in a historic vote, the US Senate voted an overwhelming 96 to 1 in favor of passing S. 1315, a bill that would finally provide Filipino World War II Veterans their veterans affairs (VA) pension. Before that, the issue of full equity for Filipino World War II Veterans stood as the single most unifying concern for a broad Filipino-American population of nearly four million in the United States. Numerous Filipino groups took the concern annually to Capitol Hill as well as organized marches and rallies around the veterans' cause.

The Philippines was the first and only direct colony of the United States government acquired through a violent takeover at the turn of the 20th century. At the time of World War II, the Philippines, then a US Commonwealth, provided over 140,000 Filipino men under the US Armed Forces of the Far East (USAFFE) Program, to fight alongside US soldiers in defeating the Japanese Imperial Army. While considered US nationals at the time, the Filipino veterans were only foreign nationals recruited to the US Armed Forces that did not avail of the US government's promise of pension benefits once their service to the United States was completed.

Of the 140,000 Filipino men who fought during World War II, there are less than 18,000 surviving, and many continue to die weekly impoverished and uncompensated for their bravery.

In 1946, the same year the Philippines was granted nominal independence from the US government, Congress and President Truman passed the infamous Rescission Act, which voided Filipino veterans who served alongside US soldiers in the same cause to receive pension benefits. It stated -- "the service of Filipinos shall not be deemed to be or to have been service in the military or national forces of the United States or any component thereof or any law of the United States conferring rights, privileges or benefits."

"We must continue to expose this shameful episode in US history, and hold the US government accountable for its many unforgivable acts," Quijano added.

S. 1315 is a bill that would enhance life insurance benefits for disabled veterans, burial allowances and household grants, and provides for over $221 million in new pension benefits.

As the issue now moves into the House's hands, Filipino-Americans are stepping up their demand that the deal be sealed.

"We cannot back down now. We need to keep the momentum going and keep the pressure on Congress. We urge all freedom-loving citizens to contact their local state representatives and demand full equity for the Filipino veterans especially when the issue is up for a vote in the Lower House this year. We will not cease our collective efforts and actions until justice for our brave veterans is finally attained," Quijano ended. ###

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

New York Pinays Redefine the "Struggling Artist"

For Immediate Release

Reference: Valerie Francisco, Secretary General, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment, 925-726-5768,

New York Pinays Redefine the "Struggling Artist"

New York, NY--On April 19, 2008, a women's organization, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE), held a cultural night dedicated to the artistic talents of Filipino American women. Pinay artists from all over the US showcased their work, alongside New York Filipina artists.

Using art as a vehicle, Diwang Pinay urged Filipino American women in New York to connect their struggles in the US to the ones faced by their counterparts in the Philippines. The evening brought together over 100 people in Greenwich Village's historic Judson Memorial Church, and began with a Brooklyn-based artist, Fly Lady Di, setting up a blank canvas and gradually painted an abstract Philippine flag.

The audience was called to attention as members of Kinding Sindaw, a Moro dance troupe, began playing the kulintang as a backdrop to traditional ceremonial dances. Then, Pinay artists like singer/songwriter, Taospuso, and 1st Quarter Storm, a hip hop duo based inSeattle, Washington performed politically charged work which forced attention to the unresolved human rights situation in the Philippines. The night affirmed an intact community of Filipino women able to nurture artistic growth across their mediums in the New York City area, as well as across the nation.

The featured speaker of the night, GABRIELA secretary general Emmi De Jesus, was flown in from the Philippines and ended the New York leg of her US speaking tour at the first annual Diwang Pinay. After a few days of attending forums representing various local communities organized by FiRE, De Jesus brought a sobering testimony of Filipino women's resistance amidst the corruption and the atrocious human rights record of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

"Although GMA is a woman president, she is a shame to Filipino women in the Philippines and all over the world," De Jesus stated, "GMA's blatant neglect of basic rights to life, education, employment and the repression of women's right to fight for social justice is an attack on Filipino women globally."

FiRE, as a part of the first overseas chapter of GABRIELA, committed to calling attention to the human rights violations enacted on women leaders and activists in thePhilippines. Diwang Pinay was intended to be an evolving space tackling issues faced by Filipinas in the United States and abroad. Ultimately, FiRE hopes to encourage women to continue developing the culture of resistance surrounding these turbulent times by bringing awareness to how these violations impact women's lives daily.

FiRE's first annual Diwang Pinay in New York precedes the Diwang Pinay being held in San Francisco on April 25 with a women and art theme, organized by babae-San Francisco and League of Filipino Students and San Francisco State University.


Friday, April 18, 2008

People Power Tour 1!


April 18, 2007

Premier Filipino American emcees, Kiwi (formerly of Native Guns) and Geologic (aka Prometheus Brown of Seattle's Blue Scholars) launch social justice benefit, People Power Tour.

Media Contact:

Bernadette Ellorin – Secretary General of BAYAN USA –
Brian Myers – People Power Tour – National Coordinator -

Two of the West Coast's premier Filipino American emcees, Geologic aka Prometheus Brown of Seattle's Blue Scholars and San Francisco's Kiwi, formerly of Native Guns, are teaming up again to rally youth and students to raise awareness with a nationwide People Power Tour. Geologic elaborated, "We are volunteering to do this concert because we have a responsibility, beyond music, to raise awareness and hopefully incite action that addresses the human rights crisis and government corruption in our homeland."

Over the next 3 weeks, this dynamic duo will criss-cross the West Coast and Midwest, collaborating with local groups and emcees for 13 shows in 11 cities. Proceeds from the tour will be donated to Bayan-USA, an alliance of progressive Filipino American organizations advocating for social justice and democracy in the Philippines.

Both Kiwi and Geo are active Filipino community organizers, drawing connections between the struggles of Filipinos in the US and their compatriots back home. They share the view that art is not only a reflection of the world, but a tool which can shape a more just future society. Kiwi shares, "For me personally, I found my identity and was eventually politicized through hip hop, and I feel like I owe it to this culture to make music and do shows that will hopefully have the same impact on this generation of youth and hip hop fans."

From the rapidly gentrifying street-corner to the Ivory Tower of academia, Kiwi and Geo bring forth a message of resistance and self-determination in the tradition of pro-people hip-hop music by such artists as Dead Prez, Public Enemy and KRS-One.

Kiwi adds, "The name of the tour was inspired by the "People Power" movement that drove out two corrupt Presidential regimes in the Philippines. Because part of the focus of this tour is the corruption of the current GMA regime, we felt like the name made a lot of sense." A rapidly growing movement comprising of all sectors of the Filipino community are mobilizing to oust the corrupt administration. In the two previous non-violent People Power movements, the Filipino people ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos (1986) and the corruption-ridden Joseph Estrada (2001).

While 2007 has seen a decline in politically-motivated killings (a decline, not a stop), in 2008 political and economic conditions in the Philippines have worsened. The GMA administration is wrought in corruption scandals, including the rice crisis, election fraud, corporate nepotism and kickbacks. Increased US military presence threatens Philippine civilians' lives and livelihood. The February, 4, 2008, Sulu Massacre and numerous military rape cases are just some of the most recent violence.

Proceeds from the tour will be donated to support Bayan-USA's local and international campaigns advocating for social justice and democracy in the Philippines. People Power Tour, Part 1 includes shows on International Workers Day - May 1st, and through Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Contact Brian Meyers ( to book People Power Tour, Part 2, during Filipino heritage month (October 2008).



