US gov’t bars woman leader

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FILE PHOTO: Liza Maza with former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo

“The curtailment of the right to travel and liberty of movement of former House representative Liza Maza shows how the US government transgresses on the basic rights and freedoms of individuals and groups, even those outside its territory.”

By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – A women’s rights activist who was going to attend the International People’s Tribunal (IPT) against US President Barack Obama and President Benigno S. Aquino III was barred from flying to the United States on July 9.

Liza Maza, former representative of the Gabriela Women’s Partylist (GWP) and chairperson of the International Women’s Alliance (IWA), was not allowed to board her flight from Manila to Washington DC. She was headed to the US to give expert testimony before the IPT in Washington DC, on July 16 to 17.

Karapatan said the action was a harassment on Maza, and violation of her rights to travel and liberty of movement, freedom of association, due process, free speech, and privacy. The group said it was also a violation of the country’s national sovereignty, right to self-determination and international solidarity.

The IPT puts the presidents of the US and the Philippines on trial for gross human rights violations in the country. It was organized by the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines, International Association of Democratic Lawyers, US-based National Lawyers’ Guild and Ibon International.

In an Urgent Action Alert, human rights group Karapatan said Maza, 57, was about to board Korean Air Flight 722, which was bound to leave by 12:20 p.m. on July 9, when she was stopped by the ground crew. Her companion, Dr. Efleda Bautista of People’s Surge, was allowed to proceed. Maza was told that the Customs Border Protection of the US Department of Homeland Security sent an email, saying she cannot board the plane.

The Korean Air ground supervisor, Luigi Luis Santos, refused to provide Maza a copy of the email as it was “not for third party dissemination.”

Maza has a valid 10-year multiple entry visa to the US. Her last visit to the US was in 2013.

She was set to give testimony on the US government’s violations of Philippine sovereignty and the Filipino people’s rights, under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and the Visiting Forces Agreement. Maza was also set to meet Gabriela members in the US.

Maza has been a vocal critic of the Philippine and American governments on issues such as the killing of transgender Jennifer Laude by a US Marine, the Asian Pivot and increased US military presence, “US imperialist policies” and “intervention” in the Asia-Pacific region.

Recently, she joined a 30-women delegation that crossed the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea on May 24, a symbolic action calling for a peace process and the reunification of the two countries. Among the delegates were Nobel Peace Prize laureates Mairead Maguire and Leymah Gbowee, Gloria Steinem, and other feminist activists and artists.

GWP Rep. Emmi De Jesus called for international condemnation on the US government’s action against Maza.

“The curtailment of the right to travel and liberty of movement of former House representative Liza Maza shows how the US government transgresses on the basic rights and freedoms of individuals and groups, even those outside its territory,” Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general, said.

She added that whether or not Maza would participate in the IPT, “it is clear that the US government considers her a ‘person of interest,’ one who is targeted because of her activism for peace and human rights and her vocal opposition to US imperialist designs that infringe on the sovereignty of peoples.” ()

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