Portland, OR– On May 6, 2018 members of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines – Pacific Northwest Chapter (ICHRP-PNW) gathered to give testimony in front of the Portland City Council, calling the City to support a resolution passed by San Francisco Board of Supervisors in the wake of the torture and deportation of Jerome Aba, a Filipino human rights and peace activist. ICHRP-PNW members further explained the human rights situation in the Philippines under the US-Duterte regime, informing the council about the over 20K extrajudicial killings (EJKs) which have occurred under Duterte’s bloody drug war, and finally calling for the safe passage of all migrants and international travelers through Portland ports.

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ICHRP-PNW members highlighted the growing partnership between the U.S. and Duterte regime through the detainment, torture, and interrogation of Jerome Aba, who fell subject to the harassment of US Border and Customs Agents in April. Aba held a ten year visa when he arrived at San Francisco International Airport as a part of the Stop the Killings Speaking Tour, and was set to arrive in Portland in May.

As Tabitha Ponciano, Chairperson of Portland Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines shared, “after returning to the Philippines, Aba recounted the Guantanamo style torture he was subjected to at the hands of the US border and customs agency. He was stripped naked and put in front of an industrial fan in order to make him cold, forced to sign blank documents, and repeatedly left alone in a room with either a loaded gun or an active grenade in order to taunt or intimidate him. Several times during his 28 hours of detainment he was told he had no rights and no right to speak to his lawyer who was waiting outside the entire time. Aba recounts being told on several occasion that if he attempted to run he would be shot and the agents regularly unfastened their guns in order to show they meant what they were saying.”

Despite Aba’s account, the US government has skirted all accountability and insisted that a “technical error” in his visa was the reason behind his 28+ hours of detainment. Nikki De Leon, a speaker from an ICHRP member, the National Alliance of Filipino Concerns, reiterated “There is an unevenness of application to migrants of Customs and Border Protection . . . [migrants] are free to be used for labor power in the United States, but if we are to be peace advocates to point out the influence on the U.S. on the Philippines, we could potentially be tortured.”

ICHRP-PNW member Melissa Munoz connected Aba’s experience with that of Claudia Gomez, a 20-year-old Guatemalan woman killed by US border patrol agents while trying to flee violence in her home country last month. Munoz implored City Council, “Sadly, this is not the first time U.S. agencies have done something like this to fellow migrant residents here in America. The resolution we are asking you to pass today is one that acknowledges the rights, hard work, and respect that all migrants, refugees and international travelers deserve.”

Alma Trinidad, Social Work Professor at Portland State University and at Large Member of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines added: “We want to put a stop to tax dollars to U.S. supported militarization, economic gains, or any form of aid that justifies human rights violations . . . Money speaks volumes. Money put to inhumane treatment customs and border, into advisory groups, into technical support and equipment, including intelligence and surveillance drones, means explicitly investing in violence.”

Twenty-three Portland area faith leaders joined ICHRP-PNW’s call for a City Council resolution condemning human rights abuses in the Philippines and at the US border, “As faith leaders and people seeking peace, we join the City of San Francisco Board of Supervisors in condemning the inhumane treatment of Jerome Aba and call the City of Portland to create a resolution to further condemn the action and to call on our Federal representatives to investigate,” the letter read. “We ask that the City of Portland to uplift Jerome’s message to stop the killings in the Philippines.”

Mayor Ted Wheeler expressed his support for the ICHRP’s cause, saying, “I will put it on the record, in my opinion, President Duterte is not a credible leader that should be supported by the United States.” In a similarly positive statement, Commissioner Chloe Eudaly simply remarked, “Let’s take action,” referring ICHRP-PNW to address the Portland Human Rights Commission to further their advocacy around human rights abuses in the Philippines.

Portland City Council members are not the first major U.S. voices to speak out against the ongoing crimes in the Philippines. Mayor Wheeler and Chloe Eudaly join U.S. Senator Merkley; the Senator wrote a letter of support for ICHRP in May, declaring, “I will continue to work with my colleagues in demanding that the Trump administration join us in condemning instead of rewarding President Duterte’s human rights abuses and violations.”

Taking it’s message to the Portland streets, ICHRP-PNW also posted a billboard add that reads: Stop the Killings: End U.S. Military Aid to the Philippines” on the corner of SW 6th Ave. and SW Broadway.

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ICHRP-PNW, born in December 2017 in Portland, seeks to unite with “any possible” individual and organization for the cause of a just and lasting peace in the Philippines. As human rights violations in the Philippines increases and as the campaign for Justice for Jerome Aba heightens, ICHRP-PNW calls for the broadest possible solidarity for the Filipino People.

You can view the full hearing of the City Hall meeting here, between 6 minutes and 25 minutes.


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