SHAME ON AQUINO: In defense of activists fighting for National Democracy in the Philippines
My name is Hanalei. I am a Filipina woman born in Jersey City, NJ. I am writing this entry because I am deeply moved by the actions carried out by activists during President Aquino’s speaking engagement at Columbia University’s Low Memorial Library for the World Leaders Forum on September 23, 2014. (Video above)
Much of the anonymous internet public has attacked the three people who were present at the forum for “disrespecting” Aquino on a very visible world platform. The same people have made a number of assumptions about who these protestors are. As a fellow community organizer in the New York City area, I can say many of us are the children of emigrated Filipinos who settled in the region between the 1970s-1990s. Some of us were born in the U.S., and others were not. Some of us are students, workers in various industries, parents, children, and spouses. All of us firmly believe in achieving National Democracy (ND) in the Philippines by fighting for a government genuinely run by the Filipino people: peasant farmers, workers, professionals, and local business owners. We envision a Philippines free from foreign domination, and as migrants and the children of migrants, we embody the results of ongoing labor export policies at the height of their popularity during the Marcos era.
Many of us remain dedicated to the cause of achieving National Democracy because we are proud to have inherited the history of resistance of the Filipino people. By that standard alone, we have earned tremendous international respect, which outweighs the attention we’ve garnered on televised talent shows, historical ties to the yo-yo, and the possibility that any celebrity might be half Filipino.
Instead of labeling the latter as credible accomplishments, let’s celebrate the path to achieving justice in the Philippines. Let us celebrate that there are Filipinos who are born outside of the Philippines, deeply engaged in the welfare of the other country we love, the country of our parents, rather than be indifferent, apathetic, or disconnected from it. Let us celebrate that there is a vibrant Filipino community of ND activists that spans across the globe, ensuring that our people are protected from exploitation and can assert their basic human rights.
In this process, what is actually the most offensive display of Filipino attitudes is the stream of vitriol attempting to shame the group of activists who were present that evening. The comments attached to the press coverage in the media can be boiled down to self-hating remarks falling under these overarching themes: mocking undocumented Filipinos living in the United States; red-baiting activists who work for immigrant and workers rights ; statements that are both veiled and overtly racist, attacking other ethnic groups; and the reinforcement of cultural subserviency through the denial of free speech. The rampant trolling is infinitely more appalling than any behavior exhibited by any protestor I’ve come across. It takes courage to confront (particularly the President of the Philippines), it takes nothing to simply agree. You have done nothing by liking a Facebook post, or by making anonymously offensive remarks on the internet. These are acts of cowardice.
Should Aquino be seen in a different light on the world stage due to this incident, it is not because he was challenged and questioned by individuals in a public forum; it is because the President of the Filipino people did not have the ability to provide sufficient answers to the questions posed.
In a functioning democracy, the people have a voice in how their government is run. If this were the case for the Philippines, Filipinos would not desperately seek every minuscule opportunity simply to be heard. Filipino community organizers wouldn’t exist if the issues were actually resolved. Until then, we will continue to oppose the administration responsible for the inequality faced by Filipinos all over the world. We will be cowed neither into submission nor acceptance of the inadequate policies posed by Aquino’s administration. We will not ask for justice politely. We will continue to demand for change at the top of our lungs, and ND activists in the U.S. will be present at every Aquino speaking engagement, in every city.
Shame on Aquino for being the President with the highest recorded number of human rights violations and extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, and his inaction on past occurrences. (link: Human Rights Watch)
Shame on Aquino for denying the distribution of Hacienda Luisita, owned by the Conjuanco-Aquinos, to local peasant farmers (its rightful owners) even after Supreme Court rulings. (link: Youtube, GMA Network)
Shame on Aquino for his inadequate response during Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) the largest landfall tropical storm, resulting in thousands either dead or displaced. (link: Manila Times)
Shame on Aquino for his administration’s continued corruption and the Pork Barrel scandal (link: Forbes)
Shame on Aquino for disregarding the basic needs and rights of the Filipino people, both inside and outside of the Philippines.
To learn more about what National Democracy for the Philippines looks like in the U.S., visit these sites: