The General Assembly of the Canada Chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN-Canada) held a successful 2nd Congress on January 19-20, 2019 in downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada hosted at the United Steelworkers Hall.
Thirty official delegates from the chapter’s 17 allied organizations participated. A total of over 80 people registered and were present from member organizations and allies across Canada, as well as special guests from Europe, the US and the Philippines. Meanwhile, various cities in Canada were represented: Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Barrie, Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto. Two-thirds of the attendees came from the youth sector.
BAYAN-Canada immediate past Chairperson Dr. Constancio Claver and Secretary General Joey Calugay addressed the assembly with opening remarks. It was followed by a land acknowledgment by Aamjiwnaang First Nation youth leader Vanessa Gray to pay tribute to the native inhabitants of the territory.
SATURDAY January 19, 2019 Morning Plenary
Host region Toronto went on display of full colours of allied groups in a flag dance as each member organization were summoned in a roll call.
This was followed by messages of support.
“We are very much heartened that the national-democratic movement of progressive and patriotic Filipinos continues to advance in Canada,” chairperson of Bayan-HK & Macau Eman Villanueva said, “…a testament to the deep desire of OVF to see our motherland free from imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism that lead to the forced migration of millions.”
In a video clip from TV Migrante, Chairperson of BAYAN-Philippines Dr. Carol Pagaduan-Araullo, who was in Toronto for the first BAYAN gathering in 2008, expressed the hope for the Chapter to “revitalize, strengthen and expand its membership.” She cited its importance as an instrument to involve overseas Filipinos who become aware of the root issues that sent them abroad and who wish to support and participate in changing the situation back home. “Through BAYAN-Canada, our compatriots can expose the current exploitative and oppressive system back home, educate and generate solidarity and support from citizens of the world in a systematic and organized way,” she added.
In his keynote speech for the gathering, Renato Reyes, Jr., Secretary-General of BAYAN-Philippines who came to Canada for the assembly, noted that the formation of BAYAN-Canada as the third overseas chapter of BAYAN couldn’t have come at a better time.
“BAYAN and its member organizations were leading forces in the ouster of the Marcos and Estrada regimes. We were at the forefront of the long and arduous struggle to remove US military bases in the Philippines,” he said. “We fought for justice for thousands of human rights victims under the Marcos, Aquino, Ramos, Estrada, Arroyo, Aquino and now the Duterte regime…BAYAN chapters overseas have given Filipinos abroad a powerful voice and a direct means to participate in the struggle for national and social liberation in the homefront.”
He added, “Whether it is the revolutionary forces or the legal mass movement and the broad united front, more and more are joining the popular movement opposing the Duterte fascist regime. In just two years, we saw different political forces, groups and institutions come together in joint actions denouncing human rights violations, misogyny, charter change, new taxes, attacks on judicial independence and the move to impose nationwide martial law…In the coming days, the struggle in the homeland is expected to be more intense and difficult as the tyrant Duterte pursues his agenda for a fascist dictatorship. We definitely need BAYAN-Canada to be a strong voice against human rights violations, tyranny, impunity and plunder. We are likewise inspired and encouraged by tireless work that you do in supporting the struggles of various oppressed sectors in the homeland.”
Antonio Tujan, Jr., Director Emeritus of IBON International and Vice-Chairperson for Internal Affairs of International League of Peoples’ Struggles, provided a background on the international situation where there is a “continuing crisis exacerbated by neoliberalism and the plunder of transnational corporations.”
He explained how the world today is multipolar where on one side there is the US hegemony and on the other side is Russia and China. “We are faced with the question of militarism and war, including the issue of bases and military buildup and counterinsurgency where the Philippines is a focal agenda of the US. BAYAN has an important role to provide political leadership to all overseas Filipinos in Canada—the migrant workers, the youth, the women, the professionals and immigrant families. We should be conscious that we don’t only look at sectors … to really reach out. Look at it in terms of communities all around the pockets and areas of concentration in the country.”
He also highlighted the significance of “mutual” solidarity work. “We mobilize the Canadians to support the Philippine struggle but at the same time, we also help them understand their situation and become revolutionaries in their own right. While we assiduously implement the calls of BAYAN National that we should rigorously implement these calls in the context of the national-democratic movement of the Filipino people in Canada, we should also recognize that we have a particular (task) to strengthen or even advance the work in international solidarity as a component of our work.”
