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