By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – A Washington prosecutor has refused to file charges against Filipino-American activists who joined a protest early this month during Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s visit to the United States.
In an online press conference on May 24, Anakbayan-USA Chairperson Jordan Faralan said that the Washington DC prosecutor declined to press charges against four of their members namely; Kaloy Ceballos, Sophie Morada, Jay Cleofe and Brittany Tabora, or collectively referred to as the DC4.
The four were arrested on May 2 while Marcos Jr. together with his Cabinet secretaries and some of the Philippines’ billionaires were dining at Fiola Mare in Georgetown. The group described the place as high-end with upmarket restaurants and shops.
“We are here today to stand with the DC4 in their courageous protest on May 2 and celebrate the victory and the justness of our cause. This form of protest against Marcos and his cronies was so righteous that the US state could not even justify moving forward with charges,” Faralan said.
“The DC police and US state has historically declared its alliance with bureaucrat capitalists in the Philippines. But it had no teeth to repress our activists because of the truth they stood up for. They could not justify pressing charges because our cause is just and the imperialists could not protect Marcos from the truth of his own crimes,” Faralan added, saying that Anakbayan will not be intimidated and will not back down.
Marcos Jr. was in the US for an official visit last April 30 to May 4 where he met with US President Joe Biden. Critics called Marcos Jr.’s meeting with Biden as a complete sell-out of Philippine sovereignty as it further strengthened its ties with the US by increasing US troops’ presence in the country through military exercises.
Throughout his visit, Marcos was hounded with protests by different progressive groups in Washington.
Read: Marcos Jr. met with protest in the US
Parents of Tabora as well as allied organizations also expressed their support for the DC4.
“We support our daughter and other members of the DC4. Though Brittany and others have demonstrated and protested, their actions were peaceful and non-violent. The main intention of the act was to raise awareness of the corruption and wrongdoing done by Marcos family over the years,” said Donna, mother of Tabora said during the press conference.
Sammy Alqasem of the Palestinian Youth Movement commended the series of protests held by Fil-Am activists in the entire visit of Marcos Jr. in Washington.
“We could not be more proud of you all. We really mean it sincerely when we say that this too was a victory for us. Over the years that we worked together, we’ve discussed in length the weapon sales and joint military exercises that the Zionist regime conducted with the Marcos regime. And so a victory against Marcos was a victory against Israel too,” Alqasem said.
Meanwhile, Rev. Sadie Stone, deputy secretary general of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines Global Council, said that dropping the charges against the DC4 is correct and just.
“We are grateful for the DC4 and all other activists in the DC area who made sure that Marcos felt your presence at every single turn. We, here in San Francisco, take inspiration for that work as we prepare for Marcos and other heads of state to arrive in San Francisco for APEC in November,” Stone said.
“While the charges were dropped, we know our work continues. Long live international solidarity,” Stone added.
‘Lavish dinner while Filipinos struggle to make both ends meet’
During the online press conference, the four activists criticized Marcos Jr.’s extravagant dinner at Fiola Mare while Filipinos are struggling to make ends meet.
They lament the low salaries, the lack of jobs for the Filipinos that forced them to leave their families and work overseas.
“Some of the dishes at Fiola Mare cost $50-200. This is enough to feed a family of four in the National Capital Region. There were bottles of alcohol that were $1,800. That’s more than a worker can make in ten months,” Tabora said.
For Jay, Marcos Jr.’s lavish dinner was a clear display of state neglect and “disgusting use of people’s money.”
“While Marcos and the wealthy elite were dining, people were struggling to make ends meet. Marcos is so detached from the average Filipino. The legal system deems us criminals but who are the real criminals? Those who act above the law, to be opportunists, to steal money from the people, to get away with these human rights violations,” Jay said.
During their protest, the DC4 chanted “Philippines is not for sale,” “Stop killings in the Philippines,” and “Marcos not welcome here.”
Tabora said they were met with laughter even telling them that they do not speak Tagalog.
“They don’t know that many Filipinos here don’t speak Tagalog because of imperialism. They are not taught and their parents are forced to assimilate,” Tabora said.
Sophie meanwhile said that like in the Philippines, DC allocates more budget to the military than social services.
“Metropolitan Police Department and the Department of Homeland Security receives over $80 billion this fiscal year while less than $10 billion went to DC’s social services and public schools,” she said.
“So much of the funding is going towards encouraging students and youth to enlist in the military instead of encouraging them to actually have free education that’s not restricted to some conditions of joining the military. So many of the Filipinos in the US have similar experiences to Filipinos back home who have to join the military because they think it’s the true solution to the problem’s that they’re facing,” Sophie added.
Continuing the struggle
The DC4 thanked all those who have supported their cause as well as their legal fight. They added that the best support is participating in a variety of solutions, in short-term as well as long-term.
“One of which is to support the Philippine Human Rights Act and push for it to be passed. The PHRA is a measure that we are taking to cut the amount of US tax dollars that are coming in the form of military aid to the AFP and PNP which continue to contribute to the killing and disappearances and torture of a number of Filipino people,” Jay said.
Read: US lawmaker reintroduces bill seeking to tie US gov’t aid to PH human rights reforms
They vowed to continue with their cause and called on the public to join the protest in November as Marcos Jr. is set to attend the APEC meeting there.
“What we are pushing for is for the people to mobilize in November to San Francisco not only to put more pressure on the Marcos administration but also APEC and all institutions that support imperialist intervention and expansion,” Jay said. (RTS, RVO)