UWM Fireside Lounge
2200 E Kenwood Blvd
Milwaukee, WI - FREE | 8PM

SUNDAY - APRIL 20, 2008
Adobo Express
5343 N Lincoln Ave.
Chicago, IL
w/ Bagwis
All-ages | 7PM | $10 donation | BYOB


FRIDAY - APRIL 25, 2008
RAW Sushi
523 W 1st Ave.
Spokane, WA
8PM | $7 | 21+ event
w/ Dj Daps1

MONDAY - APRIL 28, 2008
Berbati's Pan
213 SW Ankeny St.
Portland, OR
w/ 1st Quarter Storm, Chev, and DJ Daps1
8pm / all ages

TUESDAY - APRIL 29, 2008 (Daytime Show)
Portland CC
Portland, OR
w/ 1st Quarter Storm

TUESDAY - APRIL 29, 2008 (Evening Show)
Chop Suey
Seattle, WA
w/ 1st Quarter Storm, Chev, Language Arts?
8pm/ all ages / $TBA

WEDNESDAY - April 30, 2008

The Callaloo Caribbean Kitchen
1212 N State Street
Bellingham, WA 98225
w/ Yogoman Burning Band
1st Quarter Storm, Chev, Language Arts and Dj Daps1
$10 / Doors 9:00PM Show at 10:00PM / 21+

THURSDAY - MAY 1, 2008
Geologic performing w/ Blue Scholars
Seattle, WA 4PM
more information:

FRIDAY - MAY 2, 2008

Sacramento State University Sacramento, CA w/ Manifest One and Caprice
$12 adv / $15 at the door / all ages / 8pm

SATURDAY - MAY 3, 2008
Hip-hop in The Park -Berkeley, CA - 12PM | Free!

MONDAY - MAY 5, 2008
Cafe Du Nord
2170 Market St.
San Francisco, CA
$15 | 21+
w/ Kasamas & Nomi of Power Struggle


La Pena
3105 Shattuck Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94705 USA 510-849-2568 /
$15 / all ages / 9pm

SUNDAY - MAY 11, 2008
Knitting Factory
Los Angeles, CA
Details TBD

Kiwi's website:
Geologic's website:
Bayan-USA website:


Monday, April 14, 2008

FiRE's Birthday!

Today, FiRE turns one year old! Congratulations to all of us and all of you who make this organization a success! :)

Long live international solidarity!

We know this page has been Diwang Pinay consumed for the last couple of days, but we'd like to invite you to another even earlier this Saturday. This would be a fantastic opportunity to meet Emmi De Jesus, GABRIELA Philippines' Secretary General. It's before Diwang Pinay, and a fantastic thing to attend in the event we won't see you later that night.

You are invited to a reception to meet and greet

Emmi De Jesus
Secretary-General of GABRIELA Philippines
Saturday, APRIL 19 3-5 pm
Solidarity Center
55 W. 17th Street, between 5th and 6th Ave, 5th Flr.
Take N, Q, R, W to 14th Street/Union Sq.
Take F train to 6th Ave./14th St.

GABRIELA Philippines has been a model for other women's movements all over the globe in its near-quarter century of existence through brutal regimes and dictator- ships in the Philippines. It is a national alliance of over
200 women's organizations all over the archipelago. GABRIELA women's militancy has represented the woman's voice against the fascist Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo regime, they continue to rally against the political repression and the increasing militarization in the Philippines.

As an overseas chapter of GABRIELA, FiRE will be hosting the secretary general of GABRIELA Philippines, Emmi De Jesus, a long-time feminist, activist active momentous forum with the Women FightBack Network, she will speak about GABRIELA’s work in the Philippines numbers of Filipino women in the U.S.

Further, the forum will serve to inform our broad and international work towards a women's international movement.

Please join us on Saturday, April 19 from 3-5pm at the Solidarity Center to learn more about the women's situation and movement in the Philippines and build a women's international solidarity movement!

For more information, please contact Valerie at or visit

This event is co-sponsored by Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE) in New York City, GABRIELA-USA and the Women's Fightback Network. Everyone invited.

Rsvp by emailing
by Thurs., April 17

Official DIWANG PINAY after party: Katra Lounge

Please join us for the official DIWANG PINAY after party at Katra Lounge. Help us welcome back two of Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment's founding members: Robin Castel (now living in the Bay Area, CA) and Sandra Panopio (currently in London, England.) Thank you to these two women for taking the time to return to ring in our first anniversary! We can't wait to see you all!

Katra Lounge
11 pm
Sorry, 21+ only
217 Bowery
(6 to Spring St. / F to 2nd Ave / NR to Prince St. / JMZ to Delancey)

Many thanks to the fabulous Isis for landing this space!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Jonna Baldres!

Our loyal kasama and the current SecGen of AnakBayan NY NJ! In lieu of a trraditional bio, she instead submitted a short description of her work which will be on display at Diwang Pinay:

"Baril, Baraha, Biktima"
Everyday, a woman activist's life in the Philippines is at stake. Ironically, the perpetrator of the hundreds of our fallen and missing fellow Filipinas fighting for their rights in the homeland is also a woman. Apparently, violence inflicted upon women is not only a matter of sexism but of class struggle -- the poor versus the rich, the oppressed versus the exploiter, the people versus the hegemony. And at these times when no one is spared, it is not impossible that the next victim of this growing state terrorism could be YOU.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

1st Qtr Storm!

All the way from SEATTLE El Dia and Rogue Pinay will be in NYC this SATURDAY for DIWANG PINAY!

1st Quarter Storm is a Filipina hip-hop duo currently based in Seattle, WA. They first appeared on the scene as rogue pinay and El Dia in late 2006, taking to the mic like babies take to the nipple. Their commitment to social justice and cultural work, combined with their love and respect for hip-hop, led to a number of significant collaborations, which organically grew into a partnership in early 2007.

This pair of bisexual Filipinas use their art to speak truth about today's world, contextualizing their struggles in the current conditions of their homeland and promoting a message of conscious action for all. Known for their fierce performances and raw delivery, they call themselves the 1st Quarter Storm in honor of the legacy of warrior women and men who have dedicated their lives to defending the Philippines against conquest and corruption. With Tagalog and English lyrics and a wide range of musical influences, their music grasps imperialism by the horns in hopes of casting it away for good.

Starting here in NYC, 1st Quarter Storm will be sweeping the nation with a walis ting-ting, with plans to drop a full-length album in 2009. They will open in late April for Geologic (Blue Scholars) and Kiwi as a part of the People Power Tour, raising funds and mobilizing support for the Filipino people in their fight to oust current dictator Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The 1st Quarter Storm mixtape, which includes both solo and collaborative efforts, is now available. For booking, contact More information can be found on

Our Keynote Speaker, Emmi De Jesus!

Emmi Amaya De Jesus was born to parents of humble and hardworking peasant backgrounds from different Philippine provinces. Due to economic conditions both moved to the capital city Manila for a better life where they met and married. Even in the city, the De Jesus family struggled economically with her father working as a taxi driver and her mother being a home care provider. The eldest daughter of 7 children Emmi took on responsibilities of helping her mother raise her siblings and maintain the household. She excelled in school and was conscious of her family’s economic struggles, once citing that even though school was free sometimes her siblings didn’t have enough money for transportation to go to school. Despite this Emmi was salutatorian of her elementary school and passed the exam to enter Manila Public Science High School, one of the more prestigious public high schools. She went to the University of the Philippines for college and graduated with a BS in Physics.

During her college years, President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law to quell the uprising social activism that challenged his corrupt government. Emmi was a part of “First Quarter Storm” a time period of militant student activism during martial law. She honed a lot of her organizing skills as a student and had the opportunity to work with trade unions and learn more about the exploitation and oppression of Filipino laborers.

In 1977 as part of a May Ist labor day action, she and two other colleagues were putting stickers on jeepneys (Philippine public transportation) that highlighted workers issues and demands. Unfortunately one of the passengers was a police agent and arrested two of the three activists when they ran from the jeepney. This arrest exposed Emmi to how brutal the military was and how Martial Law was being used as means to exercise state power through military might. Emmi’s house was raided and her sister was picked up for questioning and later Emmi’s husband was arrested with very vague charges. The military subjected to mental and psychological torture, often letting her hear how they tortured other arrested activists.

