Filipino Activist Claims Torture at SFO

The Board of Supervisors condemned "inhumane treatment of detainees” after a Filipino activist was held by border officials at the airport for 28 hours.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday urging an independent investigation of the alleged torture of a prominent Filipino activist detained last month.

Jerome Aladdin Succor Aba flew from the Philippines to in Washington D.C. on April 17, to speak at multiple events about his country’s Muslim and indigenous populations. He didn’t make it. United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) detained him upon his arrival at San Francisco International Airport, and during his 28-hour hold, he allegedly suffered physical and psychological torture while agents repeatedly asked if he was a terrorist or communist.

Aba was eventually denied entry to the United States, even as friends launched an emergency protest.

Bayan USA, a Filipino rights advocacy group, disclosed some disturbing details from Aba after he was released. According to his statement, Aba was allegedly held for 28 hours without access to a lawyer, forced to strip naked in front of a fan blowing cold air and asked for his opinion on relations between the United States and the Philippines while being taunted by officers.

CBP denied Aba’s claims of torture, contradicting that he was held in a stainless room. The agency conducts interviews in offices, it said.

Though Aba was reportedly told he was denied entry due to a “technical glitch,” KQED reports that his “connection to individuals within terrorist networks” was cited by CBP as the true reason.

According to the resolution, Aba was given a 10-year multiple entry visa by the U.S. embassy in Manila. He was invited by religious groups to speak at the Ecumenical Advocacy Days about the extrajudicial killings under the Philippines “Drug War” campaign and displacement of minorities, which is why Bayan USA believes he was targeted.

The resolution, led by Supervisor Hillary Ronen, also chastises CBP for its general inhumane treatment of detainees.

“The Trump Administration has engaged in a nationwide pattern of abuse and coercion at major ports of entry, including requiring United States Customs and Border Protection agents to engage in hostile, coercive, and physically intrusive interrogation tactics,” the resolution reads. The alleged torture was,” beyond any reasonable boundary of the rules of interrogation; and, antithetical to the very concept of liberty and justice upon which this country was founded.”

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