Jerome Succor Aba, a Muslim human rights worker and peace advocate, experienced torture in the hands of US Homeland Security while he was detained for 28 hours at the San Francisco International Airport on April 17. He was invited by church groups in the US to speak about human rights situation in the Philippines. Below is Aba’s statement following his ordeal.
Peace be upon you.
I thank Allah SWT, the Almighty for giving me the strength and courage to survive the grueling 28 hours of torture. Alhamdullilah! Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar!
I send my deep gratitude for the untiring protest actions mounted by friends and organizations from all over the USA- from Portland to New York City. Your quick response to my situation, such as the rally at San Francisco Airport and call barrage, has helped tremendously in my release from the cruel clutches of the CBP and Homeland Security. I also send my highest regards to colleagues who rushed to my aid upon my return to Manila.
I came to the US for a speaking tour on the human rights situation of our Moro brothers and sisters in the Philippines upon invitation by local US churches. The US Embassy in the Philippines granted me a 10-year multiple entry visa, certifying that my entry to the US is legal and sanctioned by the authorities.
Never did I imagine that this trip would end with my torture, detention and deportation.
I suffered heartless and dehumanizing abuses from interrogators of the Custom and Border Protection and the US Homeland Security. They detained me for 28 hours, hurled malicious accusations at me, deprived me of access to a lawyer and contact with family and friends.
The horror did not end there. They ordered me to strip naked with an industrial fan blasting at me. They deprived me of food for hours and later served me pork despite knowing that it is an affront to my religion. They threatened to kill me. Twice, they left me alone in a room with a gun and a grenade. They made me sign blank papers denying the torture happened.
I invoked my human rights many times but they refused to acknowledge them, saying, “You have no rights. You are not entitled to a lawyer. We are the law here.”
That twenty-eight-hour ordeal continues to send me chills even now in Manila. Just this morning, I woke up gasping for air as I was haunted by vivid images of my interrogators in my dreams.
I did not deserve that kind of treatment. No one does.
I believe my involvement in human rights work in the Philippines is the main reason I was deported. With Trump’s administration thriving in misinformation and falsehood, there is no place for me shedding light on the US’ hand in the destruction of Marawi and the ongoing “war on terror” against my Moro and Lumad brothers in Mindanao. This US “war on terror” led to the killings of civilians, forced evacuation due to aerial bombings in communities, and has reinforced Islamophobia.
This is the truth the US government wants to hide from the American people and the whole world.
This concealment and twisting of the truth is something we are familiar with as Filipinos. Here in our country, the human rights crisis is brashly dismissed by the government. Our own president attacks human rights defenders, shamelessly accusing them of supporting drug lords or labeling them as terrorists.
But the truth must and will be known. Duterte’s martial law in Mindanao resulted in the extra-judicial killings of 130 Moro, Lumad, and peasants. The military airstrike in the Islamic City of Marawi left 1,000 Maranao-Muslims dead while continuing airstrikes on the whole island have driven 500,000 Moros, Lumad and peasants out of their villages for safety. Ridiculous trumped-up charges have also been filed against 406 peasants and Lumad.
These brazen attacks against the people and their rights were executed to protect the interests of big US corporations. The Duterte government has opened vast lands of Mindanao, including the territories of the Bangsamoro and ancestral domains of the indigenous people, to exploitation and plunder by companies such as Dole, Unifruitti, and Del Monte.
Now, about a million hectare is encroached and operated by mining businesses and 500,000 hectares by plantations. On top of this, a million hectare is reserved for the expansion of oil palm plantations by 2020.
We will not sit on the sidelines and witness our people suffer from worsening environmental destruction, displacement, poverty, and grave human rights abuses. Neither will we be silenced when we are attacked and abused.
And so I say:
I am Jerome Succor Aba. I am a Muslim human rights worker from Mindanao, NOT a terrorist.
US BORDER OFFICIALS TORTURED ME. They violated my basic human rights recognized and protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
I demand justice!
Justice for Marawi Victims!
End Martial Law in Mindanao!
Stop U.S “War on Terror”!
Muslim Not Terrorist!
U.S IMPERIALIST, NO.1 TERRORIST!