Emmi was released ahead of her husband because of humanitarian reason when she found out she was pregnant. Her husband was released together with other political detainees during the visit of international human rights lawyer as part of the people's organizations' campaign on human rights and against fascism by the Marcos' government.

This was where Emmi started her involvement with the women's movement. She was one of the founding members of SAMAKANA, formed in September 1983. Originally, the name stood for Samahan ng Malayang Kababaihang Nagkakaisa (United Free Women) and composed of women of various professions but majority were women from the urban poor communities. SAMAKANA was one of the organizers of the all-women march in October 28, 1983 where they were able to gather around 10,000 women from various sectors carrying the demand to end Marcos dictatorship.

This led to further coordination and processing among women's groups until the decision was arrived at to coalesce and form an all-womens group.In March, 1984, GABRIELA-Philippines was born, a national alliance of women's organizations where SAMAKANA was a founding member.

Emmi continued to work as an organizer of women in urban poor communities. With 3 children growing up and with a very supportive husband who agreed to be the primary income earner for the family, she had the opportunity to continue and develop her work in the women's movement. Emmi made it a point to expose her children to the work she would do and bring them whenever possible; be it in the community, in the meetings, or in street actions. She shared with them the issues and the work that is done vis-a-vis the national situation, the women's situation.

In 1987 Emmi became part of the GABRIELA National Office. She held various positions ranging from part of the administration to coordinatorship of the Campaigns Department. She also did organizing work among women professionals, young women based in schools and women workers while part of the National Secretariat. In these years structures and other organizational matters of the alliance went through various changes. More importantly, GABRIELA principles were sharpened and made sure that its programs of actions are more direct and pronounced for women of marginalized sectors.

In 1998, at the 8th GABRIELA National Congress, Emmi was elected Deputy Secretary General and held this position until 2003. In 2001, Liza Maza, the elected Secretary General, ran and won as one of the 3 representatives under the Bayan Muna Partylist, and Emmi practically functioned as the SecGen of this alliance. In 2003, at its 9th Congress, she was elected as the Secretary General and holds the position at present.

In reflection, Emmi notes that “…24 years of my existence have been fruitful as being part of GABRIELA. With my 3 children now grown-up and all married, with two grandchildren (one each from my two daughters), I take pride that they know me not just as their mother but an activist. My being a GABRIELA is not just delivering my work but a way of life, a 24/7 thing, applying our principles in practical life.”

She also notes that though age and the accompanying stress brought about by my involvement are now taking their toll with my physical capacity she is still trying to her best to deliver what is expected of her. It is the strong support of Gabriela co-workers that makes this possible. She is inspired by the expansion of the organization in the communities and the successful campaigns launched. Youngblood in the organization gives her confidence that this work shall continue to develop and improve as long as the basis for our existence to struggle for women's rights and welfare are there. She is looking forward to the growing support of Gabriela friends internationally and the empowerment of Filipina compatriots with the formation of a Gabriela USA chapter that will educate, organize and mobilize Filipinas towards our liberation.

Your host for the night!

Isis Arias is proud to have been one of the original pinay brunchers before the fire started, and is super proud to be here to watch the flames! Her grandparents hail from Samar but mom was reared in Brooklyn. Bronx born, Brooklyn & Queens raised, she attended Montclair HS in NJ and continued on to Rutgers University. College was an important time for Isis' cultural growth and she went on to run the Douglass Asian Women's Association where she gained most of her event planning and hosting experience. Isis is alumni to the Tagalog On Site program from 05 and sites the trip as one of her most 'spiritual experiences'. She currently works in music publicity for a major label, works events on the side and loves what she does. Shoutouts to FiRE, Moms, Grandpa and all the folk that are in attendance! Peace and love to Grandma, and respect to all that have paved the way.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

I'm perfoming, too!

Hanalei Ramos is a writer, performer, and community educator. She has toured around the nation to various college and university campuses as a spoken word artist. Hanalei has authored Letters to Martha, a personal testimony to her firsthand experience with domestic violence, and published her first collection of poetry and prosetry, Foiled Stars. Hanalei developed her first one-woman show, Guns and Tampons: A History of Violence Against Women I Know, through the generosity of the Asian Arts Initiative, which was performed at the first ever National Asian American Theater Festival. Most recently, Hanalei and Jiny Ung were named fellows for Project Rowhouses (Houston, TX). Hanalei is a proud founding member of Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE) and lives and works in her native Jersey City, New Jersey. Please visit

Fil-Ams Call on Arroyo to Control the Price of Rice in the Philippines

April 10, 2007

Reference: Berna Ellorin, Secretary-General, BAYAN USA, email:

GMA's Measures on Rice Crisis Won't Work, Promotes Starvation
Fil-Ams Call on Arroyo to Control the Price of Rice in the Philippines

The US Chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, or BAYAN USA, an alliance of over 12 Filipino organizations in the US, criticized the Arroyo government for lifting the 300,000 metric ton (MT) rice quota for foreign traders as a measure to resolve the growing rice crisis. It also called on Arroyo to control the rising price of rice throughout the country and foreign trading rice cartels.

"Rice is the staple food for over 86 million Filipinos and other countries in the world. This problem will affect over half the world's population because of the global neoliberal trade framework," states Chito Quijano, Chair of BAYAN USA.

Known for its picturesque rice terraces, the Philippines has produced quality rice as a major export for decades. But low productivity due to a backwards agricultural sector and neoliberal trade policies that enforce land conversion have left the rice-exporting country dependent on foreign rice to feed its local population.

The Philippines has now been dependent on rice importation from neighboring countries such as Vietnam and Thailand, who are also suffering there own respective rice crises. Because of uncontrollable demand overseas, both countries are placing restrictions on its rice export to prioritize local consumption. The overall food crisis has sparked rice riots and militarized rice cartels throughout the Asia-Pacific region, where rice hoarding is now taking place.

"Pretty soon, our families in the US will be sending home bags of rice in our balikbayan boxes because our relatives can no longer afford rice in the market," Quijano added.

The Arroyo government's response has been to lift the existing quota on rice imports and further liberalize rice importation for foreign traders, minimizing the local government's ability to intervene on behalf of the local population.

"This won't solve the problem because it ignores the deeper problem of the agricultural sector. Without due industrialization of the agricultural sector, the problem won't go away, but will be aggravated. In fact, giving more power to foreign traders will make the price of rice skyrocket, and the Filipino people, without any spending power, will starve," Quijano added.

In the past month alone, the price of food products in the Philippines have skyrocketed over 8%, according to independent the think tank IBON Philippines. According to the National Food Authority, even the price of local rice in the Philippines will most likely increase from it's current P18.25 per kilo peg. This is leaving the predominantly impoverished Filipino population with limited options for basic sustenance.

BAYAN USA criticizes that the Arroyo government can't be relied upon to advocate on behalf of the Filipino people's needs anymore, but will instead implement policies that will only serve itself and its cronies.

The alliance emphasized the importance of more Filipino-Americans educating themselves about the Philippine rice crisis on a nationwide scale, as the crisis is a major contributor to heightening political instability in the Philippines and for their loved ones back home.

"The less food there is in the Philippines, the more the Arroyo government will turn to overseas Filipinos for an economic solution," Quijano added.

But massive hunger also breeds widespread desire for social and political change in any country.

"Arroyo's past corruption is still at play. Many of her so-called national projects that hoarded billions in public funds were all schemes to for her cronies to pocket the money. Those funds could have been used to genuinely improve the agricultural sector and set the Philippines in the right path towards food self-sufficiency," Quijano ended. ###

Kinding Sindaw

The dances of Kinding Sindaw originate from the royal court dances of the Maranao Sultanate- a repertory of the sacred, classic, and secular combining grace and vigor, dances that directly reflect their rich natural environment. Dancers imitate the graceful movements of birds, fish, butterflies, rivers, streams, and ocean trekking boats, celebrate fertility in vigorous choreography, sway delicately using colorful fans and scarves, and dramatically inspire through the martial art of silat.