Message from Prof. Jose Ma. Sison, Chairperson of the International League of Peoples’ Struggles “What is the role of overseas BAYAN chapters in the national democratic movement?”
There were also particular lessons learned from organizing the first BAYAN overseas chapter. Nikole Cababa, Secretary-General of BAYAN-USA shared “It upheld the national democratic line and affirmed the role of overseas Filipinos in arousing, organizing and mobilizing to join the movement and forging solidarity with oppressed peoples.” Since its founding in 2005 with merely seven organizations, it has grown to 28 from coast to coast comprised of five regions: Southern California, Northern California, Pacific Northwest, Northeast and the Midwest.
Major lessons drawn: “First, we need to ensure that workers are at the core of our movement. The second, we need to forge international solidarity. We must create that path for more people to be part of the movement by launching joint campaigns and joint struggles. Third point, as BAYAN, we should also ensure the systematic political education of our mass organizations. We all know there is ongoing civil war in the Philippines, and part of that is propaganda war. So it is important to ensure that mass organizations have propaganda machinery with the sharpest line that is embraced by the masses because it speaks to the issues that they care about and speaks about the solution. We must also continue to conduct exposure trips to the Philippines in large numbers. The best way to protect ourselves from state surveillance is building the mass movement and relying on the masses. Lastly, it is important to have headquarters. We have established these in New York and the Oakland area for BAYAN-USA.”
For BAYAN-Canada, former Secretary-General Joey Calugay provided a brief summing up of a decade-long organizing of this overseas chapter. He highlighted some of the achievements of the alliance since it was founded in 2008 including taking the Canadian government to task for its intervention in the Philippine affairs such as arms deals, military and technical aid, even imposing a neoliberal agenda that impacts on human rights.
Calugay also noted that the 2019 BAYAN-Canada Congress is historic especially under “the wrath of the tyrannical rule of the US-Duterte regime.” He said, “This indeed is a high time to ensure that in spite of the heightening political and economic crisis that the Philippines is being confronted with, we the Filipino people here in Canada must remain resilient, steadfast, and agitated to counter the anti-people policies of the administration. We must not be cowed by the harassments and threats, thus, we must continue to struggle for the Philippines to attain peace based on justice.”
Before the end of the first day, delegates from Toronto led the tribute to commemorate the death anniversary of Kasamang Petronila Cleto, who served as the Secretary General of GABRIELA-Ontario and was a key contributor to the propaganda work of Canada-wide organizations.
SATURDAY January 19, 2019 Cultural Night
In the evening, a joint solidarity cultural night was held filled with guitar strums, folk songs, poetry and expressions of solidarity from various groups.
Delegates from Quebec rendered an audiovisual experience on Philippine Society and Revolution through spoken word with accompaniment from indigenous instruments. Ottawa’s Himig Masa presented a country rock ensemble plus another piece that featured Ka Nato’s guitar-playing skills in blues vibe.
Thanusan Subendran of the Tamil Freedom Coalition spoke about how the Tamil Eelam people share similarities with the struggle of the Filipinos against the anti-people war on drugs by the ruling class. Meanwhile, Miguel Lima of the Latin American and Caribbean Solidarity Network addressed the participants saying, “Your struggle is our struggle. We need to fight together. If they globalize the injustice, we need to globalize the resistance.”
Steven Rutchinski of the Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada delivered a message of solidarity and anti-imperialism from Canada to the Philippines: “The working class is one and is international. We are one class with one program in defense of the rights of all. You can always count on our party to be in support of your just cause.”
ILPS (International League of People’s Singers) from the West Coast played popular protest songs ‘Tatsulok’ and ‘Sierra Madre’. Then Tony de Jesus from Montreal read his poetry that alluded to the horrors of martial law before and its repercussions in the present. Also from the same region, duo Nick and Jayson fired up the crowd with an upbeat performance of ‘D’yandi’.
