On Friday, October 28, 2005, GABRIELA Network, a Philippine-US women’s solidarity mass organization, held an emergency candlelight vigil in six US cities to protest human rights violations in the Philippines. The action was also a commemoration of Philippine Women’s Day of Protest, which was first observed on October 28, 1984. Actions in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles were held in front of Philippine Consular offices; Pullman, WA was held in the Washington State University campus; Seattle, WA was held indoors in Vitos.
GABNet’s emergency demonstration was a response to the killings of 3 activist/union leaders, along with 2 supporters, within the span of 24 hours only two days before. According to various human rights groups and people’s organizations such slaying of political, community, and labor activists have been the norm in the archipelago since US President Bush’s declaration of the Philippines as the second front in the so-called war on terror. The recent murders took place in a region under Major General Jovito Palparan, who have been accused of more than 500 cases of killings, disappearances and other forms of human rights violations. Despite this blood trail, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has promoted Palparan from Colonel to Major General. GABNet Chairperson Annalisa Enrile said, “It is precisely because of this blatant distregard for human rights, and her continuing subservience to the US, along with allegations of election fraud and corruption, that the Filipino people have been calling for Macapagal Arroyo’s resignation or ouster.”
A statement from GABNet underlined the more than century old relationship between the US and the Philippines, and said, “For more than 100 years, the US has had a hand in Philippine affairs—from the Philippine-US war to US colonization of the archipelago to one-sided agreements of trade and relations that has dictated Philippine politics, economy, and culture. It is high time that we who live in the US reaffirm our responsibility to hold the US government accountable for over a century of colonial relations that has attacked and mocked the Filipino peoples’ struggle for sovereignty and self-determination.”
The emergency candlelight vigil included a solemn reading of all the names of men and women activists and organizers killed from 2001 to present under Macapagal Arroyo’s presidency. In Los Angeles and San Francisco, a street theatre included a Macapagal Arroyo-masked character dressed with horns, tail, and carrying a devil’s tripod; a Gen. Major Palparan character dressed as a military executioner, carrying an executioner’s double axe; a skeleton symbolizing the many who have died. In San Francisco, placards bearing human rights violations statistics and names of those killed were taped and left on the sidewalk in front of the Philippine Consulate. Passersby throughout the day and night stopped and read the information.
Established in 1989, GABNet has chapters in Chicago, Irvine, Los Angeles, New York/New Jersey, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco/Bay Area, Seattle, Pullman, WA/Washington State University, and Washington, DC. ###