For Immediate Release: Sunday, December 16, 2018
Contact: Joy Prim, International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines Southern California Network (ICHRP SoCal) | firstname.lastname@example.org
LOS ANGELES — On Saturday afternoon, December 15, progressive Filipino organizations held a demonstration at Bahay Kubo Restaurant in Historic Filipinotown to confront Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa — the mastermind of President Duterte’s “War on Drugs”, who recently resigned as the Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief before joining the Philippine senatorial race in October 2018. Bato was scheduled to speak at Bahay Kubo, but cancelled his appearance as members of progressive organizations — International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines – U.S. (ICHRP US), Migrante Los Angeles, MALAYA Southern California, and BAYAN-USA — quickly gathered at the restaurant to demand an end to the killings under Duterte’s Regime, which has already resulted in grave human rights violations and over 23,000 extrajudicial killings under the drug war.
“Bato, this former PNP chief has blood on his hands. We can never forget our kababayan [Filipino countrymen] are suffering because of the death squads PNP unleashed on poor communities, ” said Nikole Cababa, Secretary General of BAYAN. “Under Bato’s leadership the PNP harassed, surveilled, intimidated, tortured, arrested, and killed thousands of our kababayan. We must stand together to stand up for justice, to speak the truth, and to carry on the fight for genuine change in the Philippines.”
Since Duterte took office in 2016, the Philippines has gained international attention for its brutal implementation of the drug war. Bato led the PNP’s campaign strategy of knocking on the doors of suspected drug users, also known as Oplan TokHang, leading to the harassment and killings of Filipinos without due process. In September 2016, Bato was quoted saying: “If [drug suspects] pull out a gun, kill them. If they don’t, kill them still, son of a whore, so it’s over, lest [PNP officers] lose the gun. I’ll take care of you.”
Although Bato canceled his talk at Bahay Kubo, supporters and members of Maharlika, a pro-Duterte organization, stayed at the restaurant, chanting “Long live, Duterte! Long live, Marcos!” as they were face to face with members of the progressive organizations. The demonstration continued despite verbal confrontations by members of Maharlika.
At his campaign speech in Las Vegas last week, Bato attempted to pander to Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), claiming that OFWs are important to the wellbeing of Philippines. On Saturday, Mariah Oca of Migrante Los Angeles, responded: “If Bato is so against the harm illegal drugs has in the Philippines, I challenge him to actually address the root causes of drug use instead of sponsoring mass murder, or proposing to author senate bills that will ban drugs from entering our country… Writing or passing another bill to ban shabu from entering our country is not going to cure the ailments of our society. That will not give land to the landless farmers, that will not end contractualization of the workers, that will not end the thousands and thousands of Filipinos forced to leave for work abroad ripping families apart.”
The fabrication of Duterte’s “War on Drugs” has also been linked to the attacks and killings against human rights leaders in Philippines, who are often arrested on trumped-up charges of drug use. More recently, U.S. Congress approved the allotment of $184 million in tax dollars to support military operations in Philippines. Activists worry that this will yield more attacks and killings of Filipinos without due process.
In December 2018, ICHRP US launched a campaign to End U.S. Support to the Duterte Regime, including all forms of aid to the PNP and Armed Forces of the Philippines. “As the election season has already begun, we must monitor and respond to the issues that arise, especially knowing that corruption and human rights violations go hand in hand with elections in the Philippines,” said Joy Prim, Southern California Regional Coordinator of ICHRP US. “As the number of human rights violations continue to rise, we must join the growing movement against Duterte’s tyranny and violent fascism and defend genuine democracy for the Philippines.”