Solidarity is Our Duty: ICHRP Convening – Dec. 1, 2018


Over the past year, ICHRP-US and its members have conducted engaging and high profile activities throughout the US and in the Philippines.  ICHRP-US has reached a broadening base of people amidst the deteriorating human rights crisis in the Philippines under the Duterte regime. This past year has strengthened the commitment of existing members and garnered the support and commitment of new members to support the Filipino people engaged in fearless struggle against rising fascism and tyranny in the Philippines.

Near the one year anniversary of its 2017 launch, the ICHRP-US Network gathered at the Epworth United Methodist Church in Portland, Oregon on December 1, 2018 to:

  1. Discuss the latest developments in the Philippines under Duterte’s Regime and the U.S. role in aiding the worsening human rights crisis.
  2. Develop a 2019 plan of political action, particularly the campaign to End US Support for the Duterte Regime.
  3. Strengthen the leadership and coordination of regions, working groups and the National Coordinating Committee of ICHRP-US and expand our membership.

There were 34 organizations represented by 54 participants who studied the economic and political situationer of the Philippines to ground themselves in the current conditions and to best inform the campaign development process.  

In addition to discussing the 2019 campaign plan, the group reviewed  ICHRP-US’ gains and challenges over the past year.

Working groups were assembled during breakout sessions to build a stronger media strategy, follow up on the campaign for Justice for Jerome, develop congressional targets, and to build broad movement and pressure, as well as a social media strategy.

Recognition of Martyrs

In honor of the upcoming International Human Rights Day on December 10th, the convening honored a few recent martyrs.

Ben Ramos was 56 years old and was a founding member of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers. Despite limitations, he was the “go-to” pro-bono lawyer of peasants, environmentalists, activists, political prisoners and mass organizations in Negros Occidental.  Earlier this year, he was maliciously and irresponsibly tagged in a public poster by the Philippine police as among the so-called personalities of the underground armed movement.  Ben is the 34th lawyer killed under the 2-year administration of President Duterte. Excluding judges and prosecutors, he is the 24th member of the profession killed and the 8th in the Visayas region. He was passionate, dedicated, articulate and yet also amiable and jolly. He remained fearless in the pursuit of justice, and brought that same determination and character into everything he did.

On the night of October 20, 2018, nine sugarcane workers were massacred while they were resting by more or less 40 armed men in Hacienda Nene in Sagay City, Negros Occidental over land dispute. This is not the first time in our history that farmers were murdered to preserve the interest of landlords. Time and time again violence were used against peasants in response to their pleas for genuine land reform. Such horrific event only further shows the maltreatment of the country’s lifeblood. From unfair policies to actually spilling their blood on the land that they tilled, farmers have long been victims of systematic oppression. The massacre of Sagay 9 reinforces what has long been proven: the lending ears for the plight of farmers are not just deprived, the farmers and their struggles are continuously grinded down by those in power, forever attempting to sweep under the rug their crimes towards them.The blood of farmers will continue to shed until the government pushes for genuine agrarian reform. The people who put food on our table will continue to starve until we stop landlords from stealing what is rightfully theirs. For as long as our people are deprived of their rights, their sufferings will never end.

Elisa was the coordinator for the human rights organization Karapatan in Negros Oriental Province in the Philippines.  She also served as an organizer of urban poor communities in Cebu Province, and worked with Desaparecidos, an organization of families of the disappeared.  Elisa and two of her colleagues were killed on November 28, 2017 by two unidentified men at Barangay San Ramon, Bayawan city in the Negros Oriental province during a mission to investigate alleged land rights abuses in the area.