The musical accompaniment is performed on a variety of percussion instruments, including the kulintang, a tuned bronze kettle drum set, known more commonly in the West as gamelan, a variety of hanging gongs which include the bossed agong and the unbossed gandingan and bababdir, and the dabakan, a cylindrical drums. These instruments are played as an ensemble and were prototypes for the instruments of the gamelan ensembles of Java and Bali. Other instruments of the Mindanao cultures include the salunay- a polychordal bamboo tube zither, the kudlung- a two-stringed lute, and kubing- a bamboo jaws harp.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

New York Filipinas Act Through Art

For Immediate Release

Reference: Valerie Francisco, Secretary General, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment, 925-726-5768,

New York Filipinas Act Through Art

Women's Organization Calls Attention to Human Rights Violations in the Philippines

On April 19th, 2008, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE) will celebrate the first year by honoring Filipino American and Filipino women's talents and art. The anniversary of women's organization's first year in service to the Filipino community in New York is reflected by the cultural night's women-centered and women-powered night.

FiRE's first annual cultural show Diwang Pinay (literally translated as"Spirit of the Filipina"), focuses on the rich and growing Pinay art community in New York city. The show will feature Filipino women singers, bands, poets, dancers and visual artists. Pinays from all over the United States are also coming to celebrate the night in hopes to build a national network of Filipino women interested in art and activism.

Through a night filled with art and performance Filipinas will call attention to the gross human rights violations situation in the Philippines. In the past year, this issue has garnered international attention and Diwang Pinay aims to contribute to raising awareness in our community through Filipino women's art.

"No human rights case in the Philippines has yet to be solved. The disappearances, killings and harassment of community leaders and members have consequences for Filipino women," states Valerie Francisco, secretary general of FiRE, "As women work hard to combat the ill effects of landlessness and lack of jobs their partners, children, cousins, loved ones and sometimes even themselves experience the wrath of state violence."

The one-of-a-kind Filipino women's event hosts a special guest speaker, Emmi De Jesus, the secretary general of GABRIELA, a national alliance of women's organization in the Philippines. De Jesus will highlight the impacts of the human rights violations on Filipino women there.

Diwang Pinay promises to fill the historic Judson Memorial Church in New York City with the cutting edge artistry of young Filipino American women who, even thousands of miles away from their motherland, insist on connecting their lives here in the US to the lives of women in the Philippines.

"The first step to solving a problem is being aware that it is there in the first place," stated Jackie Mariano, an active member of FiRE. "I hope that Diwang Pinay serves as a wake-up call to all art-lovers out there. Art imitates life. While our art will depict our struggle, it will also depict our international solidarity."

As a member of GABRIELA-USA, FiRE is mounting a momentous event in initiating action around the human rights violations in the Philippines through showcasing Filipino women's art. Diwang Pinay will serve as a testament to the struggles and triumphs of Filipino women all over the world.

There will be a community reception on Friday, April 18 at 7:30pm at the Bayanihan Community Center, 40-21 69th Street in Woodside, Queens with Emmi De Jesus and the Filipino community in New York.

Diwang Pinay will be on April 19, 2008 from 6pm to 9pm at Judson Memorial Church, 55 Washington Square South in Manhattan, New York. General admission is $10 and a discounted rate of $5 for young people.


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

News Compilation April 8/9 regarding the ongoing rice crisis in Asia and the Philippines.


News Compilation April 8/9 regarding the ongoing rice crisis in Asia and the Philippines.

1. Lifting rice imports quota a step in wrong direction, will worsen crisis
2. Rice crisis to fuel calls for Arroyo's resignation - solon
3. 'Greater crisis' seen in lifting of rice, corn import quotas
4. Thai PM urges calm as exporters see rice 'crisis'
5. Fear of rice riots as surge in demand hits nations across the Far East
Residents buy rice while armed soldiers
6. Rice shortages heighten political crisis in the Philippines


Lifting rice imports quota a step in wrong direction, will worsen crisis – Bayan

News release
April 8, 2008

The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) today called the Arroyo government's move to lift the 300,000-metric ton (MT) rice import quota for private traders a step in the wrong direction that will aggravate the rice crisis.

The group argued that lifting the quota will not result in cheaper retail prices for consumers because rice imports are in fact more expensive now than local rice. "At current global prices, plus freight costs and tariffs, imported rice could cost an average of more than P40 per kilo. Worse, because more imported rice will now end in the hands of private traders, they will be in a stronger position to manipulate domestic supply and prices at the expense of hapless consumers. The end result is more expensive retail prices", said Arnold Padilla of Bayan's public information department.

Bayan argued that the move will also further weaken the National Food Authority (NFA) and strengthen the cartel of big private traders. "Remember that one of the reasons why local prices are escalating rapidly is the negligible intervention of the NFA as it accounts for only less than one percent of the of the domestic rice market. Furthermore, around 98 percent of the rice that the NFA uses to intervene in the market is imported", Padilla pointed out.

Thus, allowing private traders to import an unlimited volume of rice will further undermine the already insignificant role that the government plays in ensuring local rice supply and reasonable prices, the group said.

More alarmingly, the lifting of the rice import quota shows the overall policy direction of the Arroyo government in terms of agricultural development, which is to rely on imports instead of promoting local food production for local consumption. "It has exposed Arroyo's earlier pronouncements on improving farm productivity and achieving self-sufficiency in rice as empty rhetoric", Padilla said.

The group noted that Ms Gloria Arroyo already said last week that food security does not mean self-sufficiency. "For Arroyo, there is no need to produce locally what the country can import from the world market, even if it is the staple food of most Filipinos. Such distorted concept of food security has exposed our people to the raging rice crisis", argued Padilla

Bayan reiterated its call for the implementation of a price control mechanism to ensure that retail prices will not further soar due to hoarding and supply speculation. Aside from this urgent measure, there is also an immediate need for the NFA to substantially increase its intervention in the rice market, including in the procurement and distribution of rice. (END)

Rice crisis to fuel calls for Arroyo's resignation - solon
04/09/2008 | 01:27 AM

MANILA, Philippines - A militant lawmaker on Tuesday warned that the rice crisis could intensify calls for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to resign.

In a statement, Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Satur Ocampo said that government failure to address the crisis would agitate more and more people to call for the President to step down.

Ocampo added that Arroyo could be playing with fire if there was truth to claims that the "rice crisis" was just used as a ploy to divert public attention from accusations of graft and corruption hounding the government.

"Filipinos are getting fed up as they begin to understand that Ms Arroyo's ouster from power is a way out of the increasing hunger and poverty, aggravated by the rice crisis," Ocampo said.

He added that some sectors suspected that the present shortage in rice supply is a "fabrication" to divert public attention from scandals brought about by the botched $329.4-million ZTE-national broadband network project deal and the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking in the Spratly Islands.

The lawmaker noted that the government has offered no concrete steps to lower rice prices three weeks since the rice-crisis issue cropped up.

"Arroyo's move of lifting import quotas and increasing rice importation quotas of the private sector, will lead to greater crisis," Ocampo said.

He added that lifting import quotas would hasten the otherwise slow death of the local rice industry caused by trade liberalization and importation policies.

"Any short-term measure to address the rice crisis may cause brief relief, but will not solve the problem on medium and long-term basis. Only policy reversal and sustained pursuit of food self-sufficiency can do that," he said. - Fidel Jimenez, GMANews.TV

'Greater crisis' seen in lifting of rice, corn import quotas

By Maila Ager
First Posted 16:09:00 04/08/2008

MANILA, Philippines -- The government's decision to lift the import quotas on rice and corn might result in a brief respite but would later lead to a greater crisis, a lawmaker at the House of Representatives warned on Tuesday.

House Deputy Minority Floor Leader and Bayan Muna Representative Satur Ocampo's warning came a day after President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo approved the lifting of rice importation by the private sector to address the global shortage of rice supply.

