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Justice Not War in Philippines Protests Iraq War

Justice Not War in the Philippines Protests Iraq War at Military Recruitment Center

New York City--New York-based Filipinos, students and youth flooded Bronx streets on Sunday, March 19th to denounce the US war on Iraq, a war that has killed approximately 150,000 Iraqis and nearly 2,300 US soldiers. In a march and rally organized by the ANSWER Coalition, a large contingent of Filipino youth, workers and solidarity friends bore placards and banners calling for "Money for Youth and Education, Not for War and Occupation" and "No to HR 4437, Yes to Pro-Immigrant Comprehensive Immigration Program."

Sensenbrenner-King House Resolution 4437 is the bill currently in Congress that, if passed, will criminalize almost 14 million undocumented immigrants, their families and any who assist them. "Anti-immigrant bills like HR 4437 are meant to scare and silence us," said Leah Obias, member of local Filipino youth organization Ugnayan ng mga Anak ng Bayan. "Meanwhile, military recruitment takes place in poor and immigrant neighborhoods where incentives like college tuition and faster immigration processes are dangled in front of us."

Sunday's rally began at Tremont and Grand Concourse in the Bronx and ended in front of the Fordham Road Military Recruitment Center, one of the country's largest recruitment centers in one of the country's poorest counties. Community members spoke out against police brutality, military recruitment, substandard education and the wars being waged in Iraq, the Philippines and against poor people everywhere. In a fiery speech delivered on behalf of the Justice Not War in the Philippines Campaign, Ofelia Virtucio of Ugnayan said, "As a young person of color in America, the American dream was never meant for me. I am a displaced Filipina living in America and a war is being waged against me and my people-right here, right now."

Ugnayan member Corinne Manabat performed a spoken word piece that echoed Virtucio's words. "I was suppressed for a minute/born in and out of love from struggling immigrants/still working hard and not seeing their true benefits."

"I'm proud of the youth who fight for our rights-especially against what is really happening in our country, the Philippines, and all over the world," said Zelem Guerrero, member of DAMAYAN Migrant Workers Association.

Guerrero and protesters drew connections between war-torn Iraq and the political repression in the Philippines under the US-backed Arroyo administration. Arroyo has used the US War On Terror to justify increased US military presence in the Philippines, where there are now over 5,000 US troops despite a constitutional ban. On February 24, Arroyo's Proclamation 1017 established a "state of national emergency" and political persecution continues to repress legal organizations and party-list members of Anakpawis, Bayan Muna and Gabriela Women's Party. In 2005 alone, 173 progressive activists were murdered by the Arroyo regime. And even though the Philippine economy cannot survive without the $10.5 billion it receives in remittances from its overseas workers, documented and undocumented alike, Arroyo has done nothing to oppose HR 4437.

Elena Shannon, of DAMAYAN, said that Filipino people and allies must oppose the state of undeclared Martial Law in the Philippines and oust the US-backed Arroyo regime. "I'm still hoping for the change of our country, the Philippines, and for the whole world, to stop all the oppression and bring justice," Shannon said.

JOIN US for an urgent Townhall Meeting on HR 4437 with elected officials on Saturday, March 25, 1-4pm, at P.S. 212 at 34-25 82nd St, between 34th & 35th Aves. [#7 train to 82 St in Jackson Heights, Queens]

Justice Not War in the Philippines Campaign Member Organizations:

DAMAYAN Migrant Workers Association
406 West 40th Street, 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10018

Network in Solidarity with the People of the Philippines (NISPOP)

Ugnayan ng mga Anak ng Bayan (Linking the Children of the Motherland)

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