Through Performance, Students and Community Members Call for Clean and Fair Elections and an End to Oplan Bantay Laya in the Philippines

Kuusela Hilo
Vice Chair, BAYAN-USA

Daya Mortel
Southwest Regional Coordinator, BAYAN-USA

University of California, Los Angeles – Community members and students called for clean and fair elections in the Philippines and an end to human rights violations with two events on campus–Fowler Out Loud and Power in Numbers.  AnakBayan Los Angeles, Habi Arts, and Sisters of GABRIELA, Awaken (SiGAw), all member organizations of BAYAN USA, collaborated with students Diane Valencia, Lorenzo Perillo, and student groups Samahang Pilipino and members of PAGaSA to present an evening of performance.

During Fowler Out Loud, SiGAw performed excerpts from their show Pasanin Mo Pasanin Ko: Bridging the Struggle of Filipinas.  Members addressed the issue of violence against women through narratives, poems, and song.  Terrie Cervas, SiGAw member and Vice Chair of GABRIELA-USA, stated, “Here in the US, Filipinas face multiple forms of violence, such as rape, discrimination, sexual harassment and more.  Filipinas back home face similar forms of violence and they also suffer under the violence perpetrated by the government.  Over 200 women have fallen as victims to the human rights violations committed by the administration of Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA).  It’s because of the repressive government and depressed economy that over 3,000 Filipinos leave the country everyday, majority of whom are women.”

UCLA students similarly explored the issues of human rights injustices through dance at workshops conducted with Habi Arts co-founding member and Filipina-American torture survivor Melissa Roxas.  The workshops resulted in a collaborative piece with Melissa, choreographers Lorenzo and Nico, and UCLA dancers.  The final performance presented was a movement piece that expressed the profound effect of human rights violations on individuals and the community.  The dance was accompanied by narration and projected images of victims of human rights violations in the Philippines.   Roxas stated, “our aim of the collaborative piece was to speak about human rights injustices by pushing the boundaries of traditional dance.  For many of the students, this was the first time that they were learning about the human rights situation in the Philippines and it was also the first time they were learning to dance and move beyond the confines of traditional dance.  I was told by the dancers that they were profoundly moved by the whole process.  It also provided an opening for what I hope will be a continuing conversation about the human rights situation in the Philippines.”

The Fowler Out Loud event ended with a People’s March, with audience members and performers chanting and marching along a path marked by signs exposing election related fraud and violence in the Philippines.  People poured into Moore hall, the venue for Power in Numbers. BAYAN-USA organized Power in Numbers as a national concert tour, aimed to build awareness and opposition to the election related violence that has intensified with the approaching May 10 elections in the Philippines.  Organizers also called on audience members to spread the word and get out the vote for progressive partylists and senatorial candidates, such as Liza Maza, Satur Ocampo, Anakpawis, GABRIELA Women’s Partylist, and Kabataan Partylist.

The Los Angeles leg of the Power in Numbers concert featured the talents of musicians E.K.H, K.See, Divine Daughters, Shining Sons, L.U.V, and DJs ET and Em-One. The event also featured the UCLA premiere screening of “Sounds of a New Hope,” a documentary film by UCLA alumnus Eric Tandoc.  The film chronicles the life of Filipino-American MC Kiwi and the growing use of hip-hop as an organizing tool in the people’s movement for national liberation and democracy in the Philippines.

AnakBayan Los Angeles member, Nikole Cababa stated, “The Los Angeles concert was held at UCLA to inspire students and the local community to put international pressure on the Philippine government to conduct fair elections and refrain from using violence to suppress democratic rights.”

GMA’s administration has received widespread criticism for rampant human rights violations from the international community, which recently included groups such as the World Council of Churches.  Investigations by UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston have linked enforced disappearances, torture, and other gross human rights violations to the Philippine military, with no persecution of the perpetrators by the GMA administration. The Armed Forces of the Philippines has implemented Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL), a counter-insurgency program that the government touts will defeat the armed revolutionary movement by 2010.  In reality, OBL stands as the Philippine government’s bloodiest and most vicious counter-insurgency program to date, targeting both the revolutionary armed struggle and the legal democratic movement.

Currently the Philippine government receives the largest amount of US military aid in Asia. BAYAN-USA has initiated a campaign, calling for the end of US military aid to the Philippines.  During the Power in Numbers concert, audience members signed postcards in support of the campaign, which call to uphold human rights and democracy.  The postcards will be delivered to Congressman Howard Berman, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee.  BAYAN-USA calls on all concerned community members to support the campaign and urge Congressman Berman to end military aid to the Philippines. More information can be obtained by contacting


BAYAN-USA is an alliance of progressive Filipino groups in the US representing organizations of students, scholars, women, workers, and youth. As the only international chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN-Philippines), BAYAN-USA serves as an information bureau for the national democratic movement of the Philippines and as a campaign center for anti-imperialist Filipinos in the US.

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