‘Makibaka! Huwag Matakot!’ Filipino youth in Seattle attend Anakbayan USA’s 4th National Congress

‘Makibaka!  Huwag Matakot!’  Filipino youth in Seattle attend Anakbayan USA’s 4th National Congress
‘Makibaka!  Huwag Matakot!’  Filipino youth in Seattle attend Anakbayan USA’s 4th National Congress

by Victor Simoes

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In early February, Anakbayan South Seattle (ABSS) sent 14 organizers to the Bay Area for Anakbayan USA’s Fourth National Congress and BAYAN USA’s Seventh National Congress. This gathering of over 300 people from across the country aimed to unite on a program to strengthen the national democratic movement in the United States through a series of actions, workshops and discussions centered around the call “Laban Bayan! Unite the masses to defeat the fascist US -Marcos II regime and fight for national democracy!”

ABSS is a grassroots youth and student organization fighting for lasting change and true democracy in the Philippines. The overseas chapter of Anakbayan Philippines is one of three in Seattle, which also includes the home base of Anakbayan Seattle (the first overseas chapter of the organization founded in the United States) and Anakbayan University of Washington.

“When we were at the convention, something that was emphasized was how historic it is to organize for Philippine national democracy with Bongbong Marcos Jr. now in power,” said Nica Sy, vice president of Anakbayan South Seattle. “We are facing the same dynasty that was in power for 20 years under Ferdinand Marcos Sr., who committed countless human rights atrocities.”

Ferdinand Marcos Jr., popularly known as “Bongbong”, son of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr., assumed the presidency of the Philippines in 2022. His controversial victory was one of the Philippines’ most important elections since the People Power Revolution of 1986. brought back democracy after 21 years of Marcos Sr.’s rule—nine years of which were under martial law, which took effect in 1972. Martial law suspended the Philippine constitution and led to suppression of the press and persecution of Marcos Sr. .’s political opponents. Under martial law, some 3,257 people were killed, over 34,000 tortured and more than 70,000 detained without the right to a fair trial.

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Filipino activists are protesting a lack of consular services and increased activist repression by the Marcos regime. The Philippines is considered the world’s second deadliest country for environmental activists. Pictured at Anakbayan USA’s Fourth National Convention and BAYAN USA’s Seventh National Convention on February 6 (Photo courtesy of Anakbayan South Seattle.)

On February 6, activists attending the congress gathered in front of the Philippine Consulate in San Francisco, making a direct confrontation with the Marcos regime. Among the calls for “Services Not Surveillance”, the group demanded that the Philippine government put public money into essential services for Filipinos back in the islands and Assistance To Nationals (ATN) to support overseas Filipino workers instead of a continued increase in the Department of Defense budget.

The ATN coordinates consular efforts to respond to urgent requests for assistance from Filipinos living abroad. As of today, the Philippine Consulate in San Francisco serves Filipinos in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Northern Nevada, Colorado, Montana, Utah, Wyoming and Northern California, but cannot immediately accommodate requests.

“These services are things that Filipinos living here in the United States have said they have needed,” Sy said. “Many cannot go home because their passports have expired and it is impossible to get an appointment with the consulate.”

ABSS explained that they are not only in solidarity with the people of the Philippines, but rather part of the national democratic movement of the Philippines with a special role in fighting for democracy and liberation as overseas Filipinos. In their understanding, while they exist outside the Philippines, the same struggles that people in the archipelago face today are the reasons that brought them to the United States in the first place.

For decades, many Filipinos have left home to search for work opportunities abroad. Today, it is estimated that more than 10 million Filipinos, or about 10% of the Philippines’ population, live abroad. These trends have long been attributed to the fragile economy and what Anakbayan points out as the three fundamental problems in the Philippines: US imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism.

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“We also have an extraordinary role to play living in the United States,” Sy said. “There is a certain power and access we can leverage as overseas Filipinos.”

Anakbayan US has an ongoing campaign supporting the passage of the Philippine Human Rights Act (PHRA) in the US Congress. This amendment would “suspend the provision of security assistance to the Philippines until the Government of the Philippines has undertaken certain reforms of the military and police forces.” The PHRA includes the suspension of US security assistance to the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police. These two institutions have been used to repress activists and those accused of multiple human rights violations.

Back in Seattle, ABSS is agitating to implement the lessons learned from the congress. In the following months, the organization plans to expand its membership in South Seattle, conduct educational discussions, create public programs, and build and enrich members through collective work and cultural activities such as language learning.

“We want to work with Filipinos and other youth and labor organizations or groups. Because at the same time, while we are fighting for liberation at home in the Philippines, we also want to understand the problems that Filipinos are facing today where we live, including in the South End of Seattle, says Marco Ares, member of Anakbayan South Seattle. .

To stay updated on future ABSS activities and more, follow them on Instagram at @anakbayansouthseattle.

“Now, after attending this congress, we understand at a higher level the scope, depth and strength of this movement not only in the Philippines but also here in the United States,” Sy said.

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Victor Simoes is an international student at the University of Washington pursuing a dual degree in journalism and photography/media. Originally from Florianópolis, Brazil, they enjoy radical organization, hyperpop and their beloved cats. Their writing focuses on community, art and culture. You can find them on Instagram or Twitter at @victorhaysser.

📸 Featured image: Activist Francesca Juico of Gabriela Seattle, a national democratic organization in the Philippines that promotes the militant women’s movement, chants a song from the 1986 People Power Revolution: “Makibaka! Huwag matakot!” (Fight! Don’t be afraid!). Pictured at Anakbayan USA’s 4th National Congress and BAYAN USA’s 7th National Congress last month. (Photo courtesy of Anakbayan South Seattle.)

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