Karapatan challenges Cayetano to file diplomatic protest vs US gov’t on torture of Moro rights activist

“Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Cayetano harps on national sovereignty whenever international actors criticize the Philippine government on its human rights record. If Cayetano meant an ounce of truth in his pronouncements that the country should fully exercise its rights as a sovereign nation, he should uphold the rights of a Filipino citizen who suffered Guantanamo-style torture, among other violations, under the US government. We challenge him to file a diplomatic protest against the Trump administration for the cruel and inhuman acts of the US Department of Homeland Security and US Customs and Border Protection against Filipino Moro human rights activist Jerome Succor Aba,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay. 

From April 17 to 19, 2018, for 28 hours, Aba suffered various forms of psychological and physical torture in the hands of the said US agents, when he arrived at the San Francisco International Airport in the US for a speaking tour organized by the Human Rights Office of the Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church and the US chapter of the International Coalition on Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP). 

Aba was forced to strip naked, with an electric fan blasting at him, while he being interrogated by US officials. Throughout the interrogation, Aba was kept handcuffed. US DHS and CBP officials also denied him food and water, and even disrespected his his religious beliefs by deliberately serving him pork. Also during interrogation, the slightest movement from Aba, even for just stretching his arms or moving his head, would earn him the ire of interrogators.  

To add to his harrowing experience, Aba relayed that a gun and a grenade was intentionally placed in a room, in two different occasions while he was under custody. He said that it was either an excuse to bodily harm him or further their accusations. He was also threatened every time he went to the comfort room, with officials telling him to come out fast or he will be shot. Aba’s full account can be viewed through this: Urgent Appeal for Solidarity and Action for Filipino Moro human rights activist tortured and detained in the US

Karapatan said that Aba, a 25-year old human rights and peace advocate, was treated as a terrorist combatant, with the kind of physical and psychological torture that was used on him, akin to “enhanced interrogation techniques” used by the US on prisoners in Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib, Iraq. The interrogation proceeded with officials accusing him of being a “terrorist”, “communist”, “terrorist communist”, or “communist terrorist”. The rights group noted that other civil and political rights that were violated include denial of access to a lawyer and human rights organizations who were outside the airport, insisting to gain access to him. His belongings were also illegally searched. 

Furthermore, he was only read the Miranda rights after the long hours of interrogation ended. Aba’s privacy and freedom of movement was also grossly neglected after US officials showed him voluminous information on his family, educational background, and activities. He was also not allowed to call anyone except when he was about to be deported. Aba’s electronic gadgets were searched and information in it were illegally obtained by his interrogators. US agents also told Aba that he has no rights and that he is not entitled to the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. 

“With the release of the US State Department report on human rights, which includes its assessment on the Philippines, the US is like a pot calling a kettle black. It neglects to mention that like the Philippines, its human rights record is among the worst, if not the worst in the world, with its crimes against its own citizens and immigrants in the US, and in the Middle East, Latin America and Asia. It conveniently fails to mention that it funds the drug war and the counterinsurgency program in the Philippines and that it has thrown its full support for the imposition of martial law in Mindanao that has all resulted to an avalanche of human rights violations,” Palabay said. 

The Karapatan secretary general also added that "the US is the number one hypocrite when it comes to human rights. It carries the banner of democracy, human rights and sovereignty only as justification to their war crimes. At least we know where the likes of Cayetano and Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque got their penchant and expertise on double talk."

“Aba's case indicates despicable acts by US agents against a fellow Filipino who should be accorded internationally recognized civil and political rights, even in foreign soil. Cayetano and Roque seem to stick to their nationalist principles and sentiments whenever Duterte gets pushed against the wall. If it doesn’t raise its voice against the US on these dastardly acts, the Philippine government will once again reaffirm that it is a stooge to its imperialist master. The filing of a diplomatic protest against the US government will be an indicator if Cayetano and the Philippine government are indeed capable of exercising the country's sovereignty, or if it is just rhetoric used to conveniently dismiss critics, " concluded Palabay.

Reference: Cristina Palabay, Secretary General, 0917-3162831

Karapatan Public Information Desk, 0918-9790580