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Saturday, June 24, 2023

Filipinos Call for Genuine Sovereignty at NYC Philippine Independence Day Parade

Lambert Parong/ Kababayan Media

New York — More than 300 Filipino immigrants, Filipino Americans, and allies marched as the Northeast Coalition to Advance Genuine Democracy in the Philippines (NECAGDP) in the annual Philippine Independence Day Parade on June 4, 2023 in Manhattan, New York.

This year marked the 125th anniversary of Philippine independence from Spanish colonial rule. But as members of the NECAGDP noted, the Philippines under the current Marcos-Duterte regime is far from free. The diverse contingent marched in unison behind a banner that read “Atin ang Pinas! Magkaisa para sa Karapatan, Soberanya, at Tunay na Kaunlaran!,” or “The Philippines is Ours! Unite for Rights, Sovereignty, and Genuine Development!”

Lambert Parong/ Kababayan Media
During the May 2022 Philippines elections, the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) organized an International Observers Mission to investigate and document human rights violations. ICHRP discovered that during the elections process, there were extensive problems regarding the “electronic voting system, vote-buying, red-tagging of all opposition candidates, and acts of violence against certain partylists and their supporters.” Despite this, both Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. — the son of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, Sr. — and Sara Duterte, the daughter of outgoing president Rodrigo Duterte assumed their positions of President and Vice-President of the Philippines.

Cailin Lansang of Kabataan Alliance Northeast and Andrea Cagurangan of Kabataan Alliance DMV reflected on their experiences as Filipino youth in the United States. Cagurangan told the crowd, “We are victims of a society that has forced us to assimilate [and] forget our roots. But through learning the true history of Philippine society, we know that it is one of resistance that stems from Andres Bonifacio — whom we represent today as he led the revolt against Spain by uniting the entire country as one force.”

Joms Salvador, Secretary-General of GABRIELA Philippines, roused the crowd in Tagalog about why Filipinos have left the Philippines to find new homes all over the world. “My countrymen, who are migrants, children, and descendants of Filipino migrants searched for a better future and life for our familiesIn spite of this, we are brought together under one struggle for the freedom of our Motherland because we know that there is [neither] true freedom [nor] independence when most of our fellow countrymen are still in poverty.”

“When there is still no land, no rights for our countrymen, no livable wages, no decent and regular jobs in our Motherland,” Salvador continued, “the Filipino people are still being led by not those in the government, one that is not for the people but only for the few — the local oligarchs, foreign capitalists, and foreign powers like the American government who exports war [to] our country.”

Lambert Parong/ Kababayan Media

Nina Macapinlac, Secretary-General of BAYAN-USA, explained how new efforts from the Philippines Department of Tourism are reinforcing the Labor Export Policy, a legacy of Marcos, Sr. that formalizes and streamlines Filipino migration to fill economic and labor gaps in foreign countries. “The Philippines Department of Tourism released a new slogan called ‘We Give the World our Best,’ which is supposed to commemorate Overseas Filipino Workers’ contributions. But whose best is that to give away? Is it not our right to keep what is ours?”

She continued, “[Marcos, Jr.] is participating in ‘free-trade forums’ like the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). Meanwhile, the Philippine government is peddling corruption scams like the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF).” The MIF sovereign wealth fund (SWF) was recently passed in the Congress of the Philippines, where seed money — P50 billion from the Land Bank of the Philippines; P25 billion from the Development Bank of the Philippines; P50 billion from the Philippine government; and another P125 billion from the Philippine government, Government-Owned and Controlled Corporations (GOCCs), and Government Financial Institutions (GFIs) — were collated to “invest national funds and coordinat[e] and strengthen the investment activities” of these GOCCs and GFIs “to promote economic growth and social development.”

Critics argue that the MIF will be plundered by high-level government officials — and that the Philippines cannot afford to have a SWF because not only does the country not have surplus wealth, but they also have staggering debts and fiscal deficit — additional relics from Marcos, Sr. “Will APEC give us our economic sovereignty? No! Will foreign investment give us our economic sovereignty? No!” Macapinlac concluded, “All of us here — activists [and] protestors — pour our heart and soul out into organizing and mobilizing our communities. We are here because we love the Philippines! We are not paid off! We are fed up!”

After the march, participants walked to Madison Square Park and received lunch donations from businesses and community members from across New York and New Jersey and attended “Piyesta in the Park,” a program filled with music, singing, dancing, pageantry, and guerilla theater. The steady attendance and positive reception at the parade and park also points to support and aspiration for a free Philippines. The NECAGDP represents a broad unity of Filipinos across the Northeast United States that aspires for a truly democratic Philippines.


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