Peace for Life Working Group Member, Liza Maza, was refused by Korean Air to board her flight on the strength of an email from the US Homeland Security
Dear friends and partners,
On July 9, 2015, Peace for Life Working Group Member, Liza Maza, was refused by Korean Air to board her flight on the strength of an email from the US Homeland Security. She was heading to the United States to be an expert witness on the International People’s Tribunal convened by people’s organizations to hear the crimes against the Filipino people of its President Benigno Simeon Aquino III and US President Barack Obama.
Below is a personal statement from Liza released last July 15 in a press conference here in Manila . Attached also is a fact sheet and an Urgent Call to Action from Karapatan, a human rights organization in the Philippines .
The People’s Forum on Peace for Life is particularly alarmed in this punitive action by the US government and will soon release its statement on the matter.
Liza was able to make her deposition on US military intervention via Skype last July 17. Last July 18, the Tribunal handed a verdict of guilty to Pres. Aquino regime and the government of the US on the grounds that they violated the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights and right to self-determination of the Filipino people.
We will inform of you of further solidarity actions, but, we also welcome your statement of support.
STATEMENT OF FORMER GABRIELA REPRESENTATIVE LIZA MAZA ON HER BEING BARRED FROM TRAVELING TO THE U.S.
I condemn in no uncertain terms the violations of my individual rights and freedoms and the right of the Philippines as a sovereign nation committed by the US Department of Homeland Security through its Customs and Border Protection Agency in collusion with the private airline company, Korean Air.
Last July 9, 2015 after checking in and completing all Philippine immigration procedures required for all departing passengers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and barely thirty-five minutes before boarding Korean Air bound for the US, the ground staff of the said airlines informed me that I cannot board the plane and that my checked-in luggage will be off-loaded. When I asked the reason why they are barring me from boarding the plane, the airline staff said that they received an email from the US Customs and Border Protection Agency of the Homeland Security saying that I should not be allowed to board the plane. My repeated requests for a copy of the email was denied by the Korean Air staff and Mr. Luigi Luis Santos who identified himself as ground supervisor of the Korean Air told me that the said email, which they received only that morning, was “not for third party dissemination” and that I should go to the US embassy for evaluation.
I have a valid ten-year visa to the U.S. granted in 2008. I have been going in and out of the US before and after 2008 mostly in connection with my work as leader of the GABRIELA Women’s Alliance and later as representative of the Gabriela Women’s Party in the Philippine Congress. My itinerary during these trips include meetings with Filipino communities, networking with women’s organizations and on several occasions participating in meetings and activities organized by the United Nations for CSOs.
Why then was I barred from entering the US this time? I can only surmise that the reason for such arbitrary action was to prevent me from testifying before the International People’s Tribunal as expert witness on the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) and the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), both are unequal agreements entered into by the governments of the US and the Philippines . The Tribunal will indict the Aquino government and the US government represented by US President Barak Obama for their crimes against the Filipino people and for violating their civil, political, economic and social rights and their right to self-determination and right to resist.
EDCA is a sell-out of Philippine sovereignty. Negotiated in secret between the two parties, EDCA and the VFA clearly violated the Philippine constitutional prohibition against the presence of foreign troops, facilities and bases on our soil without a treaty. EDCA allows for agreed locations anywhere in the Philippines for US military use free of rent virtually making the Philippines a huge US military base.
In 1991, the Filipino people through a historic no vote by the Philippine Senate rejected a new treaty extending the stay of two of the largest US bases outside its territory – the Subic naval base and the Clark airbase whose presence speaks of the neo-colonial relations of the Philippines with the US. The sites of these bases became haven for rest and recreation industry where violence against women and children is an everyday life. Now with the VFA and EDCA, crimes continue to be committed, the latest of which was the brutal murder of a transgender Jennifer Laude.
These are the truths that the US government does not want the American people and the international community to know.
By preventing me from boarding the plane, from my point of origin, from the very soil of the country of my birth, the US through the tentacles of the US Homeland Security has extended its extraterritorial powers across borders to implement their internal laws and policies in our country in flagrant violation of Philippine sovereignty and in violation of my rights to freedom of movement and association and my right to free speech.
The brazenness of these violations is intended to have a chilling effect not only to activists like me but to ordinary Filipino travelers who may arbitrarily be targeted by the US Homeland Security and without due process declare them undesirable, a threat to human security, terrorists or enemies of the state.
Let me state this clearly and unequivocally: I am neither a security threat to the American people nor am I their enemy. As a former parliamentarian and known feminist, nationalist, and anti-imperialist activist in the Philippines , my whole life as a social activist has been devoted to the struggle for social and national transformation and liberation. As an internationalist, I help build bridges of solidarity among peoples and develop strong bonds of sisterhood among women. My recent participation in a high profile initiative of 30 international women delegation that crossed the Demilitarized Zone that borders North and South Korea dubbed Women Cross DMZ is a commitment to the cause of women’s engagement in the peace process and citizen diplomacy.
I call on the Filipino people to oppose and condemn violations of our national sovereignty and our dignity as a people.
I call on the women of the world to close ranks and assert our rights including our right to participate in the shaping of a community of nations and the strengthening of solidarity of peoples.
I call on the international community particularly the international solidarity workers to oppose any and all acts that will undermine the struggle to attain a vision of a shared humanity and just peace.