KNIGHTS OF RIZAL and the Ladies of Rizal pose after the ceremony marking the 164th birthday of the national hero Jose Rizal June 19 at the Rizal Center. ConGen Generoso Calonge was installed as honorary Knights Commander and was joined by the cultural attache Lizel Alcantara. OKOR and Ladies of Rizal are open for membership. Email email@example.com
By Jon Melegrito
WASHINGTON, D.C. — “If a bishop is not safe in the Philippines, who is going to be safe in his country?”
This was the question posed by T. Kumar, International Advocacy Director for Amnesty International, USA during a two-hour briefing sponsored by the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (TLHRC) July 15.
The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (formerly known as the Congressional Human Rights Caucus) aims “to promote, defend and advocate internationally recognized human rights norms in a nonpartisan manner, both within and outside of Congress, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant human rights instruments.” As an investigative body, it makes recommendations to policy makers and legislators.
Kumar was referring to the alleged recent harassment of the family of Bishop Solito Toquero, former Resident Bishop of the United Methodist Church Manila Episcopal Area.
“That in itself shows the level of abuse conducted by Philippine government￼security forces,” Kumar pointed out. “They are being committed with total impunity, which means nobody is accountable. Instead of being punished, they are promoted – which gives them a green light to do anything they want.”
Toquero was among the panelists who described the current situation in the Philippines and provided personal accounts of torture and abuse by security forces. Also testifying were Amaryllis (Marie) Hilao-Enriquez, Chairperson of KARAPATAN (National Alliance for the Advancement of Human Rights), Marieta Corpuz, General Secretary of Samahan ng Katutubo sa Sierra Madre (SKSM) and Brian Campbell, legal advisor and steering committee member for the U.S.-based Ecumenical Advocacy Network on the Philippines (EANP).
More than a dozen congressional staff members of TLHRC, a bipartisan caucus of the U.S. House of Representatives, were on hand to listen and ask questions. Several representatives of faith-based communities, human rights groups and student organizations were also present, filling up the hearing room at the Rayburn House Office Building in Capitol Hill.
Congressional staff members of the bipartisan caucus and representatives of human rights organizations listen to a panel of speakers allege human rights violations in the Philippines.
In his testimony, Toquero recalled how two men claiming to be soldiers went to his son’s home in Cavite on June 28. “They refused to identify themselves or show their mission orders, but they wanted to talk to Raquel, my daughter-in-law,” he said. “They said they know what she has been doing.”
“What she has been doing,” the Bishop asserted, “is fighting for workers to enjoy their rights and receive decent wages.” His daughter-in-law works for the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE). The advocacy group is pushing for a national minimum wage of P16,000 a month, or about $350, for private as well as public workers.
Environment of Impunity
The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) has protested the “ongoing harassment against the government employees’ union,” and the “current environment of impunity that prevails in the Philippines.” It cited more than 20 incidents since April this year, including arrest on false charges, extrajudicial killings and disappearances.
Hilao-Enriquez, 52, a member of the Agta Dumagat tribe in Aurora province, talked about “my people’s struggles against foreign capitalist investors, big landholders and government itself.”
Their incursions on the Dumagats’ ancestral lands, she said, “is a desecration of our culture. Logging has destroyed the environment￼and displaced our tribal communities. These big companies are being protected by government security forces who resort to violence against anyone who gets in the way of development.”
“I have been organizing my people since I was 18 years old,” Hilao-Enriquez added. “What gives me strength and courage to continue fighting is our collective will to do the right thing.”
In her remarks, Corpuz cited how the military uses excuses to “create divisions in the community and target dissidents and anyone who opposes development in the area. Violence against indigenous communities goes on at a regular pace.”
Be extremely vocal
During the question-and-answer, UCLA student Kevin Casasola asked the panelists “what we can do here in the U.S. to put an end to these human rights violations.”
Kumar replied that the American people must “be extremely vocal in pushing the State Department, not just in issuing annual reports, but in setting benchmarks. Meaningful investigations must be undertaken and military officers, whose hands are soaked in blood, must be held accountable.”
Amirah Ali Lidasan, a Muslim activist from Cotabato City in Mindanao, chimed in from the audience. “Our voices are rarely heard because it’s hard for us to come to the U.S.,” she said. “We are relying on the American people to speak out for us, so we can continue our work.”
“I will do my best as Samahang Pilipino’s external vice president to make sure these issues gain more traction as my campus gets more educated about the Philippines,” Casasola assured Lidasan. “I’ll be heading to the Philippines in August to get more hands on experience with the issues.”
Campbell summed up the panel’s recommendations by calling for “meaningful pressure” from the U.S. to “recognize and understand the pain and suffering of the victims.” He noted that the U.S. has provided “lots of military support” to the Philippine government. “This is more than symbolic, because it is real,” he said. “The Armed Forces of the Philippines are culpable of gross human rights abuses and they must be held accountable.”
