GABRIELA Network's nationwide vigil on Friday, May 20th, 2005, was a solemn reminder of the on-going US intervention in the Philippines and its destructive nature for the Philippine nation and its people. It was also a firm condemnation of Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's complicity. Held in six US cities—Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Portland, San Francisco and Seattle,—the vigil, organized by GABRIELA Network (GABNet), a US-Philippine women's solidarity mass organization, was the first nationally coordinated action in the US to protest the escalating political killings in the Philippines since George W. Bush and company declared the country as the second front in the global "war on terror."
With over two-hundred participants and more than twenty endorsing organizations, the vigil called attention to the intensifying political repression in the Philippines: three-hundred plus political killings and abductions from 2001 to the present; one-hundred cases of human rights violations, affecting 23,252 victims in ninety-one communities from January to March 15, 2005; thirteen journalists killed last year, three in the first quarter of 2005, making the Philippines the most murderous country in the world for the media; murder of eleven women of GABRIELA, a national alliance of more than two-hundred women's organizations in the Philippines, and of its electoral arm GABRIELA Women's Party.
GABNet members and their allies in every participating city memorialized the untimely deaths of their sisters in struggle by carrying eleven makeshift tombstones that bore the names of the eleven women killed and by recounting the circumstances of their deaths, their personal stories and political involvement.
The actions in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco were held in front of Philippine Consular offices. Portland's was held in the city's Federal Plaza. Seattle's was at the Westlake Center and Carlos Bulosan Exhibit Community Room. In Los Angeles, the women gagged themselves with black cloth to symbolize the curtailing of press freedom and the attacks on those who dissent. They approached a Philippine Consulate staff and handed placards that contained narratives about the women killed. Women in San Francisco wore purple veils that represented both the mourning for those who have died and the great trauma that is continuously being inflicted by the US military and the Macapagal Arroyo's government on the people of the Philippines. The program in New York included a chorale reading of the martyred women's names and how they were killed. GABNet members and supporters refused to be intimidated by several calls from local authorities and the presence of federal agents who took names and pictures of the protestors.
"The nationwide vigil was yet another testament to the strength of GABNet and the support we get from women's and progressive groups," said Annalisa Enrile, Chairperson of GABNet. Referring to the process by which the nationally coordinated action was organized, Enrile said, "I am most proud of, and at the same time humbled by, GABNet's consistent practice of what we call 'democratic command'." In late April, the organization's San Francisco/Bay Area Chapter approached and requested GABNet National for a US-wide action against the human rights violations in the Philippines. After Chapters in Los Angeles and New York/New Jersey formally supported the request, the organization's national officers subsequently issued an emergency call to action. "It was 'Equality in Unity; Justice in Strength' at its finest," said GABNet NY/NJ Coordinator Rebecca Libed, echoing the slogan of GABRIELA International Network (GAIN).
Visit GABNet's website, http://www.gabnet.org, for photos of the event. For more information and to arrange press interviews, contact GABNet Secretary General Dorotea Agustin Mendoza at secgen (at) gabnet.org or (212) 592-3507. ###
A Philippine-US Women's Solidarity Mass Organization
PO Box 403, Times Square Station
New York, New York 10036
Email: gabnet (at) gabnet.org