FIRST PERSON ACCOUNT: In response to falsities peddled by US officials on my torture and arbitrary detention

It was certainly easy for officials of US Customs and Border Protection to deny knowledge of my harrowing experience in the hands of their agents, just as how easily they, together with officers of the US Homeland Security, have denied all my pleas for respect and recognition of my rights during my 28-hour ordeal at the San Francisco International Airport in the US from April 17 to 19, 2018.

FIRST PERSON ACCOUNT: I am Jerome Succor Aba, I am a Muslim human rights worker from Mindanao. NOT a terrorist 

But it has not really been that easy for me. In fact, ever since I arrived in the Philippines on April 20, I am confronting the trauma, the sleeplessness, nightmares and anxieties, as I relive the forms of torture they have inflicted on my person. Recently, the statement issued by Jaime Ruiz, a spokesperson of the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on April 25, 2018, has been brought to my attention.

As I read the statement, I feel as if I am experiencing torture all over again, with all the lies stated by the CBP. Let me unequivocally state once again: I was detained arbitrarily, held incommunicado and subjected to physical and mental torture through continuous, intense and grueling interrogation without the benefit of a counsel for twenty eight (28) hours by the United States (US) Homeland Security and the United States Customs and Border Protection officers.

My plea to contact a lawyer was repeatedly denied. All throughout, they accused me of being a terrorist and a communist, allegations which I denied; they maligned my political beliefs as well as my religious practices. They forced me to sign blank sheets of paper, and they coerced me to sign electronically.

My signature was taken under duress and without the benefit of a counsel, and thus any document which they attribute to me do not reflect what transpired during my illegal detention, torture and interrogation.

I was treated inhumanely and was stripped of my human dignity. I signed the documents in my desire that the interrogation and torture would stop, and for me to be able to be sent back home to the Philippines.

It is difficult enough to have experienced these indignities. What pains and angers me more are the bare-faced lies of the CBP officials in their attempt to evade responsibility.

My coming forward to tell my story comes from the sense of obligation and hope that by exacting accountability and demanding justice for what happened to me, such will not happen to any Filipino or Muslim or any person again.

My courage comes from the same conviction of my fellow human rights defenders who believe that activism is never a crime.

[Jerome Aladdin Succor Aba, 25, national chair of Suara Bangsamoro (Voice of the Moro People) and co-chair of Sandugo Movement of Moro and Indigenous Peoples for Self-Determination,flew to the United States on April 17, 2018 for a speaking tour on invitation of US church groups. He was deported after a 28-hour interrogation at the San Francisco airport. He recounted in a press conference in Manila on April 21 the psychological and physical torture that he suffered there]