Jersey City Filipinos Stand with Marawi, Calls for ‘just and lasting’ Peace in the Philippines

Jersey City, NJ – More than 30 activists, supporters and community members unfurled a banner that says “Never again to martial law” as they stood at the 9/11 memorial fountain at Journal Square, Jersey City. The community vigil aimed to extend solidarity to the victims of a terrorist attacks in the Philippines as well as condemn President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of martial law.

On May 23, President Duterte placed the whole of Mindanao, one of the three major islands of the Philippines, under martial law. This was after an undetermined number of armed men from the Maute group, an alleged ISIS affiliated terrorist group launched an attack in Marawi, Lanao Del Sur. Both the attack and the declaration of martial law has has raised concerns from the Jersey City Filipino community.

“Gabriela New Jersey stands in solidarity with the people of Marawi and the people of Mindanao. We condemn the attacks on the people of Marawi. But we also condemn President Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao. Martial law is not the answer to the conflicts occurring in the region. Militarization of communities leads to increased violence against women and displacement, [and] it increases the vulnerability of women and children to military abuse as well other human rights abuses,” said Ren Clacer, Chairperson of GABRIELA New Jersey.

“I don’t support the Maute group, I don’t support terror groups, but at the same time I don’t support Martial Law in Mindanao. Defense Secretary Lorenza said that they declared martial law in Mindanao to solve all the problems in Mindanao. In my opinion, Martial Law in Mindanao won’t solve all problems, rather it will create more problems,” said Bobby Young of Migrante New Jersey, a Mindanaoan hailing from Cagayan De Oro. “The problems of peace and order, the problem of poverty, illegal logging, destructive mining, landlessness, social inequity, self determination can’t be solve by martial law or it will never be solved by martial law or by a military rule,” Young continued.

Activists also raised concerns about possible U.S. hand on the terrorist attack. “We condemn the attacks carried out by the Maute group in Marawi. They claim to have affiliations with Abu Sayyaf and ISIS. These are the very same groups that the CIA had trained to cause disruption among communities asserting their self-determination. US and Philippine militarization has spawned terrorist groups in the Philippines that are now being used as scapegoats to further curtail the civil rights of the people.” said Rodrigo Bacus of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns Northeast (NAFCON NE).

Maricar Taino, chapter president of the New Jersey Philippine American Junior Chambers International, reminded everyone that peace is possible. “The struggle for freedom and democracy has been marked by violence resulting in considerable loss of lives and property all over the world.  Terror cannot be ended by terrorizing. A community in fear takes out hope and finds that lasting peace is becoming more of a dream. We have to believe that peace is possible.  By believing is to act and advocate that we stand for a Just and peaceful negotiations.  Peace ensures human dignity and we must unite to choose peace is possible. “Peace is not just the absence of conflict, but the prevalence of justice”

Laura Austria of Anakbayan New Jersey, a Filipino youth and student organization, demanded for genuine solution to the conflict. “We demand that our leaders to address the root causes of the conflict in the Philippines rather than default to heavy-handed military tactics through the declaration of martial law. Filipinos in the US must express our collective indignation by signing the attached petition below. To truly stand with Marawi, we must create a genuine solution to the people’s struggles and advocate for a truly just and lasting peace in the Philippines.”

The community vigil was ended with the singing of “Bayan Ko”, a song popularized during the anti-Marcos dictatorship, and the chanting of “never again, never again to martial law!” Community resolved to continue conducting awareness campaigns in Jersey City about the armed conflicts happening in Mindanao as well as the dangers of martial law.

The community vigil was attended by Anakbayan New Jersey, Gabriela New Jersey, Migrante New Jersey, New Jersey Philippine American Junior Chambers International, National Alliance for Filipino Concerns, FANG Collective, as well as BAYAN USA – Northeast.

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