"Ms Arroyo's so-called solutions, like the lifting of import quotas and increased private sector importation, will in fact lead to greater crisis," Ocampo said in a statement.

"Any short-term measure to address the rice crisis may cause brief relief but will not solve the crisis on medium and long-term basis. Only policy reversal and sustained pursuit of food self-sufficiency can do that," he said.

Ocampo said the lifting of import quotas was also a "sure-fire way to hasten the slow death of our local rice industry which has long been bearing the rapacious impact of rice trade liberalization and importation."

With the Philippines' one million metric ton average rice importation since 1995, the country has actually imported over and above the minimum access volume under the World Trade Organization's Agreement on Agriculture, Ocampo said.

The WTO compels the country to import three to five percent of domestic consumption whether or not it produces rice sufficiently, he said.

Ocampo also warned that the President's failure to effectively address the rice crisis "because of her wrong food security policy" would add ground to the people's mounting calls for her ouster.

"The Filipino people are getting fed up and now begin to understand that Ms Arroyo's ouster from power is a way out of the increasing hunger and poverty aggravated by the unabated rice crisis," the Bayan Muna lawmaker said.

Arroyo's continued push for neoliberal globalization, Ocampo said, was also to blame for this rice crisis.

"The twin policies of unbridled rice importation and land-use conversion are among the major reasons for the decline in our food productive capacity," he pointed out.

Thai PM urges calm as exporters see rice 'crisis'
Sri Lanka Daily News

THAILAND: Thailand, the world's leading rice exporter, insisted Friday it had enough for domestic consumption but exporters warned of a crisis, as dealers hoard rice to sell overseas at current sky-high prices.

Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej tried to reassure the nation that the rapid rise in global prices, which have also driven up the cost at home, would not cause a shortage on local shelves.

He said the soaring prices had sparked panic buying, but insisted the country had ample rice reserves.

"It is impossible that there will not be enough rice for sale. News reporting makes people panic, causing people to buy 10 bags instead of one or two bags," Samak told reporters during his weekly briefing.

"High prices now are due to supply and demand, and it will be like this only for this period," he said.

The benchmark Thai variety, Pathumthani fragrant rice, was priced Wednesday at 930 dollars per tonne, up 52 percent from a month earlier, according to the Thai Rice Exporters Association. The group's price survey is updated weekly.

Other rice-producing countries including India and Vietnam have announced export curbs to ensure domestic supplies, amid warnings from experts that governments in Asia could see public unrest if prices remain elevated.

Thailand has not announced any cut to exports but said Wednesday it would release 650,000 tonnes from government stockpiles to sell locally at below the market rate.

Exporters say, however, that their own stocks are running low, blaming mills and middlemen for hanging on to supplies in the hope that prices will keep rising in the near future. "The rice situation at present is in crisis," said Korbsook Iamsuri, secretary general of the exporters association.

"Exporters are facing trouble because their rice stockpiles are running short, while no more rice is coming to fill the stocks. Few rice farmers have any stockpiles because most of them have no silos for storage," she said.

"Currently, rice is most likely in the hands of middlemen and the mills," Korbsook said.

She estimated that one million tonnes of rice was now held by exporters, who were still waiting for rice from the current harvest which should already have started arriving in larger quantities.

"Rice prices are abnormally unstable.

They are shooting like rockets and changing swiftly within a week," she said. Korbsook said that while growing global demand and a shortage of supply were driving prices higher, the increases should happen at a slower rate.

The association has not made any demands of the government yet, but industry groups plan to meet Saturday with commerce ministry officials to discuss ways of addressing the situation, she said.

Bangkok, Sunday, AFP

Fear of rice riots as surge in demand hits nations across the Far East
Residents buy rice while armed soldiers

Armed guards for rice deliveries will become a common sight in many countries in East Asia
Leo Lewis, Asia Business Correspondent

Any farmer in the Philippines caught hoarding rice risks spending the rest of his life in jail for the crime of "economic sabotage".

Meanwhile, on the streets of Jakarta, Indonesia, thousands of makers of traditional tempeh soyabean cakes strike in protest as their livelihoods are destroyed and their countrymen starve. In Malaysia, where immense palm oil plantations stretch as far as the eye can see, panic buying of palm oil has stripped stores bare.

Chinese, Korean and Japanese companies are preparing to compete in a desperate "land grab" for agricultural land across the globe. Japan already owns three times more farmland overseas than in its home territory; Seoul is keen to do the same.

For Asia's 2.5 billion people who depend on rice, these are anything but isolated incidents. They are what happens when huge sections of society move into the cities, when farm productivity growth halves over two decades and when bad weather or disease exposes fragile dependencies on the exports of a few nations.
Related Links

* Asia stability threatened as rice dwindles

* Rice supplies set to fall to 25-year low

They are also the result of the harsh economics of industrial growth. The dramatic improvement in lifestyles and family finances of millions of Chinese and Indians has driven a demand for meat, milk and cooking oils that did not exist a decade ago.

The more than doubling of China's average meat consumption since 1985, for example, has created an equivalent leap in demand for animal feed.

The US Department of Agriculture believes that the world will suffer a 29 million tonne discrepancy this year between what it needs to feed itself and what it can actually produce. Markets have been quick to recognise this and the traditional Asian staples of soyabeans, palm oil and pork have all soared.

Many grain and edible oil markets have also been squeezed by what some observers believe is an unsustainable conflict between cars and stomachs. Land that might previously have been used to feed people is increasingly planted with crops designed for conversion to biofuels, forcing unexpected rises in the prices of everything from tofu to instant noodles.

But perhaps more unsettling has been the suddenness with which Asia's exposure to a food crisis has emerged. Countries that, until a few weeks ago, could rely on substantial imports of rice from India, Egypt or China are scrambling to cope with a new reality in which they cannot do so.

Nations such as Japan and South Korea that were running food economies with small self-sufficiency ratios have taken only a few weeks to react bitterly to the new situation as the world's food stocks-to-consumption ratio plunges to an all-time low.

India - which traditionally has exported millions of tonnes of rice - has decided to set aside a special strategic food reserve on top of its existing wheat and rice stockpiles. Vietnam, the world's third-largest rice producer, has been forced to curb exports and Cambodia has banned them completely.

In Thailand, the world's largest producer of rice, rising concerns of a shortage have sent rice prices more than 50 per cent higher over the past month. When Samak Sundaravej, the Thai Prime Minister, appeared on his weekly television cooking show over the weekend he told Thais there would be "enough rice for the Kingdom".

It was not a message designed to calm nerves elsewhere in Asia where Thai rice exports are an essential part of the diet.

Amid these highly visible signs of government-level panic, Asian countries that have rarely faced severe conflicts of "resource diplomacy" are accordingly readying themselves for showdowns.

Analysts give warning of governments across the region resorting to a "starve-your-neighbour" policy in an effort to becalm rioting domestic populations, and the UN International Fund for Agriculture has previously said that food riots will become commonplace.

In the Philippines and Sri Lanka, both nations that are heavily dependent on rice imports, politicians and business leaders are racing to strike deals with the likes of Vietnam and even Burma in their bid to secure rice supplies.

Troops and special police are expected to be used in the process of distributing rice to regions where supply was never an issue.

Feeding the world

33% Rise since January in price paid by Philippines for rice from Vietnam
3 billion People worldwide who rely on rice as a staple food
40% Rise in rice price in Thailand this year
19.2% Rise in consumer prices in Vietnam last month, against March 2007
8.4% Rise in food prices in the Philippines last month, compared with March 2007
854 million Number of people worldwide who are "food insecure"
1 billion People globally who survive on less than $1 a day, defined as "absolute poverty"

Rice shortages heighten political crisis in the Philippines
By Oscar Grenfell
8 April 2008

Use this version to print | Send this link by email | Email the author

Rice prices have soared to a 34-year high in the Philippines, exacerbating social and political tensions, and creating more problems for the crisis-ridden regime of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo amid claims that her government had known of the shortages for more than a month.

