BAYAN USA Limbers Up for a Great Leap Forward
Alliance of Filipino Organizations in the U.S. Marks Its Third Congress with Two Protests Against the Visiting Forces Agreement, Election of New Officers, and Launch of Three Year Action Plan
LOS ANGELES, CA–Amidst an unprecedented global economic crisis and burgeoning movement for change worldwide, the U.S. Chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN USA) held its Third Congress on March 27-28 in Los Angeles, California and pledged to expand the ranks of people fighting against imperialism and for national liberation and democracy in the Philippines. With the theme to “Strengthen our alliance and intensify our political struggle against the US-Arroyo clique and for the rights and welfare of Filipinos in the US,” BAYAN USA’s historic Congress brought together 155 women, youth and students, educators, labor organizers, artists, service providers, health professionals, unemployed individuals, and others from 14 member organizations across the country in an electrifying event which unified its participants and set the alliance’s strategic course for the next three years.
“The world is facing the largest and most violent crisis of imperialism in history,” said Berna Ellorin, newly elected Chair and outgoing Secretary General of BAYAN USA. “Contradictions are sharpening between the oppressed majority of the Filipino people–including Filipinos in the U.S. and around the world–and the ruling elite in the Philippines represented by the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo regime. We are under no illusion that the new Obama administration will enact any fundamental change for the world’s people or solve the economic crisis in the U.S. BAYAN USA must take advantage of this context to make a qualitative and quantitative leap in our work to isolate the oppressive U.S.-Arroyo clique, and towards building the anti-imperialist front in the United States and beyond.”
Underscoring its commitment to exert political influence in the U.S. and on U.S.-based representatives of the Philippine ruling elite, BAYAN USA opened and closed the weekend with protest actions against the controversial Philippines-U.S. Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). The VFA is a military pact widely reviled for undermining Philippine sovereignty, allowing thousands of U.S. troops to flood the Philippines every year, and paving the way for $1 Billion in U.S. military aid since 2001 to equip a Philippine armed forces accused of committing torture, abductions, and extra-judicial killings. BAYAN USA members and allies staged the opening action in front of the Philippine embassy on Friday morning, disrupting embassy operations with loud chants of “Junk! Junk! Junk the VFA!” The Congress closed with a “Sampayan ng Bayan” or “People’s Clothesline” protest action, which culminated with over 100 participants marching with a clothesline strung with shirts painted with letters spelling out “JUNK VFA” and dramatically lashing the clothesline around a statue of General MacArthur in the middle of Los Angeles’ bustling MacArthur Park.
BAYAN USA’s new three year plan of action calls for an intensification of the campaigns to terminate the VFA and eradicate the presence of U.S. troops from the Philippines; end the state-sponsored human rights violations against innocent Filipinos; stop the U.S. imperialist wars and military aggression in the Middle East and South Asia; and address the economic crisis, workers’ rights, and immigration reform in the U.S. The alliance also plans a surge in its use of all forms of media to promote its campaigns and shape public opinion. BAYAN USA is also preparing to step up its training and political education of members, and developing its relationships with other organizations and individuals to build the anti-imperialist front within the U.S.
The Congress concluded with the election of five new officers to lead the work of BAYAN USA over the next three years: Chair, Berna Ellorin, of New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines and former Secretary General of BAYAN USA; Vice Chair, Kuusela Hilo, of Anakbayan Los Angeles and former Deputy Secretary General of BAYAN USA; Secretary General, Rhonda Ramiro, of Anakbayan East Bay (Oakland) and BAYAN USA Regional Coordinator for Northern California; Deputy Secretary General, Jack De Jesus, the renowned Filipino rapper also known as Kiwi and member of Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines-San Francisco; and Finance Officer, Jeff Rice, of Anakbayan Seattle.
Photos of the protest actions and Congress can be obtained by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
BAYAN-USA is an alliance of progressive Filipino groups in the U.S. representing organizations of students, scholars, women, workers, and youth. As an international chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN-Philippines), BAYAN-USA serves as an information bureau for the national democratic movement of the Philippines and as a campaign center for anti-imperialist Filipinos in the U.S.
Credits for attached photos: Jay Davis, Michael Luat, Lyle Prijoles