Justice for Joshua Yasay and the victims of Danzig shooting

Progressive Fil-Can youth group amplifies call for justice for Joshua Yasay & victims of Scarborough neighbourhood violence

ANAKBAYAN-Toronto, a broad alliance of Filipino-Canadian youth under the umbrella organization of BAYAN Canada, mourns the loss of 23 year old Filipino-Canadian youth Joshua Yasay, who was killed on Monday, July 17th 2012 in a Scarborough shooting incident. A York University graduate, Yasay was one of the two victims killed at the annual block party along Danzig Avenue. The event was attended by at least a hundred people of which twenty-three people were wounded.

Mainstream media has dubbed the tragedy as the worst gunfire incident in recent memory in the City of Toronto. It has added up to the list of deaths of mainly youth and unarmed people of color. In the past five years, young Filipino-Canadians from Christian Derro to Jeffrey Reodica have also had their lives stolen.

Investigations have now begun seeking tips from the public about possible perpetrators. But the local police have already framed the Danzig incident as gang-related violence and political leaders have been content in accepting that this is simply a problem of colored criminal youth and disenfranchised communities.

While there is no denying that the victims in the Denzig shooting come from the troubled Black and Filipino communities, this should not be the cause for the ruling class to enforce their marginalization of these communities. Our two communities are characterized by low levels of income, high rate of school drop-out and low expectation of social mobility through no fault of their own.

It is a consequence of Canada’s own economic response which saw a boom in Canada’s importation of cheap migrant labourers then implementation of huge cuts to social spending as the response to the current economic crisis. This has created an environment for street violence. Toronto is unable to take care of its growing population. The city is now suffering from poor access to genuine social services for our youth, inadequate access to proper housing and settlement for immigrant families and lack of viable jobs in the city.

The death of Joshua Yasay is not purely accidental and it is certainly a result of a systemic problem.

Politicians should not just respond with blaming the tragic loss of black and brown bodies to gang-related incidents but must also address the immediate need for better social and economic support initiatives in these communities. As the city council continues to do cutbacks, racially marginalized young people in Canada will continue to be part of this violent cycle we are witnessing.

We refuse to accept a situation that was built on our backs for the benefit of the elite.  We refuse to play the blame game and settle for simplified ‘justice’ that focuses only on those that pulled the trigger.  And we refuse to allow our analysis to be limited in scope to a simple matter of racism and petty crime.

This tragedy demands that we look at the big picture.  It is a tragedy that demands that we see racism as a tool of power which pits those at the bottom against each other and petty crime as a symptom of a much bigger and systemic kind.

We acknowledge that there was a crime here and those who are directly responsible deserve to face justice. Bigger than that, we acknowledge that the true criminal is the hegemonic socioeconomic system that works toward profit despite loss of life and overall global suffering. It is a system that manifests desperation into local tragedy and makes young people of colour especially vulnerable.

ANAKBAYAN-Toronto give our condolences to the victims’ family and loved ones. We are committed in combating gun violence and in supporting the establishment of safer and more empowered communities. Join and support us in our call for justice for Joshua Yasay and the victims of Danzig shooting.

We demand to put an end to state marginalization and racial profiling.
We demand priority programs for youth.
We demand for fully-funded equal access to public social services.
And we demand an end to a system that puts profit over people.

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Tribute to Arman Albarillo and Darwin Amay

[Delivered during Diwa ng Kasarinlan, July 7, 2012]

Today, Anakbayan-Toronto pays tribute to two young martyrs of the Filipino people – Arman Albarillo, 34 years old, and Darwin Amay, 18 years old.  Arman was the former Secretary-General of BAYAN-Southern Tagalog chapter, and Darwin was a former member of Anakpawis Partylist-Southern Tagalog.  Both died as members of the New People’s Army in an alleged encounter with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in the early morning of June 30.  Their bodies were taken to the morgue on the evening of July 1 – only after the military had mutilated the corpses, stripped and paraded them around the village and left under the sun and rain, to scare the residents away from supporting or joining the NPA.

For those who follow mainstream Philippine politics, the mere mention of the New People’s Army or NPA conjures up thoughts of “rebels”, “violence” and bloodshed.  Why would we pay tribute to individuals involved in such?, you may ask. We can go into a discussion of Philippine society and explore the political forces in the Philippines to get to this, but let us make it simple and just get to know who Arman and Darwin were.

Arman Albarillo was the second eldest son of peasant farmers in the province of Mindoro Oriental.  Both his parents were involved in mass organizations in their province – his father, Expedito, was a Bayan Muna municipal coordinator and a barangay councillor; and his mother, Manuela, was a member of the women’s organization, GABRIELA.  In 2002, both parents were killed by elements of the AFP under the command of retired Gen. Jovito Palparan.  They were among the first victims of extrajudicial killings under Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya counter-insurgency program.

After his parents’ death, Arman became more politicized.  While he and his siblings tried to pursue justice for his parents through the courts, he also became involved in the mass movement  He became active in Bayan Muna and the human rights organization Karapatan, and eventually became secretary-general of BAYAN-Southern Tagalog.   He was said to be a “forceful public speaker” and a “conscientious organizer” among the peasants and other community members.

Because of his outspokenness against government policies and his organizing work, Arman was eventually placed in the AFP’s “order of battle”, a list of people whom the government perceives as enemies of the state.  He was offered immunity in exchange for stopping his activities and becoming a military asset, but he firmly refused.  In 2008, an arrest warrant was issued for him and 71 other members of people’s organizations, for fabricated charges of murder and multiple murder.  Having been failed by the justice system and labeled an “enemy of the state” for exercising his democratic rights, Arman decided to join the New People’s Army.

Not much is known about Darwin Amay at this point, except that he was involved in Anakpawis Partylist, organizing among working class communities, and that he was the son of a migrant worker.  We might gather from this that, perhaps, having witnessed the hardships working Filipinos endure was a major influence in his decision to join the people’s army.

What a waste of their youth, some might say, that Arman and Darwin who were in the prime of their lives chose to live as guerillas instead of pursuing an education, a career and a life of comfort.  But 120 years ago, a group of young Filipinos under the leadership of Andres Bonifacio took the path of armed struggle to achieve liberation from the oppression of a colonial power and the local ruling classes.  In the same way, today, people like Arman and Darwin choose to take the revolutionary path in the desire to free our people from the clutches of U.S. imperialism, feudal exploitation, poverty and political repression.  This is a worthy cause, and a life spent working for this cause is a life well-spent.  Indeed, as a poem* written for Arman says:

“Ang isang bayan na patuloy na inaapi
Patuloy na nagsisilang ng mga bayani!”

(A people that continues to be oppressed
Continues to breed heroes!)

We hail Arman, Darwin and others like them as true heroes of the Filipino people.  And while not all of us may necessarily choose the path they took, we, in Anakbayan Toronto, pledge to persevere in the struggle for a genuinely free and democratic country for Filipinos with the same selflessness, dedication and determination that they had.

Long live Ka Arman and Ka Darwin!
Long live the revolutionary spirit of our people!
Onward with the struggle towards genuine freedom and people’s democracy!

*Poem by Richard Gappi, “Sa ika-120 taon nang pagkatatag ng Katipunan ngayong Hulyo 7, 2012″,  http://bulatlat.com/main/2012/07/07/sa-ika-120-taon-nang-pagkatatag-ng-katipunan-ngayong-hulyo-7-2012/