Globally, stocks of rice and other foods have plummeted, resulting in a steep rise in prices. Rice has been one of the worst hit with prices jumping 50 percent in the two months to the end of March and at least doubling since 2004. An Associated Press article late last month pointed to concerns that "prices could rise a further 40 percent in coming months".

An unprecedented cold snap as well as pests and diseases affecting crops in China and South East Asia have had an immediate impact on rice availability, as has recent flooding in the Philippines and Vietnam. Increasing urbanisation, changing land use and shifting patterns of agriculture, including the growing of crops for bio-fuels, are among the underlying reasons for shortages of staples such as rice. Rising prices also have their own dynamic, leading to speculation and the hoarding of rice supplies in the hope of future windfall profits.

Some of the largest rice exporters have limited sales. Vietnam has recently decided to reduce exports by almost a quarter and Cambodia has announced a two-month ban on rice exports. The world's leading exporter, Thailand, has also begun to control foreign rice sales. India has raised the minimum export price by more than 50 percent and China has begun to import rice.

As the world's largest importer of rice, the Philippines has been among the hardest hit. Rising prices for rice, along with other food items and oil, led to a sharp jump in the official inflation rate from 2.6 percent in March 2007 to 6.4 percent in March this year. Radio Australia reported late last month that "rice prices in Manila have soared to as high as $1.15 a kilo from as low as 50 cents a kilo a week ago."

Accusations of incompetence in dealing with the shortages have compounded the political crisis facing President Arroyo. She is already facing allegations of corruption over a national broadband deal and of betraying national interests by signing a deal with Vietnam and China to conduct a joint survey of the disputed Spratly Islands. Her approval rating has slumped to a record low of 23 percent.

Initially, Arroyo tried to deny there was any rice crisis at all, saying it was "a physical phenomenon where people line up on the streets to buy rice. Do you see lines today?"

The leftist peasant organisation, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), claimed last month, that two secret internal government memoranda dated February 11 and February 27 demonstrate that the Arroyo administration knew of the impending rice crisis since February.

One of the reports cited in an ABS-CBN article included a request for the National Food Authority (NFA) to import an additional 500,000 tonnes of rice. "The registered growth in palay [paddy rice] production is not enough to meet the combined effect of an increase in demand and the need to maintain the required buffer stock by July 1, the start of the traditional lean supply months of July to September of each year," it stated.

KMP chairman Rafael Mariano told ABS CBN: "As can be seen from the memos Gloria and her regime know that a rice crisis is imminent but it is still fooling the people because she is afraid of her political future, but by doing so she is toying with the lives of at least 68 million Filipinos who earn less than $2 a day."

Desperate to minimise the political impact, Arroyo has scrambled to secure supplies and to find scapegoats to deflect attention from her administration. Her officials have immediately blamed rice hoarders and unscrupulous traders who have been repackaging low-quality, government-subsidised rice to sell as high quality commercial rice at inflated prices.

Lower house speaker Prospero Nograles declared on April 4 that "smuggling and hoarding by rice cartels should be curbed effectively" and called for tougher legal penalties for illegal price manipulation under the country's Price Act. Currently penalties of 5 to 15 years prison and fines of 5,000 to 2 million pesos can be imposed. Raids by the NFA and National Bureau of Investigation have taken place across the country over the past week.

Cebu City councillor Sylvan Jakosalem has warned, however, that such actions may be counterproductive. After meeting with rice traders last Friday, Jakosalem pointed out that wholesalers stock up at this time of the year and usually hold back stock to tide them over the lean months from July to August. Without a distinction between stocking and hoarding, traders are reluctant to buy large stocks for fear of prosecution.

Arroyo has also frantically sought to find sources of rice imports, recently securing an agreement from Vietnam to supply around 1.5 million tonnes. In all, the Philippines plans to import around 2.2 million tonnes including from Thailand and the United States. Most imports are currently handled by the NFA, which then provides subsidised rice for the local market. Arroyo called on the finance ministry to draw up a plan to cut tariffs and has announced a doubling of import quotas to encourage private importers—proposals that has already been criticised by local farmers.

Arroyo has also called for cuts to consumption. Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap announced a plan late last month to encourage restaurants to serve less rice. "We are inviting them to participate in the rice conservation program," he said. "I'm asking fast food-restaurants to give their customer an option to order a half cup of rice."

Opposition senator Aquilino Pimentel bitingly remarked: "It reminds me of Marie Antoinette, who shortly before the French Revolution famously said if people had no bread to eat, they should eat cake."

Millions of working people face food insecurity and hunger. A World Bank update this month found that the proportion of the population living below the poverty line rose between 2003 and 2006 from 30 percent to 32.9 percent despite higher levels of growth. Falling real incomes, compounded by cutbacks in social spending, were the main factors. Other estimates put the poverty rates as high as 40 percent of the population of more than 90 million people.

Rodolfo de Lima, a parking lot attendant, told the Associated Press that if rice prices continued to rise "my family will go hungry." He added: "If your family misses a meal you really don't know what you can do...." Another worker Domingo Casarte said: "When people get trapped, I can't say what they will do."

Commenting in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Senator Loren Legarda warned: "Rice is an extremely sensitive political commodity. There is no question a surge in the staple's price is bound to spur social unrest and political instability." Already under siege over other scandals, Arroyo is desperately implementing stopgap measures to try to avert an eruption of popular anger.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Woman Activist from GABRIELA Philippines Tours the US

For Immediate Release
April 6, 2008

Joanne Alcantara, GABRIELA National Organizing Committee Coordinator, (641) 715-3900

Woman Activist from GABRIELA Philippines Tours the US

Emmi De Jesus welcomes the first overseas GABRIELA chapter - GABRIELA USA

San Francisco, CA. On April 6, 2008, Emmi De Jesus, the Secretary General of GABRIELA Philippines, will be arriving in the US for a month-long national speaking tour in 4 cities to support the recent founding of GABRIELA-USA. She will be traveling from coast to coast, speaking in Los Angeles, Seattle, New York City, and San Francisco. In the different venues, de Jesus will speak on the burning issues at the forefront of women's lives in the Philippines, the gross human rights violations situation, violence against women, abject poverty and gender and sexual discrimination.

De Jesus was a founding member of GABRIELA Philippines in 1984. Today, 24 years later, GABRIELA Philippines stands as the largest national alliance of women's organizations in the Philippines. As a Filipino women's campaign center, GABRIELA integrates Filipino women's struggles into the Philippine resistance against first world domination and for genuine sovereignty and democracy. GABRIELA is a model for women's movements all over the globe, mobilizing broad communities for state accountability to repression and violence in the Philippines.

"The current economic crisis in the Philippines that is fueled by global trade policies, are forcing Filipina women to leave their homeland at alarming rates. For their families' survival, educated women are becoming domestic workers, entertainers, and even face modern-day-slavery as trafficked persons. Because of this, it is crucial that we continue building an organized movement for true economic justice in the US, from the voices of Filipina women," declared Joanne Alcantara, the National Coordinator of GABRIELA-USA. Emmi de Jesus' speaking tour will highlight the linkages between Filipino women's struggles in the US and the Philippines and, simultaneously, celebrate the rich spirit of resilience they share across oceans and continents.

Emmi De Jesus, after a brief orientation in San Francisco with GABRIELA-USA, will have her first stop at UC Irvine where a community gathering will be held to talk about the women's situation in the Philippines. Her hosts are Strong Womyn of Irvine and The Womyn's Collective of Los Angeles.

De Jesus' will then travel to Seattle where she will be hosted by Pinay sa Seattle on April 12th to keynote for an anti-trafficking conference at the University of Washington called "Asian Pacific Islander Community Responses to Human Trafficking: Working Together to Create Change". This conference is co-sponsored by Pinay sa Seattle, University of Washington Women's Center, Marc Lindenberg Center, UW Center for Global Studies, the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum, Asian Pacific Islander Women & Family Safety Center, and the Washington Advisory Committee on Trafficking. It will be held at the UW Architecture Hall from 10am-4pm. De Jesus will also have an opportunity to meet with anti-trafficking advocates, legislators, and community members during her stay.

