No Justice for Teachers One Year After Isidro’s Arrest

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

November 12, 2014
Reference: Valerie Francisco, Chairperson, GABRIELA USA, gabrielawomen@gmail.com

On November 12, 2013, Isidro Rodriguez, chief recruiter for Renaissance Staffing Support Center formerly Great Provider Service Exporters Inc. and World Goal Corp, Inc., was arrested on charges of illegal recruitment and violating the protection of migrant workers and their families. Today we mark the first anniversary of this trafficker’s arrest. According to the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT), only 146 cases of human trafficking have been investigated since 2010, which is far from the average 1500 cases received by Migrante International. Resolution of these cases is next to zero, as perpetrators and recruitment agencies are back in business again with no genuine consequences.

The trafficked teachers have filed charges of violations of RA 9208, the Anti-Human Trafficking Act of 2003, but was turned down by the Philippine Department of Justice (DOJ) as the prosecutor concluded that there was no probable cause on grounds for human trafficking. Members of Gurong Umuusig kay Rodriguez (GURO), teachers victimized by Isidro on illegal recruitment practices, GABRIELA and Migrante International will lead a protest action in front of the Philippine DOJ to call for Isidro’s search and re-arrest and deliver a motion to re-consider the case on grounds of human trafficking, given there are at least over 300 Filipino teachers who have been trafficked to the U.S. by Rodriguez.

This calls for a directional change to expedite for a resolution of the trafficking cases and highlight the problem itself with “Teach Them A Lesson: Justice for Trafficked Teachers” campaign, a year-long campaign launched in the Philippines on November 12. The campaign is led by Migrante International together with GABRIELA and GURO which represents over 200 teachers and their families who were victimized by Rodriguez.

GABRIELA USA will officially launch the campaign on December 12 in honor of International Day Against Trafficking in the Philippines and the U.S. Aside from the quick resolution of these trafficking cases, the campaign aims to make the perpetrators, like Isidro Rodriguez, accountable and expose the Philippine government’s lack of support to the victims of human trafficking. There are reports of immigration and police officers who are coddlers of trafficking syndicates but, so far, no public or government officials in any level have been prosecuted.

We will not let the DOJ resolution deter us from calling for a full investigation on the trafficked teacher’s case. It is clear that all legal avenues to seek justice for the teachers are leading us nowhere. We must continue to expose the rottenness of the system that continues to exploit our people and teach President Aquino a lesson in human trafficking as the #1 trafficker of the Filipino people as he continues to ignore the plight of the people both within and outside the Philippines.

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GABRIELA USA Stands with Women and Children Haiyan Survivors Demanding Genuine Rehabilitation and Recovery

For Immediate Release
November 8, 2014

Reference: Valerie Francisco, Chairperson, GABRIELA USA, gabrielawomen@gmail.com

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One year after super typhoon Haiyan (also known as Yolanda) devastated different parts of the Visayas region, little has changed. GABRIELA USA’s member organizations in Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington DC and New York commemorate the lives lost in the typhoon’s wake while standing with survivors to demand justice and state responsibility for rehabilitation and recovery. While there has been a global outpour of support in financial donations and in-kind support in the last year, those who need rehabilitation the most still stand with hands outstretched for relief and assistance. “The Aquino administration’s corruption and mismanagement of public funds continues to expose the president and his lackeys as incompetent with regard to serving the imminent needs of the Filipino people,” says Valerie Francisco, Chairperson of GABRIELA USA.

Out of the over 16 million impacted by typhoon Haiyan, 80% of which were women and children, little has been done to protect and serve the specific needs of the women and children that remain in Tacloban and Eastern Visayas. Indeed, the exact opposite of safety and security is the situation of many women and children in Haiyan-affected regions as the rate in prostitution and trafficking has spiked because of the lack of opportunities for economic stabilization and increasing U.S. militarization.

According to USAID, 4.1 million people have been displaced since the typhoon. Yet, the Philippine government is imposing demolitions in “No Build Zones”, keeping families from rebuilding their homes and lives while corporations and public private partnerships receive priority in coastal areas. Women who are often those responsible for household management increasingly suffer from the lack of investment in these basic infrastructural necessities.

The Aquino administration has also been remiss in leaving out any type of agricultural rehabilitation for the communities in Tacloban and other areas in Eastern Visayas. Given that most Filipinos in these areas rely on agricultural industries such as rice, coconut and fishing for livelihood, the lack of support to restore and support local industries has devastated Filipinos even a year after the typhoon touched the ground in November 2013.

Activists and organizers in the region have been targeted by the government and the military for demanding justice for their basic rights to food, shelter, services and other needs. Last August, Jefferson Custodio, an activist from People’s Surge, a broad alliance of survivors, organizations and individuals joined together to support victims of Typhoon Haiyan, was killed for speaking out.  Others have been targeted since last year’s devastating calamity including impacted communities GABRIELA USA members are integrating with.

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GABRIELA USA members and allies are currently participating in the Women’s International Solidarity Mission (WISM) with a theme of “Women Surge! Strengthen Global Solidarity Against Climate Crisis” to investigate the current situation in Haiyan-affected areas and the negligence of the Philippine government in addressing the dire situation in Eastern Visayas. GABRIELA USA members participating in WISM are witnessing peasant communities and women farmers initiating cooperative farms to feed their families and communities. Despite military harassment, repression and ongoing neglect of the government, the people have not seized to seek justice while rebuilding their communities.

“Filipino American women are infuriated at the lethargic movement and neglectfulness of the Aquino regime to develop decent housing, jobs for livelihood, health care and general infrastructure in the Haiyan-affected region,” concludes Francisco. Also, the international solidarity mission seeks to highlight the need for a larger global discussion on climate crisis and the need for international solidarity for those, like Filipinos in the Eastern Visayas region, who suffer from natural disasters such as typhoon Haiyan and continue to be ravaged by man-made disasters like the deficient Aquino administration continue to fail to address the needs of the Filipino people.

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Join GABRIELA in Demanding Justice for Filipina Trans-woman Jennifer Laude and Sign Online Petition!

FLYER for Oct 24 Day of ActionWATCH GABRIELA USA’S CALL FOR THE GLOBAL DAY OF ACTION:

http://youtu.be/-5OeIiWsgrg

GABRIELA USA received news this week that U.S. Marine PFC Joseph Scott Pemberton accused of killing 26-year old Filipina transgender woman, Jennifer Laude in the Philippines, is now detained in Camp Aguinaldo under the “joint-custody” of both U.S. and Philippine authorities. We believe that both governments are making it appear that Pemberton is under Philippine authority because of the overwhelming pressure from the people. The U.S. still is not fully surrendering jurisdiction to the Philippine government and proper detention, investigation and justice has yet to be served.

Please join GABRIELA USA in sending a strong demand for justice for Jennifer, by signing the petition and encouraging others to support on this Global Day of Action.

SIGN ONLINE PETITION: http://wwwipetitions.com/petition/justice-for-filipina-trans-woman-jennifer-laude 

To: Philippine President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, US President Barack Obama, Senator John Kerry (U.S. Secretary of State), Secretary Albert Ferreros del Rosario (Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs), Secretary Leila De Lima (Philippine Department of Justice), Representative Adam Smith (House of Armed Services Committee), Senator Robert Mendez (Chair, US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Harold Rogers (Chair, U.S. Committee on Appropriations), Philip Goldberg (U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines)

We are deeply saddened by the murder of Jennifer Laude, a 26-year old transgender woman from the Philippines, and express our deepest condolences to Jennifer’s family and friends.  On October 11, Jennifer was found strangled to death in a hotel room in Olongapo City, Philippines.  An autopsy report has shown the cause of death as “asphyxia by drowning.”  The suspected murderer, U.S. Marine Corp PFC Joseph Scott Pemberton, is currently being held in detention aboard the USS Peleliu warship in Subic Bay.  Her death, clearly the result of a violent hate crime towards transgender people, also underscores the ongoing inequality of joint US-RP agreements like the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which give US military personnel impunity, as such was the case with Lance Corporal Daniel Smith.

 Trans Lives Matter

Systemic violence and aggressive hate is a reality for LGBT people. Transgender people are treated as second-class citizens and their lives are systemically devalued and marginalized in economic, political, social, and cultural spheres of society. Transgender people such as Jennifer suffer from unspeakable violent acts and human rights abuses on everyday.

VFA is an Obstruction to Justice, Enforces Unequal Relations

At the same time, justice for Jennifer Laude hinges upon the treatment of the murder suspect in question, and under whose custody he will be placed and tried. The 2006 trial of Lance Corporal Daniel Smith underscored the special treatment of US military personnel who commit crimes on Philippine soil under the auspices of the VFA. Smith was charged and convicted of rape of a Filipina by the Makati City Regional Trial Court, was held at the US Embassy rather than a Philippine jail, and later acquitted and released by the Court of Appeals in 2009.

In Jennifer’s case, the VFA again poses as an obstruction to justice, with Pemberton still in the custody of the US military.

The tragic death comes just six months after President Obama visited Manila to sign a new agreement that expands the VFA and US military presence in the Philippines– the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

This observation of one-sidedness is reinforced by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that says treaties entered into by the U.S. are not enforceable in the U.S. unless there is an implementing law or if the treaty is self-executing. The VFA, which was not even ratified as a treaty by the U.S. Senate, has neither an implementing law nor is self-executing. It is inequality, and an affront to sovereignty, when the VFA becomes enforceable in the Philippines but not in the U.S.

The Smith and Pemberton cases are just two of the many problems that have arisen from the VFA, a military pact that governs the entry and presence of American troops in Philippine territory. The VFA provides for, among others, the deployment and stationing of U.S. troops and the holding of joint military operations in the Philippines. Unknown to many, U.S. troops have been stationed in the Philippines since 2002 up to the present. The extent of U.S. deployment in the Philippines increased during George Bush’s discredited “war on terror.”

Funding Human Rights Violations Instead of Saving Jobs and Homes in the U.S.

The holding of U.S. military exercises is tied with providing military aid to the Philippines, with an annual $30 million allotted by the U.S. Congress and hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars in other assistance. The accumulated U.S. military funding for the Philippines from 2001 to the present may have already reached $1 billion.

Such a practice, however, becomes unconscionable when U.S. funding is used by a regime that – to borrow words from President Barack Obama- “clings to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent.” A 2008 US Senate Hearing led to cuts in US military funding to the Philippine government per documentary evidence involvement of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in extrajudicial-killings, enforced disappearances, forced evacuation of rural communities, illegal detentions, and torture.

The VFA, despite the military exercises and aid, provides absolutely no short-term nor long-term benefits to the people of either the U.S. or the Philippines. Filipino citizens have staged an escalating number of protests to voice their opposition to the Agreement and its violation of Philippine sovereignty. Several Philippine senators have also filed a resolution calling for its abrogation.

The Obama administration has vowed a departure from the Bush foreign policies. Terminating the VFA and removing U.S. troops from the Philippines would be a step in that direction.

We demand:

  • That the Aquino government assert jurisdiction over the murder of transwoman Jennifer Laude by US Marine PFC Pemberton
  • That the Obama government immediately waive custody of US Marine PFC Pemberton to the Philippine authorities
  • That the lives of Transgender People be protected and valued, including the passing of Comprehensive Anti-Discrimination legislation that protects Transgender People in the Philippines and the US.
  • The termination of the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement for being an unequal pact saddled with legal problems

JUSTICE FOR JENNIFER LAUDE!

STOP ANTI-LGBT VIOLENCE! TRANS-LIVES MATTER!

TERMINATE THE VISITING FORCES AGREEMENT!

END UNEQUAL RELATIONS BETWEEN THE PHILIPPINES AND THE U.S.!

END ALL HATE CRIMES AGAINST TRANSGENDER PEOPLE!