By Cathy Miraballes-Arceo
When a white policeman killed George Floyd by kneeling his neck for almost nine minutes, our community was forced to face the problems of police brutality and racism. I had only heard about these problems on the news, but never in conversation with my community, even after working in the US for 20 years.
Police brutality and racism are rooted in a system that abuses black and other poor communities. You experience injustice at work, at school and even in their own homes. Though our experiences vary, the system that killed George Floyd is the same as the suffering and hardship of many overseas Filipinos who have low-wage jobs or are traded by employers and are subject to racism and deportation in the United States.
In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and mass protests, Unemployment has reached Almost 39 million across the country, particularly stressful Migrant workers. Many of my friends and family members who are caregivers, restaurant workers, and service workers have lost their jobs or cut hours. You are worried about being exposed to the virus while working. But I keep working, burdened with illness, fatigue and stress, because I know that some of my colleagues who work in home care facilities have tested positive for COVID-19.
We are essential to the functioning of this country and the wellbeing of its people, and yet we are forced to do a $ 1,200 stimulus check over several months. Those of us who are undocumented have not even received this support. Every day, my community and I encounter the realities of unaffordable rents, the fear of deportation, and the struggle to support our families in both the United States and the Philippines.
Filipino nurse and migrant Los Angeles member Cathy Miraballes-Arceo holds a sign that reads "Labanan Ang Terorismo ng Estado" or "Resist State Terrorism" | Contributed photo
I was angry, scared and confused when protests against racism and police brutality broke out in LA. But when I learned more about the calls for "care, not the police," I began to understand the just indignation of the black communities. I am still shocked that more unconventional protests were needed, that police across the country were held accountable and that real reforms were progressing.
It is all too familiar to see how your people are killed by the police on the street without consequence, are harassed by the police for no good reason, and are forced to live in poverty because I have also experienced this in the Philippines.
Pag nakikita mo na ang mga tao ay pinapatay sa lansangan ng walang napapasala, hinaharas ng kapulisan ng walang matinong rason, at sapilitan na nabubuhay ng mahirap.
I come from Mindanao, an island that is rich in natural resources. Multinational companies have invaded our communities for decades to secure our land and livelihood. They hoard billions of profits while we work for uninhabitable wages. The Philippine government looks after these companies and uses military force to oust us. They bother, intimidate and silence us.
Regardless of who occupies Malacañang, the Philippine government uses the military and police to protect the interests of the elite and sacrifice the welfare of the majority – the peasants, the working class, and the indigenous people. The Philippine National Police is one of the country's most corrupt institutions – and this couldn't be truer under President Rodrigo Duterte.
Human rights violations under Duterte have even exceeded the number of cases under Marcos' martial law. the estimated 3,240 people killed. Human rights groups put the number of murders in between 27,000 and 30,000 under the war on drugs staged by the police. While shrugging shoulders and challenging criticism from local and international human rights groups, Duterte encourages the police to carry out extrajudicial executions and promises them immunity.
Duterte has taken advantage of the turmoil caused by the continued increase in COVID-19 cases across the countryby giving the police more power and silencing the media. He shut down the country's largest television broadcaster, ABS-CBN, and sent journalist Maria Ressa, one of the government's most vocal critics, to prison.
Earlier this month, Duterte signed the Counter Terrorism Act, which allows the police to commit human rights violations against people who are "suspected" of terrorism. Any Filipino citizen, including those living abroad, can be charged with "terrorism" and arrested simply because they disagree with the government. It is unconstitutional and basically enables unofficial martial law. It gives the police more power. A police force who killed 15-year-old Fabel Pineda for daring to report the officials who raped her, killed 17-year-old Kian De Los Santos, and put hungry quarantine violators in dog cages.
Although the law does not officially enter into force until July 18, the Duterte Administration is already applying the anti-terrorism law against ordinary people. Straight The day after the anti-terrorism law was signed, the police violently dispersed and arrested eleven demonstrators in Cabuyao, Laguna.
However, history shows that the more the state oppresses the people, the stronger the people's determination to defend themselves. The problems of police brutality and racism are only a small part of a lazy system that protects the prosperity and status of the elite by harming people it believes to be available – the poor, black, indigenous and more, whether here or on the Philippines. That's why I'm inspired by the uprisings here in the United States that demand justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and more. We cannot defeat a globally unjust system in which we all have to live without fighting together.
Cathy Miraballes-Arceo is a Filipino Caregiver from Butuan, Mindanao, and has been living in Los Angeles for 20 years. She is a member of the Los Angeles Migrants, a grassroots organization that works to protect the rights and welfare of overseas Filipino workers and their immigrant families.