Following her Seattle visit, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE) will be welcoming her in New York with a community reception at the Bayanihan Center on April 18, 7pm on 40-21 69th Street in heart of the Filipino community Woodside; and featuring de Jesus as the keynote speaker during the annual Filipina showcase "Diwang Pinay" ("Spirit of the Filipina") on Saturday April 19, 7pm at Judson Memorial Church on 55 Washington Square South in Manhattan. Lastly, in San Francisco, Babae will host Emmi as a featured speaker at the 6th Annual Diwang Pinay, co-sponsored by the League of Filipino Students, SFSU. The showcase is set for Friday, April 25 at 7pm at the Lincoln Community Center located at 901 Brunswick St. Daly City, and will conclude De Jesus' US tour.

"Emmi De Jesus' historic and momentous tour will only intensify the growing Filipino women's movement in the US," Alcantara states, "She will receive a warm welcome at her every stop in the US. Wherever Filipino women are, we will be proud to carry the flag of GABRIELA as we expand our international women's movement."

Pinay sa Seattle, Babae (San Francisco), and Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (New York) are part of GABRIELA-USA, the first overseas chapter of GABRIELA.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Rowena Cruz is back!

Our ally and trusted friend,

Rowena Cruz is an MFA Candidate in Creative Writing (Nonfiction) at Columbia University. She is the former coordinator of Our Word, the student group for writers of color, an officer of Quart, the queer artists group, and treasurer on the Arts Student Council. Rowena has taught writing workshops for Sumisibol, a NJ-based non-profit organization serving Filipino American youth in Jersey City. She is also participating in teaching artist training programs with Community Word and Marquis Studios.

Rowena is currently writing her thesis project, a collection of memoir/essays on the four generations of women in her family and her obsession with beauty queens and figure skaters. She hopes to start on her next project, travel essays on her years of self-discovery throughout her homeland and all 50 United States.

Born in the Philippines, raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, and a former resident of New Orleans pre-Katrina, Rowena now calls New York City, home.

Hello, Jennifer Cendaña Armas!

Jennifer Cendaña Armas is a NYC born, raised, and based poet/actor/dancer/singer

/writer/violinist/community worker. She has extensively organized and taught political arts and activist workshops in schools, prisons and community based organizations stateside and internationally, including Brooklyn Academy of Music, El Puente Academy of Peace & Justice, Harvard University, and Riker’s Island Prison, Presbyterian Secondary Boys Academy (Ghana), and Casa De Milagros (Peru). She facilitates poetry and theatre workshops for Brooklyn Academy of Music and Arts Horizons and is production manager for We Got Issues!, feminine centered leadership organization, where she also facilitates rantfest workshops and red tents. Her show, skinimin12, premiered at 2004’s Downtown Urban Theatre Festival and later featured at 2006’s New York City Hip Hop Theater Festival at the Public Theater. She is company member of We Got Issues! and feature contributor of the We Got Issues! A Young Woman’s Guide to Leading an Empowered Life (Inner Ocean, 2006). She has been blessed to share the stage with powerhouses such as reg e. gainese, Willie Perdomo, and Rha Goddess. Poetry features include: Lincoln Center’s La Casita, Joe’s Pub’s Urban Griots, the world famous Nuyorican Poet’s Café, Bowery Poetry Club, Culture Project’s Women Center Stage Festival, Museum of Contemporary Art and Louder Than A Bomb (Chicago), World Stage and ‘da Poetry Lounge (L.A.), Lizard Lounge (Boston), Esperanza Peace and Justice Center (Houston), Sista’hood Festival (Vancouver),Ladyfest Bristol, Speakeasy and Poetry Café (London), Poetry Vandals Present…(Newcastle,UK). University performances and performance workshops include: University of California- Berkeley, Harvard University, University of Virginia, New York University, and Vanderbilt University Jennifer’s televised poetry features include: Spoken (Black Family Channel), Word (FreeSpeech TV), Curvations (PSA). Publications include: My Mouth May Not Know the Words But Everything Else Understands (self-published), NYU Review for Law and Social Change, AWOL, Aesthetica, X, Monsoon. Theatre credits include: We Got Issues!(national company), co-creator/performer in Mango Tribe’s Sisters in the Smoke (HERE/touring company) and Creation Myth (Henry Street Settlement/ABRON ARTS CENTER), dancing with Urban Bush Women’s Are We Democracy? (Brooklyn Museum of Art), The Vengeance of Mami Wata (Theater for a New City), Queens Theatre in the Park’s Black Theatre Festival, Movement Choreographer- BLAK (HERE Theatre).
Jennifer’s creative workshops are interactive and link the personal and political.
She specializes in creating multi-lingual work, analyzing and fortifying the relationship between art, politics, and nurturing women’s voices as an integral component of social change.
She graduated from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts with a degree in theatre and politics.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Lisa Ascalon, back for more!

This woman has been an incredible supporter of FiRE! She brought down the house durring Pinay HERstories in the fall, and now, she's back because you asked for her! :)

Born and raised on the Lower East Side, Lisa Ascalon is a Pinay writer/performer who has been working with NYC youth for 17 years. She is currently a teaching artist for several arts-in-education programs Ms. Ascalon, along with fellow teaching artist, Ellen Hagan, co-founded the multicultural, multigenerational women’s collective, girlstory, whose first full length work was featured in the American Living Room’s 2004 Festival. She has performed her solo work at Nuyorican Poets Café, Asian American Writer’s Workshop, and the Bowery Poetry Club. Lisa was also awarded a fellowship to Kundiman’s inaugural Emerging Asian-American Poets Retreat.

Emmy will blow you away...

Catedral was born in Butuan and raised in Iloilo and Queens. She works in photography, installation, sculpture, & video. Her work has been shown at The Center For Book Arts, Flux Factory, LaMama Experimental Theater Club, The New York Historical Society, and other unnamed, temporarily named, and virtual spaces. She co-edits the online journal 2nd Ave Poetry and her work is currently part "This Case of Conscience", an exhibition on the subject of religious tolerance at The Queens Museum of Art. She is a member of the Filipino arts and cultural organization Arkipelago, and lives in Spaarlem. Her website is

Friday, March 28, 2008

NY-CHRP Human Rights News

RP Human Rights News (3)

1. Philippines: Justice Absent in Killings and ‘Disappearances’

2. RP human rights measures 'window-dressing'--HRW

3. Human Rights Watch: Take RP to task over killings


[News compiled by the NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP). NYCHRP recently facilitated a meeting between Philippine Human Rights advocate Edita Burgos and Elaine Pearson of Human Rights Watch.]

RP human rights measures 'window-dressing'--HRW
MANILA -- Measures introduced by the Philippine government to curb human rights abuses are mere "window-dressing," an official from Human Rights Watch said Thursday.
"The list of actions touted by the Philippine government as progress unfortunately seem little more than window-dressing," said Elaine Pearson, Asia deputy director for the New York-based rights group.
Although the government has said extra-judicial killings fell sharply last year, Pearson said a "pause in political killings will mean little in the long run unless those responsible are prosecuted."
She told reporters in Manila that the government's failure to convict military men for human rights abuses will be brought up during a review of the Philippines at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on April 11.
Pearson said Human Rights Watch (HRW) research showed that since 2001, there had been hundreds of cases of suspected insurgents, leftists, reporters, government critics and activists who had been murdered or had vanished, but no military man had been convicted of these crimes.
Although the government had set up a task force to investigate these incidents and had put in place measures to protect witnesses in these cases, these actions had "in fact accomplished little, and seem designed to merely deflect domestic and international criticism," Pearson added.
"Human Rights Council members should be asking the government why it hasn't taken strong action against abusive military personnel that would finally put a stop to these killings," said Pearson.
She noted that UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston, following a visit to the Philippines in February 2007, said the military was in denial about the killings.
She said HRW had already submitted its findings to the council in Geneva and they would be taken up at the review session next month.
"The Philippines is among the first countries up for the universal periodic review, and as such it will be a test for the Human Rights Council," said Pearson.
She said the United Nations would not seek sanctions against any of the countries concerned but said the session "would help focus attention on the serious concern on the human rights problem in the Philippines."
"We hope to apply peer pressure on the Philippines," she said.##
Philippines: Justice Absent in Killings and ‘Disappearances’
Government Under Review at UN Human Rights Council
(Manila, March 27, 2008) – The United Nations should carefully review the Philippine government’s failure to hold accountable those responsible for killings and “disappearances,” Human Rights Watch said today. The first-ever Universal Periodic Review of the Philippines at the UN Human Rights Council takes place in Geneva on April 11, 2008.