Had Obello Bay-ao not gone home to Talaingod, Davao del Norte to help with the farming, the Grade 7 student of the Salugpongan Tu Tano Igkanogon-Community Learning Center Inc., a lumad school, might well be alive still, his cousin Rorilyn Mandacawan said.  The 19-year old Manobo was actually one of the lumad who had journeyed from Mindanao to Metro Manila in the Lakbayan 2017and set up camp, including a “bakwit” (evacuee) school set up by the Save our Schools Network, at the University of the Philippines Diliman, Rorilyn said.  “He was actually here with us, when we first came to the bakwit school here in Manila. He went home to help with the farming. How I wish he had gone back here,” said Rorilyn.  As it was, Obello, 19, was shot as he walked home after harvesting his cornfield, allegedly by cousings Ben and Joven Salangani, members of the both the government’s Citizen’s Armed Forces Geographical Unit and the military-backed militia Alamara, the afternoon of September 5.  He made it home despite his wounds but died that evening in the hospital where he was rushed.

Campaign Discussion

The international opposition against the U.S.-backed atrocities of the Duterte administration is reaching new heights. In the past year, grassroots organizations, U.S. Senators, and international governing bodies have condemned the killings of the Duterte Administration. In response, the Duterte Administration has rejected foreign criticism, even threatening to offer foreign activists as targets for the Philippine National Police (PNP) if such scrutiny continues.

Duterte’s administration has shown it will spare no one in its wars against the poor, the Moro (Muslim) and the defenders of human rights. Recently, agents of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and PNP have shot a ten year old lumad child, Aboy Mandaget, murdered Attorney Benjamin Ramos of the National Union of People’s Lawyers, and carried out a brutal massacre in Sagay against nine farmers including women and children.  In addition to these recent atrocities, Duterte’s brutal “war on drugs” targeting the poor and the violent repression of labor unions and worker picket lines continues.  Furthermore, the declaration of martial law in Mindanao has resulted in the displacement of 436,517 people and widespread harassment of women by the Philippine military and police. In the two years of Duterte’s Presidency, the death toll at the hands of Philippine Military and Police has risen to over 23,000 killings. Despite these ruthless acts of violence, the United States has allocated 184.5 million dollars in aid to the Philippine Military and Police.

A big year awaits, as ICHRP-US’ campaign has ambitious goals. ICHRP-US aims to educate the US public broadly on the role and impact the US has on the Philippines human rights situation across various sectors and cases.  Such issues like military aid to the Philippine National Police, the detention and torture of Jerome Aba, the plundering of indigenous land and the exploitation of workers in the Philippines will continue to be highlighted. Over the next year, ICHRP -US will agitate and involve key organizations and people in helping to end U.S. support of the Duterte Regime, including raising congressional awareness and action to help end U.S. aid to the AFP & PNP. ICHRP US expects that the ability of the network to wage and win congressional advocacy campaigns for the Philippines will be strengthened over the next year.

In discussing how to develop this work, a lively debate occurred around the language of “cutting military aid” and “US support of the Duterte Administration.” Some believed pressuring Congress on military aid would not be strong enough because of the other forms of economic and political support the Philippines receives from the U.S.  Some believed using the word administration might mislead people into thinking that once Duterte is no longer in power, the human rights crisis would be resolved. Ultimately, the group reached a unanimous decision to demand to “End US Support of the Duterte Regime,” to demonstrate the systemic aspect of the situation in the Philippines and to build a comprehensive campaign to stop human rights violations that is not only focused on legislative advocacy, though it is a crucial piece of the campaign.

More breakout group sessions discussed ways to connect with environmental and indigenous peoples issues, the trade union movement, and efforts to build a broad anti-war/peace movement. There was also fruitful discussion on lobbying plans and how to mobilize people for next year’s International Solidarity Mission to the Philippines.


The day of planning ended on a high note with an action in downtown Portland. Putting commitment into action, the delegates raised awareness about the absurd amount of money the US has given the Duterte Regime in the form of US aid to the Philippine Military and Police.  People passing by were shocked to hear that 184.5 million dollars of US taxpayer money was being allocated to a government that committed grave human rights violations.  When asked what they would rather spend the tax money on, they voted for healthcare, education, housing, and the environment.

The gathering and action forecast a challenging but exciting year ahead. The delegates deepened their understanding of the gravity of the human rights situation in the Philippines and the urgent need to ramp up support for the Filipino people’s struggle against the Duterte regime.

Solidarity is our Duty!  Uphold human rights in the Philippines!

