CHICAGO, IL– Over 230 Filipinos from across the US and the Philippines joined over 15,000 more last Sunday in downtown Chicago to march in protest against the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Summit taking place just blocks away in McCormick Place. It was the largest outdoor anti-war demonstration in the US in years.
The Filipino contingent was led by BAYAN USA, a US-wide alliance of 18 Filipino social justice organizations and a founding member of the Coalition Against the NATO & G8 War and Poverty Agenda (CANG8), the main organizer of last Sunday’s demonstration against NATO. Founded in 2005, BAYAN USA is the oldest and largest overseas chapter of BAYAN Philippines.
BAYAN USA joined the ranks of the 500+ marching contingent of the US chapter of the International League of Peoples Struggle (ILPS-US), which included Palestinians and Puerto Ricans projecting the role of national liberation struggles as key in the fight against the US-NATO agenda.
“Filipinos are here today because the US-NATO agenda seeks to intensify militarization in the Asia-Pacific region,” stated Bernadette Ellorin of BAYAN USA at the opening noon rally in Grant Park. “As I speak, the US is sending drones, nuclear warships, nuclear submarines, and more US troops to engage in military exercises in the South China Sea. They say this is to contain the threat of China, but that is a distortion.”
Ellorin spoke of the worsening global economic crisis driving US-NATO powers to secure critical economic investments in the Asia-Pacific region, where the US export position accounts for approximately $1 trillion of the US economy. Therefore, the US-NATO military pivot to Asia is to enforce a new free-trade agreement– the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA)– that would ensure US economic dominance in the region.
BAYAN USA 4th Congress
Sunday’s protest action against NATO was preceded by the 4th congress of BAYAN USA and the founding assembly of ILPS-US. Both were held at the Centro Autonomo, a Mexican Solidarity Center located in the working class, immigrant neighborhood of Albany Park.
Themed “In the Spirit of Ka Bel, Malcolm, Ho, and Yuri: Filipinos in the US Unite to Confront US-NATO Intervention, Build Anti-Imperialist Solidarity and Advance the Movement for Freedom and Democracy in the Philippines”, approximately 250 participated.
Special guest in attendance was Philippine Congresswoman Emmi De Jesus of the Gabriela Women’s Party-list. BAYAN Philippine Secretary-General Renato Reyes Jr. addressed the congress via skype and delivered a presentation on the two years of the Benigno Aquino III administration in the Philippines. Solidarity messages were also delivered by Loubna Qutari of the Palestinian Youth Movement, Kazem Azim of Solidarity Iran, Bill Doares of the International Action Center, Lyn Meza of Chelsea Uniting Against the War, and Lorena Buni on behalf of the Eastern USA Diocese of the Philippine Independent Church.
The events were followed by Road to Resistance, a cultural showcase featuring BAYAN USA artists and guest performers such as Rebel Diaz.
Campaign Against Increasing US Military Presence in the Philippines
Responding to the recent high-level talks in Washington DC between US Secretary Hilary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin regarding the Philippines strategic role in the US military shift to the Asia-Pacific region, BAYAN USA also participated in a speaking panel on US bases one week prior at the People’s Summit, presenting the social impact of over 114 years of US military presence in the country.
Since its founding in 2005, BAYAN USA has campaigned consistently against continuing US militarization in the Philippines, including cutting US military aid to the country. It has worked in alliance with Philippine and US-based human rights organizations in drawing clear links between increased US military presence and increased human rights abuses in the country.
In 2009, BAYAN USA founding member Melissa Roxas was abducted by elements of the Philippine military while on a medical mission in a rural community in Tarlac, Central Luzon and subjected to 6 days of blindfolded secret detention and torture before surfacing. BAYAN USA spearheaded the Justice for Melissa Roxas campaign and continues to fight for justice. ###