Protest against torture and deportation of Philippines human rights activist
Chicago, IL – Maya Arcilla was angry as she opened the protest rally at the Federal Plaza in Chicago. A human rights activist from the Philippines, Jerome Succor Aba, had been held by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, and then subject to psychological torture during a 28-hour period inside the San Francisco airport.
Arcilla is the chairperson of AnakBayan Chicago, a progressive Filipino youth organization. She explained to the crowd of 40 what she had learned about the abuses Jerome had suffered. In the 28 hours in which he was not allowed to sleep, he was questioned almost constantly by agents of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). They threatened to shoot him; they placed a gun and a hand grenade in the room and left him alone with them; they made him strip naked and questioned him with an industrial fan flowing on him in a cold interrogation room.
At times holding back tears, Arcilla reported that Jerome was asked multiple questions that revealed authorities’ knowledge of details of his family, his education, and his activism in the Philippines. He had secured a visa from the U.S. embassy in the Philippines in order to visit the U.S. He had been invited by a coalition mainly of churches here to speak to them about human rights violations of the indigenous people of Mindanao, the southernmost large island in the Philippines.
Later that evening, in a livestream broadcast from Manila, Jerome identified his main abuser as a DHS agent named Lopez. Lopez repeatedly accused Jerome of being a communist and a terrorist. Jerome was denied anything to eat, but was then offered ham, even though he stated to his torturers that he is a Muslim.
Speakers at the rally included Nataki Rhodes of the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. Rhodes expressed solidarity with Jerome, and the struggle of the people in the Philippines. She stated, “They’re calling us terrorists, when they’ve built a whole system of terrorism.”