Killings and enforced disappearances
Since 2001, hundreds of members of left-wing political parties, activists, journalists, and outspoken clergy have been killed or “disappeared.” The UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions, Philippine human rights groups, and Human Rights Watch all found strong evidence of military involvement in many of these cases.

In its submission to the UN Human Rights Council, the Philippine government claims that it places a priority on “addressing this most urgent concern [extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances], by bringing perpetrators to justice and preventing such killings in the future. The government reported that the number of killings had dropped significantly in 2007.

“A pause in political killings will mean little in the long run unless those responsible are prosecuted,” said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Of the hundreds of political killings since 2001, not a single military official has been convicted.”

Human Rights Watch said that while any reduction in human rights violations is to be welcomed, the government has yet to adopt institutional changes that would address the long-term problem of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances in the country. The government has failed to successfully prosecute members of the security forces for serious abuses. Since 2001, only two cases of killings of activists resulted in convictions of four defendants, none of whom were military personnel. And because enforced disappearances are a continuing offense, the government remains responsible for those “disappeared” until their fate or whereabouts becomes known.

A new UN mechanism
Scrutiny of the Philippines is part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a new UN mechanism used in assessing the human rights record of all United Nations member states. The Philippine government and nongovernmental organizations have made written submissions to the Human Rights Council. On April 11, in Geneva, member states will examine the human rights situation in the Philippines in a three-hour open session that will also be streamed live on the web. This is the first time the Philippine government has undergone such review, which will happen every four years.

Police, prosecution, and witness protection
In its submission, the Philippine government lists a number of specific measures it has taken to address extrajudicial killings, including implementing the findings of the government Melo commission report and Task Force Usig (Task Force Prosecution), better coordination between police, prosecution and other agencies, strengthening laws on witness protection, and new human rights offices within the armed forces and the national police.

Human Rights Watch’s research found that the speedy introduction of these measures in 2007 has in fact accomplished little, and seem designed to merely deflect domestic and international criticism. Contrary to government claims of having implemented the Melo commission report’s recommendations, the government has not followed up on the report’s finding of military responsibility for killings. And, while the government claims that 80 cases have been filed with police through the Task Force Usig, many lack crucial evidence, such as the names of the accused and other basic information necessary for prosecutors. The principle of command responsibility has yet to be applied in a single case.

Witness protection and coordination between prosecutors and police remain weak. The human rights offices of the police and the army seem more engaged in advocacy against government critics and “leftist propaganda” than in supporting concrete investigations of alleged abuses.

“The list of actions touted by the Philippine government as progress unfortunately seem little more than ‘window-dressing,’” said Pearson. “Human Rights Council members should be asking the government why it hasn’t taken strong action against abusive military personnel that would finally put a stop to these killings.”

Writ of amparo
The Supreme Court’s new procedure of the writ of amparo – a habeas corpus-like procedure in which state agencies are compelled to reveal to the court the whereabouts of named persons, disclose documentary evidence or allow court-authorized searches of premises – has shown some success in “resurfacing” more than half-a-dozen people. But some 100 cases remain pending, including that of Jonas Burgos, an agricultural activist who was abducted by alleged security forces in broad daylight in an urban mall in April 2007. While an important safeguard against government abuse, the writ of amparo is no substitute for prosecuting perpetrators of arbitrary arrest and detention.

Visit by UN expert on extrajudicial killings
In its UPR submission, the government claims that “as a concrete manifestation of the Philippines’ willingness to cooperate with the international human rights system,” it invited UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions Philip Alston in February 2007. The government has chosen to quote only positive selections from Alston’s report, omitting, for example, his finding that the military remained in denial about the killings, and has not rejected earlier government attacks on the report, such as the high-ranking military officer who called the UN rapporteur “brainwashed.”

“It is absurd for the Philippine government to let its generals call a UN expert names and then claim his visit signifies its willingness to cooperate,” Pearson said. “Its cooperation is best measured through its willingness to adopt Alston’s recommendations.”

Continued targeting of alleged communists
The government’s UPR submission notes that the Philippines repealed the anti-subversion law and decriminalized the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). Although membership in the CPP has been legal since 1992, high-ranking military and police officers have repeatedly made statements to Human Rights Watch that imply that membership is illegal and which conflate the CPP with its armed wing, the New People’s Army. Some officers have also publicly suggested that members of certain nongovernmental organizations are valid targets of attack because of their alleged association or sympathy with the CPP or the New People’s Army.

Counterterrorism law
Human Rights Watch also expressed concerns that the 2007 anti-terrorism law, the Human Security Act, contained provisions that could allow authorities to hold detainees indefinitely, and engage in spurious prosecutions. The UN special rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism called for the law to be repealed or its implementation to be delayed.

“The Philippines is among the first countries up for the Universal Periodic Review, and as such it will be a test for the Human Rights Council,” said Pearson. “If the Philippines is the rights-respecting nation it claims to be, then why, when ample evidence implicates the military in abuses, are no members of the military being tried for these crimes?”


Human Rights Watch: Take RP to task over killings

MANILA, Philippines - A human rights group urged the United Nations on Thursday to take the Philippines to task for failing to prosecute soldiers suspected of involvement in a string of extrajudicial killings.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said the Philippines has done little to implement recommendations made last year by Philip Alston, the UN special envoy on extrajudicial killings, as well as the government's own fact-finding commission.

Both have linked soldiers to hundreds of deaths and disappearances of mostly left-wing activists belonging to political organizations that the military brands as fronts for communist rebels.

"The list of actions touted by the Philippine government as progress unfortunately seems little more than 'window-dressing,'" said Elaine Pearson, Human Rights Watch's deputy director for Asia.

She told reporters that the actions seemed "designed to merely deflect ... criticism."

Philippine officials did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

The Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council will hold its first Universal Periodic Review of the Philippines' human rights record April 11, during which council members can question government representatives in a public session.

All governments are subjects to the review.

Pearson said the Philippines has reported to the council that the number of killings dropped significantly in 2007.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo told foreign diplomats in January that seven activists and journalists were killed last year, compared to 41 in 2006.

The left-wing human rights group Karapatan also reported considerably fewer activists were killed or abducted last year, but gave higher figures of 68 activists slain and 26 missing, down from 185 dead and 93 missing in 2006.

Karapatan head Marie Hilao Enriquez said in a December report that the drop can be attributed to pressure from the diplomatic community and human rights groups.

The report said 887 left-wing activists and their supporters have been killed and another 185 have disappeared since Arroyo took office in 2001.

The government said it has strengthened witness protection laws, but can do little to force people to testify if they fear retribution. Without witnesses, no prosecution can move forward, it said.

Pearson said the group's research found the government measures have accomplished little.

She said perpetrators must be prosecuted and institutional changes put in place.

In the killings since Arroyo came to office in 2001, "not a single military official has been convicted," Pearson said.

She also expressed concern that some ranking military and police officers have publicly suggested that members of activist organizations are valid targets because of their alleged association with communist rebels. - AP