ICHRP-US Condemns Philippines’ Seat on UN Human Rights Council

Over the weekend on October 13, the Philippines won a three year term on the United Nations Human Rights Council despite widespread outcry against gross human rights violations and over 20,000 extrajudicial killings under the Duterte Administration in under two years.

Duterte’s office defended the new seat as an affirmation of Duterte’s attention to human rights. According to the President’s new spokesperson, Salvador Panelo,  “The president’s campaign against illegal drugs, corruption, and criminality has, in effect, been acknowledged by the international community as essential to the protection of the right to life, liberty and property.” Meanwhile, two claims have been filed against the Duterte Administration with the International Criminal Court (ICC). Additionally, in September, the International People’s Tribunal (IPT) found both the Trump and Duterte Administration guilty of human rights violations in the Philippines.

Along with the ICC, the IPT and the mounting international opposition from rights groups to the human rights violations under President Duterte stand U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden. Senator Merkley has said he “will continue to press Duterte on his human rights record,” and Senator Wyden recently stated he has “very serious concerns about undertaking trade negotiations with a Philippine president who brags about a bloody drug war.”

Their comments were welcomed by groups advocating for human rights in the Philippines and campaigning to ensure U.S. tax dollars do not fund human rights abuses. In 2018 alone, the Trump administration has supported the Duterte administration with at least 184.5 million dollars of aid to the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Merkley and Wyden’s statements come after similar remarks from another U.S. Senator, Patrick Leahy, who in 2016 said, “if President Duterte is serious about improving conditions in the Philippines, he should be focusing on improving services for Filipinos, not casting them aside.”

Pam Tau Lee, Chairperson of ICHRP-US, stated, “The Philippines’ new seat on the United Nations is a horrifying development and farcical recognition of the Duterte Administration as an upholder of human rights. The time is now for heightened scrutiny from international bodies like the ICC and the UN. We call on others in the United States government to join Senators Merkley, Wyden and Leahy in opposing U.S. complicity in the drug war, and we call on the people of the United States to continue resistance to the misuse of tax dollars for war and human rights violations.”



Founded in December 2017, the U.S. Chapter of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines has 40 member organizations and honorary individual members. We aim to inform the international community about the grave human rights situation in the Philippines today. Beyond information dissemination, it calls on freedom loving peoples, organizations, political parties and governments all over the world to express their concern about the deteriorating human rights situation in the Philippines and to join the Filipino people in their quest for just and lasting peace in the land.

The Stop the Killings Speaking Tour & Caravan Reaches Thousands

From Washington D.C, to New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland, Davis, and El Sobrante, the Stop the Killings Speaking Tour: The People’s Caravan for Peace and Justice in the Philippines culminated with a final rally at the Philippine Consulate and celebration in Los Angeles, CA before making a final stop in Hawaii.

Stop the Killings Rally in Front of the Philippine Consulate in Los Angeles

​The People’s Caravan, hosted by the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines- U.S. and the Malaya Movement, comes in wake of the growing number of extrajudicial killings reaching 20,000 under the Duterte regime, the recent removal of Philippine Chief Justice Sereno, seen by many as the “death of democracy,” and the start of U.S. military “balikatan” exercises in the Philippines. The tour brought guest speakers from the Philippines to expose the violent and oppressive conditions under the Duterte government. They called upon people in the U.S. to join the Filipino people in demanding an end to U.S. military aid to the Philippines and to stop the killings.

 It comes as no coincidence that one of the first Tour speaker to land in the U.S., Jerome Aba, a speaker from Mindanao who has been vocal against U.S. intervention in the Philippines, was detained, tortured and deported upon his arrival in the U.S. at San Francisco International Airport (SFO), a move that has been condemned by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

Raymond Palatino, tour speaker and two time former congressperson in the Philippines shared, “There were those who tried to silence our voices by preventing one of the speakers, Jerome Aba from joining the Stop the Killings Caravan. But they failed. Jerome was still able to deliver his message. And this injustice united groups in the U.S. to denounce the torture he endured and the impact of the war on terror in Mindanao.”