Political prisoners in Camp Bagong Diwa sent their message which was read to the assembly. The political prisoners appealed for the continued support of BAYAN-Canada in the campaign to release all political prisoners, to stop the criminalization of activists and filing of trumped-up charges, and to help improve the plight of detainees. With a hopeful conclusion, the statement said: “For all the hardships we experience, we remain steadfast in the struggle for a just and lasting peace in the country. We stand with you in resistance. United, we will overcome.”
From Toronto, a spine-tingling musicale was performed with a take on the Filipino version of ‘Les Miserables’ song “Do you hear the people sing?”
Kota Kimura of Japanese Canadians for Social Justice said: “We firmly stand in solidarity with the Filipino people who seek justice for death and destruction perpetrated by Japan during WWII, who heroically defeated the Japanese fascist occupation, and continue to resist the tyrannical rule of the US imperialism and semi-feudal & semi-colonial forces.”
From People’s Defence and Basics Newsletter, Kabir Joshi-Vijayan commended the Philippine struggle as an “inspirational” model on social solidarity as a way forward in a world of fragmented left politics. “What BAYAN demonstrates again, in practice concretely, is the necessity of the common struggle—the fact that you can balance the sectoral needs of Filipino women or Filipino peasants or indigenous people as part of a united struggle for liberation and national democracy. BAYAN proves to us that class is not an identity. It’s a fundamental social relationship. It’s the bedrock of this rotten system and the basis on which this system, hopefully, will be destroyed and replaced by something new.”
Jhonry Dela Cruz gave a congratulatory remarks on behalf of Migrante Fort Washington and Maryland: “From the US, whichever sector or part of the world we’re from, always remember that it is only in our unity that we find strength, the strength that will crush and change this system. Yes, let us celebrate resistance and painstakingly cultivate it as well.”
SUNDAY January 20, 2019 General Assembly and Elections
The second day of BAYAN-Canada’s 2nd Congress opened with Secretary General Joey Calugay welcoming back delegates.
Calugay highlighted the experience of BAYAN-Canada for over ten years in uniting Filipino compatriots to propagate the call of national industrialization and genuine agrarian reform in the Philippines as an alternative to the rotten system pushing our kababayans to leave the country in the thousands each day.
BAYAN-Canada 8-point program
The finalization of BAYAN-Canada’s GPOA elated the delegates as it provided the blueprint of what the alliance strives to achieve for the next three years. Majority of the participants were divided into small groups representing issues related to migrant workers, women, youth, and media and cultural workers. Each sectoral caucus discussed plans and campaigns for the next three years and the necessary steps how can they be achieved. Major campaigns to be launched this year are as follows:
- Duterte ouster
- Resist war movement
- Neri Colmenares for Senate
The Congress elected the new BAYAN Canada Executive Committee officers for 2019-2022. They are as follows: Christopher Sorio from Vancouver, Chairperson; Sheryl Anne Montano from Greater Montreal, Vice-Chairperson; Rhea Gamana from the Greater Toronto Area, Secretary-General; Remegio Pajadura, Finance Officer; and Yshmael Cabana, Propaganda Officer.
In his acceptance speech, Chairperson Christopher Sorio recalled how BAYAN and overseas Filipinos played a key role in the ouster of the Marcos dictatorship.
“The overseas Filipinos worked to oust a corrupt president. So it is not impossible for us to do another ouster of a puppet presidency. We will do this together. For us to succeed … let us remind ourselves of the passion that we had in fighting for our rights and welfare in Canada. We united our community in our analysis of the conditions of foreign workers,” said Sorio.
“Let us therefore start uniting our community in our analysis of the society of the Philippines and the state that President Duterte has done to our country. He promised us to make our lives comfortable. We ask the question, ‘Did you provide a comfortable life to the Filipinos?’ What were his promises and what are the things that actually occur in our country now? This is where we start our thorough and orderly discussions with our kababayans. Let us declare our formation wide open to anybody or organizations who are willing to fight for just and lasting peace in the Philippines. Let us continue our untiring work for national democracy,” he added.
Fr. Dante Coloma of Iglesia Filipina Independiente – the Philippine Independent Church (IFI) Greater Toronto Area offered remarks congratulating BAYAN-Canada’s efforts.
“Our congratulations again to the Congress of BAYAN-Canada. And hopefully in the future we can continue and strengthen the unity of our church with all progressive groups,” said Coloma.