By Tonyo Cruz
Jerome Succor Aba is one of your neighborhood activists. He is known to many as chairman of Suara Bangsamoro, and as co-chair of the indigenous peoples’ alliance Sandugo.
In fact, Jerome is known to many other people abroad as one of the credible voices of struggle and defiance against the rising tyranny. His creds caught the attention of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and a slew of human rights groups, and Filipino-American associations such as NAFCON.
This week, he flew to the US as a speaker in an event in Washington, DC – part of what was planned as a speaking tour. Immigration authorities in San Francisco detained him upon arrival. Later, they claimed that there was a glitch in his 10-year multiple-entry visa.
Despite protests by Americans and Filipino-Americans who were there to welcome and host him, Jerome was turned back by US authorities.
I don’t know about you but this looks like the handiwork of the Duterte regime, that has arbitrarily tagged legal and aboveground activists as terrorists. It has been furious at activists for leading protests against extrajudicial killings, human rights violations, and march towards dictatorial rule.
Aba’s deportation from the US came soon after Duterte himself said that he alone would decide who leaves and who enters the Philippines as he defended the arrest and detention of Sister Patricia Fox NDS which happened also this week. The President likewise admitted he ordered the Bureau of Immigration to “case in” Sister Pat, a peasant advocate.
These are clues that Duterte and his minions in the Department of Justice could have tipped off the US authorities on Aba’s trip to the US This is also not farfetched, considering the close ties Duterte has cultivated with Trump and the US embassy, which is a stark contrast with his contempt and hatred for Filipino activists and changemakers.
Aba can take the humiliation and inconvenience of being held and deported. Our kababayans who belong to Bangsamoro and other national minorities are used to this kind of treatment by our government and the US government. Which was why he is a movement leader in the first place, why he was set to speak to Americans in the second place.
Aba and the groups he belongs to should consider it a badge of honor to be turned back by the Trump regime, and considered an enemy by Duterte. The clear act of harassment proves the point of Suara Bangsamoro and Sandugo about the human rights situation in the Philippines, and also the connivance between the governments in Washington and Manila to stop the truth from coming out.
The same is true with the case of Sister Pat. Her arrest, detention, and threat of deportation put the government and people of Australia, religious congregations like Sister Pat’s NDS, and the Vatican on notice about the threat to liberties, including the right to religious freedom.
Duterte and his apologists can no longer hide their fear of activists and others fighting tyranny. They are doing everything to silence, terrorize, intimidate, harass, and demonize them. They know fully well not just the fighting will of activists. The commitment of people like Jerome to comprehensive reforms and radical change is a threat to their demagoguery and deception.
What can we do in protest?
Let’s keep updated and follow the developments in the vice-presidential recount where money may be finance the tampering with the results; the unconstitutional quo warranto case against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno; the continued detention of Senator Leila de Lima; the protest against the closure and militarization of Boracay; the 34th annual Cordillera Day celebration this coming week that will expose and denounce a plan to sell Chico Dam to the Chinese; and the Labor Day demonstrations set to condemn the refusal to end Endo and the devastating new and higher taxes.
If you are for resisting tyranny, you must come out to defend Jerome, Sister Pat, and their movements, defend Vice President Robredo and the Chief Justice, defend Senator De Lima, defend the workers, the people of Boracay, and the Cordillerans. Look no further than the oligarchs, political dynasties, the corrupt elements of the police and the military, fake news peddlers, and the foreign governments propping up Duterte.
You may send your messages of support to Jerome through the SANDUGO Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/SandugoNatMin/ and website. Feel free to donate to SANDUGO campaigns to defend indigenous peoples and national minorities from Duterte’s tyranny.
Sister Pat currently serves peasant and farm worker communities belonging to the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA, Federation of Agricultural Workers). Please consider donating to UMA: https://umapilipinas.wordpress.com