Indeed, despite the deportation of Aba, three resource speakers from the Philippines were able to travel the tour: Mong Palatino, Junance Magbuana of the Save Our Schools Network, and Elder Labog, Chairperson of Kilusang Mayo Uno (May First Movement).

The Tour Delegates – from left – Mong Palatino, Junance Magbuana, Elmer Labog

Magbuana spoke of the heightened struggle under President Rodrigo Duterte’s growing dictatorship and intense militarization of Mindanao. “The world is becoming more and more dangerous for human rights defenders,” she said. “With martial law, government forces were given authority for extrajudicial killings. Fear and death is what we have in Mindanao, not peace and justice under martial law.” Under the Duterte regime, more than 20,000 people have been killed under the President’s war on drugs and martial law. President Trump has shown support and admiration for Duterte and his war on drugs, saying that Duterte is “doing a good job,” and suggesting the U.S should implement something similar.

Echoing the need for international solidarity, especially in a country that provides military aid and training to those responsible for the killings, Elmer Labog added, “While we struggle for wages, work and rights for workers, we must also go beyond. Under Duterte killings are still ongoing. These mass actions are inspirations not only to people in the Philippines, but for all freedom loving people all over the world to fight against fascism and tyranny and any form of dictatorship. It is inspiring to see that in this side of the world Filipino people and American people are uniting to highlight the deadly regime of Duterte and support the Filipino struggle for democracy and change.”

Over the course of the Speaking Tour, from Washington D.C. to Los Angeles, ICHRP-US and the Malaya Movement held 28 forums, 20 congressional visits, and ten mobilizations reaching thousands of people.

On May 1st in Chicago at Haymarket Square, where International Workers Day is commemorated as a site of violence against workers, labor leaders honored the Philippine workers movement with a plaque in honor of Kilusang Mayo Uno, the democratic labor center promoting genuine, militant and anti-imperialist trade unionism in the Philippines. Throughout the tour, Elmer Labog also met with and rekindled relationships with U.S. labor groups, including the International Longshore Workers Unions (ILWU), the Asian Pacific Labor Alliance (APALA) and the Chicago Teachers Union.

Mong Palatino speaks on behalf of KMU at May Day in Chicago

Elmer Labog and Donna Denina of the Malaya Movement with members of ILWU in Seattle

ICHRP Pacific Northwest hang a banner from the Hawthorne Bridge in Portland, OR

Once the tour hit Seattle, speakers and over 20 delegates from over twenty organizations logged 1,500 miles in the people’s caravan.

Caravan Delegates in Front of the People’s Caravan

Pam Tau Lee, Chairperson of ICHRP-US stated, “As repression in the Philippines grows with the backing of Donald Trump, we call on all people to join the Filipino people in calling for an end to the killings in the Philippines, We are seeking the broadest possible support and calling on the U.S. Senate to end US military aid to another fascist dictatorship in the Philippines. The voices of the people cannot go unheard until there is just and lasting peace in the Philippines.”

The growing US movement against the killings in the Philippines is still young — ICHRP-US only formally launched in December of 2017, and the Malaya Movement in February of this year. The increasing violent suppression and extra-judicial killings under President Duterte has only helped to grow the movement against him calling for an end to U.S. military aid to the Philippines.  If the persistence of the tour in wake of Aba’s deportment and the thousands who mobilized in support are any sign — it’s a movement that only sees growth and victories in its future.




A US Movement Grows in Opposition to Duterte’s Rising Fascism

Los Angeles, CA – On May 11th, the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP – US) and the Malaya Movement culminated the Stop the Killings Speaking Tour: The People’s Caravan for Peace and Justice in the Philippines with a 100-person rally in front of the Philippine Consulate in Los Angeles, home to the largest number of Filipinos in the country. Among the 100 people, a blue bus with the word “MALAYA” (meaning “free” in Tagalog) written on its windows was parked in front of the Philippine Consulate and had just traveled down the west coast to transport human rights speakers from Philippines and advocates from Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco to join the Los Angeles community in condemning the mass killings of Filipinos by President Rodrigo Duterte. The rally featured speakers of human rights experts, survivors of human rights violations, and faith leaders; street theatre and musical performances; and the delivery of a community-signed letter to the Philippine Consulate to garner their support in helping end the killings under Duterte’s drug war.