Toquero and the other panelists, who later met with senior officials at the State Department, will also be speaking at the International￼Peoples Tribunal held this weekend at Catholic University.
The State Department, in its 2014 Human Rights Report, criticized the Philippines for the “extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearance undertaken by security forces and suspected vigilante groups; a weak and overburdened criminal justice system notable for poor cooperation between police and investigators, a meager record of prosecutions and lengthy procedural delays; and widespread official corruption and abuse of power.”
The appreciation night of the 40th Philippine Independence Week Committee (PIWC) celebration of the 117th year of the Proclamation of Philippine Independence will be held Saturday, July 25 at 6 p p.m. at the Lone Tree Manor 7900 N. Milwaukee Ave in Niles, Illinois.
This was announced by the event's chairperson Mrs. Lydia Tayco.
Officers and volunteers will be honored on the last of series of events of the 2015 PIWC committee headed by Mrs. Ellen Tan. "We will also be given the special opportunity to thank our beauty queens who worked hard to make this year's celebration a success," said Mrs. Tan.
NAFAUM CONFAB: The planning committee for the 15th Biennial conference of the National Association of Filipino American United Methodists pose in front of the Garrett Theological Seminary in Evanston where the convocation will be held from July 9-12 with the theme, "Acts in the City--Retelling the Book of ACTS in the New Century.' Last minute registration are still being accepted. Email its president, Pong Javier at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 708-268-7003. (PINOY Photo)
Filipino Americans in Skokie joined the annual Skokie July 4th Parade in celebration of U.S. Independence Day and Philippine American Friendship Day. The participation was coordinated by NaFFAA officer Jelly Carangdang (3rd fr. R). Participants include Philippine Consulate General in Chicago Cultural Officer, Ms. Liezel Alcantara (2nd fr. R), The KUMON Group,Fil-Am HS Dance Troupe and community volunteers like Vicky Abad, Vic Racolcol, Jackie Tan and Dinah Ubaldo. (Contributed Photo)
CHICAGO--The commemoration of the 154th birthday of the Philippine National Hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, June 19, at the Jose Rizal Heritage Center, the headquarters of the Filipino American Council of Chicago (FACC), was marred by the theft of Rizal’s bust located at the center’s entrance.
FACC president, Dr. Rufino Crisostomo said that the center maintenance man reported the bust missing from its pedestal on June 16, morning after an evening of revelries celebrating the Chicago Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup Victory over Tampa’s hockey team, Lightning, on June 15.
The Rizal Center is a walking distance from Wrigley Field, one of the venues where thousands of sports fans gathered and celebrated into the early hours of the following day. Some tipsters informed Dr. Crisostomo that six intoxicated revelers yanked out Rizal’s bust and carted it away in a car.
Dr. Crisostomo said that a police report was made and despite his appeal to return the bust, it remains missing. During the commemoration led by the Order of the Knights of Rizal, Dr. Crisostomo reiterated his call for help to replace the bust. He spearheaded a fundraising with a pledge of $100 and Dr. Ramon Lopez a great grand nephew of Rizal who was present at the event followed with a pledge of $500.
Consul General Generoso Calonge who was the event’s guest speaker and later was made honorary Knight Commander added a personal appeal for help in replacing the bust to show respect and honor to the National Hero.
Inscribed on the base of the pedestal of the missing bust is a plaque stating that Dr. Jose Rizal made a brief visit to Chicago on May 11, 1888 during his Spring U.S. cross-country train ride from Oakland, California to New York City where he took a ship to England for his second stay in Europe.
A full-bodied statue of Dr. Rizal also stands about a mile northeast of the Rizal Center on a ground donated by the Chicago Park District. The statue was unveiled in June of 1999 with former President Fidel Ramos as guest of honor. The statue was given to the Filipino American community of Chicago as part of the Philippine Independence centennial celebration.
In the spring of 2002, after then President George W. Bush announced his decision that the U.S. is sending troops to Iraq, activists opposing the war stole one of the three flag poles that were at the rear of the Rizal Statue. The protesters hauled away the pole with the American flag while those with the Philippine and the Chicago flags were left untouched.
Uni-Mart Kid's Color Me Halo-Halo Coloring Contest, July 11
On Saturday, July 11, Uni-Mart One Stop Shopping in Niles will hold a coloring contest for kids at 11 a.m. as part of its 8 day event (July 8-15) celebrating its 15th year anniversary. Youth participants in the contest will receive a Chef Richard's Uni-Kids Special Junior Halo-Halo for free. The Niles location is located at 7315 W. Dempster St., Niles, IL 60714. At 1 p.m there will be a Filipino ice cream social.
There is also a smart shoppers promotions from July 8- 15 where shoppers who spend $100 receive a free Beef Stew Wonton Noodles. Shoppers who spend $50 get Free 2 Kikiam Orders. Those who purchase 1 Sizzling dish during this period will get a Free Smoothie. Qualifying purchase must be made in one visit only.