New York City—Last Sunday, June 3, in the heart of the Philippine Independence Day Celebration on Madison Avenue, Manhattan, cultural group Sining Pandayan used creative street theater to expose the election fraud and violence marking this past midterm election, and to urge Filipinos to continue the struggle for a truly free and independent Philippines.
“The massive migration of Filipinos to different parts of the world is a living testament that people in the Philippines face harsh conditions that force them to go to foreign countries to survive,” said Joana Palomar, spokesperson for Ugnayan ng mga Anak ng Bayan (Linking the Children of the Motherland), one of the organizations comprising Sining Pandayan. “While we Filipinos in the US celebrate the so-called independence of the Philippines, our people back home are denied a voice in the elections because of massive cheating, vote-padding, electioneering, murder and violence.”
According to independent, accredited poll watchdogs, this election has been marred by tactics of massive vote-padding for Malacañang-backed party-lists, as well as blatant irregularities such as missing tally sheets and ballot boxes that were never opened. The corruption of the party-list system, originally created to give voice to the marginalized sectors of Philippine society, is now part of systematic efforts by the US-backed Arroyo regime to crush legitimate opposition on all fronts and at all costs. This has included a shocking record of roughly 860 victims of political killings and 198 victims of forced disappearances since Arroyo assumed the presidency in 2001.
Youth-sectoral party-list Kabataan (Youth) has demanded the immediate investigation of the cases of two slain youth poll watchers in Camarines Norte, Ronaldo Brezuela, 16, and Roberto ‘Jun-jun’ Bagasbas, Jr., 27, who were abducted by uniformed men on May 15 and found dead of multiple gunshot wounds on May 16.
“If elections are a sign of a strong democracy in a nation, corruption and violence in the Philippines shows we have still not achieved the freedom that we fought for in the 1896 Revolution,” said Palomar.
The 1896 Revolution was the Filipino people’s struggle for national liberation against Spain. The revolution was frustrated by US domination, which led to a continuing history of Philippine presidents who are ultimately subservient to US interests.
In last Sunday’s street theater performance, fifteen Ugnayan members dramatized a scene depicting voters for five progressive party-lists—Bayan Muna (People First), Anak Pawis (Toiling Masses), Gabriela, Kabataan, and Suara Bangsamoro. During the play, votes for the party-list groups were stolen during a confrontation with the Philippine military. The soldier shot the carrier of the ballot box and then delivered the votes to Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, depicted in connivance with the US. In the final scene, the voters gathered observers from the audience, linked arms, raised fists and defeated Gloria.
The parade-going onlookers were drawn in to the performance and many were shocked during the confrontation with the military. The youth, especially, reacted with curiosity.
“The issues of the youth in the US are the same as those of our brothers and sisters in our homeland,” said Ugnayan member RZ Flandez. “We experience state violence, fraudulent elections, tuition increases, lack of education and unemployment. The issues are the same and the role is the same. It’s up to the youth to voice our concerns and to continue our historic role in advancing the unfinished 1896 Revolution.”
Sining Pandayan or “forging art” in Filipino is the multi-generational, multi-sectoral cultural group comprised of workers, women, immigrant and second-generation youth, students, young professionals, and LGBTQ, mainly from DAMAYAN Migrant Workers Association and Ugnayan ng mga Anak ng Bayan. Sining Pandayan uses various cultural and expressive means such as poetry, music and street theater to project issues of the Filipino people, both in the homefront and locally.