“The 20,000 extrajudicial killings in the Philippines continue to climb in number,” said Pam Tau Lee, Chairperson of ICHRP-US. “But beyond the gross number of killings, we see the Filipino people are under attack. Under Martial Law and a heightened crackdown on activists, the basic rights of the people are being thwarted.  As fellow human rights advocates and faith leaders, we are glad to have done this U.S.-wide speaking tour and caravan against the killings and the growing repression in the Philippines.”

Since the Government of the Philippines’ cancellation of peace talks with the National Democratic Front amidst a 50 year civil war, a rising dictatorship has emerged under the administration of Rodrigo Duterte. On Friday of last week, Duterte consolidated power over the judiciary, legislative, and executive branches and removed his Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. This follows last year’s declaration and extension of Martial Law in Mindanao despite widespread protests.

“Why does Duterte want to centralize power? To evade accountability for the repressive three wars of his government – his war against drugs, war on terror, and all-out war against human rights activists. All of these wars should really be called the war against the poor, or war against people. Why does he continue to extend and extend martial law? To displace people, especially indigenous people resisting the presence of mining and multinational corporations who are extracting from their ancestral land. Why does he criminalize activists? To justify the termination of the peace process. Instead of addressing roots of armed conflict, he wages these repressive wars against people and ignores legitimate demands by the people to implement genuine land reform, national industrialization, and respect the rights of people”, says Raymond Palatino, a two time former Philippine Congressman who traveled from the Philippines to join the national speaking tour.

Bernadette Ellorin Chair of BAYAN USA proclaims, “Beyond the killings, the people are growing more outraged over Duterte’s abuse of executive powers and fascist moves like the removal of Chief Justice Sereno. This is a page off the Marcos dictator playbook, which Duterte is not studying too well since Marcos fell at the hands of a people’s resistance to tyranny. History teaches us that dictators fall.”

The rally featured a street theatre performance by members of Anakbayan Los Angeles, a progressive youth organization, to commemorate and highlight the lives of victims killed by Philippine National Police (PNP), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and paramilitary troops. Many victims highlighted were members of peasant or indigenous organizations working towards genuine democracy in Philippines.

Alma Trinidad, Co-Convener of Malaya: A US Movement Against Killings and Dictatorship, and for Democracy in the Philippines, stated: “Our Inang Bayan/Motherland, the Philippines, needs our voice and support now more than ever. Duterte is following in the footsteps of the Iron Fist rule of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos.  As Filipinos in the United States, we must take a stand, speak up, and take action now to stop him, his mentality and sense of governance. Oppression there in the motherland is oppression here for us in the U.S.”

Attendees of the rally signed a poster-sized letter that was hand-delivered to the Philippine Consulate by Trinidad and her fellow Malaya co-convenors Father Toting of St. Matthew Church and Terry Valen, the President of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns. The letter featured the names and faces of the extra-judicial killings under Duterte and read: “20,000+ Filipinos have been killed under President Duterte’s war on the poor, the Moro, and human rights defenders. We urge you to #StopTheKillingsPH”.

Photo: Rally attendees signing a poster-sized letter condemning the 20,000 lives killed under the Duterte regime that was later delivered to the Philippine Consulate.

While the crisis in the Philippines has worsened, the U.S. has expanded support for the increasingly fascist regime. Trump has expressed admiration for Duterte and the drug war in the Philippines, and has promised more military aid while secretly beginning a new military endeavor, Operation Pacific Eagle, which creates provisions for endless spending similar to what occurred in Iraq and Afghanistan in the war on terror. In recent weeks, the U.S. provided $13.5 million dollars worth of surveillance drones to the Philippine military that continues to commit crimes against human rights defenders. “We urge U.S. authorities to withdraw U.S. military aid to the Philippines. Withdraw the drones deployed by the U.S. Army, and  stop supporting the repressive and deadly regime of Duterte. Filipinos will continue to defend our democracy, human rights, and quest for real freedom, justice, and peace”, says Palatino.

