A Day of Tyranny

Community Opinion & Analysis Jul 1, 2005 at 4:25 pm

Philippine Independence Day Parade in New York City


(Statement of the Philippine Forum on the Consulate General and PIDC’s curtailment of our freedom of expression)

THE Philippine Independence Day Parade in New York City on June 5 was supposed to be a celebration of our freedom from tyranny and oppression. The Philippine Consulate General of New York and officers of the Philippine Independence Day Council Inc., (PIDC) however, violated the spirit of the celebration by trampling on our freedom of expression and threatening to have us arrested. All we wanted was to seek an explanation from Consul General Cecilia Rebong about newspaper reports of her renting a $10,000-a-month condominium at the posh Trump Tower on First Avenue in Manhattan. All we wanted was to express our displeasure with what we consider as lavish spending, especially when viewed in light of the worsening economic crisis in the Philippines. All we wanted was to exercise our right to free expression, which is guaranteed both under the Philippine and U.S. Constitutions.

But the Consulate General and PIDC, organizers of the Independence Day Parade, arrogantly silenced our voice. They threw us out of the parade. They told policemen from the New York City Police Department (NYPD) to arrest us. On a day that was meant to be about freedom, the Consulate General and the PIDC threw us back to the dark days of abuse and oppression that we struggled against during the Spanish and American colonial rule, and more recently, during the Marcos’ martial law regime.

WHO WE ARE

We are mothers and fathers who marched with our sons and daughters during the Philippine Independence Day Parade. Our children, all members of the Philippine Forum-Youth, were dressed as Katipuneros, while we, their elders, donned our dark-blue Philippine Forum shirts.

Most of us are working as domestic workers – nannies, babysitters, caregivers, househelpers. Most of us still hold Philippine passports. Most of us still send a substantial part of our earnings to our relatives in the Philippines. We are what the Arroyo government calls “mga bagong bayani (new heroes),” because our dollar remittances are the only thing that is keeping the Philippine economy afloat.

Most of us still pay taxes to the Philippine government, and it is our tax money that is paying for the salaries of government officials, including those working at the Consulate General office in New York. As such, we retain the right to express our views on how the government spends our hard-earned money.

PARADE OF TYRANTS

On June 5, more than 120 of us, members of the Philippine Forum, joined the Philippine Independence Day Parade in Manhattan. There were at least 50 youth members and 70 adult members, most of whom were serving as chaperones for the youth, whose ages ranged from 13 to 21. There were at least two young girls, both 8 years old.

We brought streamers and banners calling for reforms in the U.S.’ immigration policies. We also brought placards asking the Consul General to explain her $10,000-a-month Trump Tower condominium, and expressing our disapproval of it. As we marched along the parade route, our contingent was greeted from time to time with applause by appreciative portions of the crowd.

But even before the parade could start, trouble was brewing. A few minutes before the parade, PIDC president Nimia Lacebal herself approached our delegation and warned us against expressing our opinion about the Consul General’s Imeldific condominium. Days earlier, Consul Edgar Badajos called Philippine Forum Executive Director Robert Roy and told him not to make an issue out of the $10,000-a-month Trump Tower condominium during the parade. When our executive director refused, Badajos ominously hinted that parade organizers (meaning the Consulate General and PIDC) might find us in violation of the parade guidelines.

Two blocks before we reached the parade grandstand where officers of the PIDC and Consul General Rebong were seated, we were stopped by a PIDC official with at least four burly NYPD policemen in tow. The PIDC official, a certain Juliet Payabyab, ordered the cops not to allow the adult members of our contingent to march with our youth members. She told the policemen that we were “not part of the Philippine Forum” contingent, despite all of us wearing Philippine Forum shirts.

The policemen were also told to arrest us if we resist. Two Philippine Forum staff, Co-Executive Director Julia Camagong and Information Technology Director Nic Cordero, were personally threatened with arrests by the policemen.

Since we did not want to cause any trouble, we had no choice but to pull out of the parade. Meanwhile, our sons and daughters had no idea that their parents and chaperones were thrown out of the parade and threatened with arrest. But they too were not spared by the tyrannical hands of the Consulate General and the PIDC. The Marcos-wannabes at the Consulate General and the PIDC pressured them into hurrying up out of the grandstand. They were not given the chance to perform the tableaux that they practiced for several weeks.

Moreover, two fathers, who were serving as marshals for the youth contingent, were harshly separated from their respective eight-year old daughters, who were left in the care of a fellow female member who was among those thrown out of the parade.

Worried about what might have happened to our children, we decided to walk as a group, with the two young girls in tow, to the end of the parade. We had to take a street one block away from the parade route. All the while, at least two policemen and a police van were following us, as if we were common criminals who were up to no good.

We were allowed to rejoin our sons and daughters only after we pleaded with the policemen to let us in, even though technically, we and our children were already out of the parade route.

WHY?

Why were we subjected to this abusive treatment? We did not do anything objectionable, nor did we violate any item in the parade guidelines issued by PIDC and the Consulate General. Was it because we are just lowly domestic workers? Would they have been as brazen if the ones exercising their freedom of expression were the corporate types or professionals such as doctors? Why were we singled out?
Despite our ordeal at the hands of the tiny tyrants at the Consulate General and the PIDC, we remain resolute in our desire to seek an explanation from Consul General Rebong about her ritzy Trump Tower condominium and to express our disgust over what we feel as insensitivity to the rampant poverty going on in the Philippines.

We denounce the brazen acts of tyranny committed by the Consulate General and PIDC against us, their fellow Filipinos.
We demand the resignation of the overbearing officers of PIDC for violating the very spirit for which the PIDC was founded, that is to allow Filipinos to celebrate and enjoy the freedom they have won through decades of struggle from abusive governments.

We demand an investigation of the petty tyrants at the Consulate General in New York, who abdicated their duty to serve and protect Filipinos in the U.S., and instead trampled on the right of Filipinos to free expression.

For more information, please call 718.565.8862 or email us at philforum96@yahoo.com
Charo de Gorostiza, Technical Recruiter, TSR Consulting Services, Inc. 212 986-4600 Ext. 232.