Workers Vanguard No. 1135
1 June 2018
S.F. Airport Atrocity
Moro Activist Tortured, Refused Entry by Border Cops
The following statement was issued on May 23 by the Partisan Defense Committee. The PDC is a legal and social defense organization whose work is in accordance with the political views of the Spartacist League/U.S.
The Partisan Defense Committee joins Filipino activists and others in protesting the brutal treatment of Jerome Succor Aba by Customs and Border Protection agents at San Francisco International Airport on April 17-18. A defender of the oppressed Muslim Moros and Lumad communities of the southern Philippines island of Mindanao, the 25-year-old activist was held for 28 hours as supporters rallied outside the airport to demand his release. According to a press release by Jessica Antonio, secretary general of Bayan USA, Aba was treated like an enemy combatant and subjected to rendition-style interrogation, including being forced to strip naked in front of an industrial fan blowing cold air and badgered about being a “terrorist” or “communist.”
Aba was refused entry to the U.S. despite having a valid multi-entry visa. After arriving back in the Philippines, he recounted that he had been made to sign blank pieces of paper for U.S. authorities to use in claiming that he was never tortured. When he tried to add the initials “UP” for “under protest,” he was forced to sign new blank sheets.
Aba had been invited by the United Methodist Church to join its Ecumenical Advocacy Days in Washington, D.C. Co-chair of Sandugo—Movement of Moro and Indigenous Peoples for Self-Determination, he was also due to take part in a speaking tour on the situation in the Southern Philippines under martial law, imposed by the Rodrigo Duterte regime during its bloody suppression of Islamist fighters in the city of Marawi.
Martial law continues even after the defeat of the insurgents last October following nearly five months of bombing and a military siege that turned Mindanao’s most heavily Muslim city into a ghost town. This murder and mayhem was backed to the hilt by the U.S., which sent Special Forces to aid the Philippine armed forces’ assault. With good reason, some Moro groups are linking the recently commenced U.S.-Philippines Balikatan military exercises to Aba’s detention and torture. All U.S. troops out of the Philippines!
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a resolution on May 1 calling for an independent investigation into Aba’s ordeal and condemning the Trump administration’s “nationwide pattern of abuse and coercion at major ports of entry.” The treatment meted out to Aba certainly fits with the Trump government’s broad anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant crackdowns. But the “anti-terror” pretext behind those actions was sanctified by Trump’s Democratic and Republican predecessors, who also bankrolled the Philippine rulers’ vicious repression of workers, peasants and national and ethnic minorities in this U.S. neocolony.
In its dirty work in Mindanao, the ruling class in Manila follows directly in the footsteps of its American minders. Having rained down terror and destruction in seizing the Philippines in the 1898 Spanish-American War, the U.S. colonizers then undertook the prolonged “pacification” of the archipelago’s southern islands. This included the notorious 1906 U.S. Army massacre of 900 Moro men, women and children at Bud Dajo mountain. General Leonard Wood, who engineered the bloodbath, was congratulated by President Theodore Roosevelt for “the brilliant feat of arms wherein you and they so well upheld the honor of the American flag.”
The murderous history of American colonial and neocolonial oppression in the Philippines underscores the importance of U.S. workers taking up the defense of Aba and others who have been victimized for defending the oppressed. In fighting on their behalf, the workers will be fortified in waging their own struggles against the U.S. capitalist rulers who make life hell for the vast majority.