Elmer Labog – Chairman of Kilusang Mayo Uno, a democratic labor center in Philippines – added, “It is inspiring to see that in this side of the world Filipino people and American people are uniting to highlight the deadly regime of Duterte and support the Filipino struggle for democracy and change.”

The tour started in Washington D.C. with Ecumenical Advocacy Days and moved on to New York and Chicago before traveling down the west coast to Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles by bus. The tour is scheduled to continue on to Hawaii next month. Across these tour stops, the speakers joined meetings with congressional offices and community events to educate the public on the human rights crisis in Philippines. After the rally, Malaya Movement hosted a mixer and cultural night at Precious Blood Catholic Church wherein 150 people attended to learn more about the human rights situation in Philippines and how to build a movement to stop the killings. The mixer event had co-emcees, Filipino talk show host and producer, Giselle “G” Tongi and Roger Rigor, singer of the popular Manila disco group VST & Co.

“As repression in the Philippines grows with the backing of Donald Trump, we call on all people to join the Filipino people in calling for an end to the killings in the Philippines,” said Lee. “We are seeking the broadest possible support and calling on the U.S. Senate to end US military aid to another fascist dictatorship in the Philippines. The voices of the people cannot go unheard until there is just and lasting peace in the Philippines”


Investigate the CBP! Justice for Jerome Aba!

The US Chapter of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP-US) supports Jerome Aba’s demand for an investigation into what happened to him at the hands of the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Agency last April 17-19 at the San Francisco International Airport.

In an April 20 press conference in Manila, Aba recounted being subjected to physical and psychological torture while being interrogated by CBP officials, who denied him access to a lawyer, before being forced to fly back to the Philippines. The account included being forced to undress and remain positioned for a prolonged period in front of an industrial fan; being denied food, water, and sleep for hours; and being asked repeatedly if Aba was a “terrorist” or a “communist.”

Despite Aba’s detailed testimony, the CBP has stated that its agents “treat all travelers with dignity and respect” and not admitted any mistreatment of Aba, a 25 year old Moro (Muslim) peace advocate from Mindanao who was granted a 10 year multiple entry visa to the US upon the invitation of several US church groups. Aba’s account of his treatment by CBP fits a an escalating pattern of abuse meted out by border agents against travelers and migrants since the declaration of the so-called “War on Terror” in 2001.

“The response of the US CBP is an outrageous lie. So many thousands of migrants have told horror stories of the violent attacks, withholding of food and water, intimidation and coercion, and humiliating and misleading interrogation they’ve experienced at the hands of CBP agents. It is well-documented that such abuse has become routine practice for the agency, but we will not stand for the CBP’s ‘business as usual’ behavior. The US government must answer for the CBP and Homeland Security’s inhumane treatment of Jerome, and a full investigation and accountability for the agents’ treatment must be secured,” said Pam Tau Lee, Chair of ICHRP-US.

Aba submitted a letter to Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Cayetano to formally demand an independent, impartial investigation into his torture, arbitrary detention and other mistreatment and rights violations inflicted on him by US Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection; hold accountable Philippine Consulate officers in San Francisco, US for their neglect of Aba; and to file a diplomatic protest against the US government on what had happened to him.

“Unfortunately, Jerome’s case is one of many. In addition to the rampant abuse of migrants at borders, the Trump administration’s ‘extreme vetting’ program is intended to bar activists, artists and other experts from entering the US to speak out on social and political justice issues. The detention and interrogation of Jerome Aba included repeated questioning about his human rights advocacy. This is an indication that they want to seek out and cause harm to the rightful organizing that has mobilized vast numbers seeking to amplify the voices of those victimized by the culture of impunity in the Philippines and the role of the US in supporting Duterte’s regime. It is my hope that a successful investigation into what happened to Jerome at SFO results in policy changes in how arrivals are treated, including legal representation at the point of entry and also recognition of the UN Declaration of Human Rights,” concluded Lee.





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