Brandon’s Return to the Bay Area

This past week, just days before arrests of 57 activists in Negros, multiple police and military raids of Bayan and Gabriela offices in Manila, and the disappearance of a human rights worker, Honey Mae Suazo — family, friends, activists and city officials welcomed Brandon Lee home to the Bay Area. Brandon is the first United States citizen to be caught in the cross hairs of an extra-judicial assassination attempt by the regime of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte

The protection and safe return of Brandon — the fundraising of thousands, community vigils, passing resolutions, and lobbying for Brandon — are evidence of the impact of Brandon’s life dedicated to community and justice. But even more so, the response to Brandon’s shooting is evidence of a mass movement — of international scale — amidst a worsening human rights crisis in the Philippines.

Brandon Lee’s Solidarity

ICHRP-US is one of the organizations contributing to the mass movement for peace & justice in the Philippines; as a solidarity formation, we uphold Brandon’s life and example as a model to us. 

Before moving to the Philippines, where Brandon married his wife, raised his young daughter and established permanent residence, Brandon was an active member of the League of Filipino Students at San Francisco State University.  Brandon, a Chinese-American, born and raised in San Francisco, was always deeply integrated in the Filipino community. As many know now, Brandon dedicated his life to fight for indigenous and land rights as a community activist and paralegal and published facts and stories of people’s struggle as a journalist under a fascist regime. Even in the face of surveillance and harassment from state forces, Brandon did not waver in his cause. 

Like Brandon, many people of faith and activists from outside the Philippines have taken up the call to organize and live in genuine solidarity with the oppressed people under the Duterte regime. Along with Brandon, Sister Patricia Fox, Adam Shaw, Tawanda Chandiwana, and Miracle Osma are some of the most recent who faced persecution, including deportation, under Duterte. Many solidarity activists before these, like Father Pops and WIlliam Geertman, were killed while struggling for people’s rights and self-determination in the Philippines. 

Whether it was Martial Law of the Marcos era, the hundreds of enforced disappearances of the Arroyo Regime, the negligence of the Noynoy Regime during natural disasters, or the ever-worsening human rights crisis of the Duterte Regime under which 30,000 poor people have been slaughtered in the name of the war on drugs, the human rights situation and people’s movement in the Philippines has moved many to take action around the world.  Brandon continues that legacy of international solidarity and we call on people in the United States to follow Brandon’s lead. 

U.S. Support of the Duterte Regime

In 2018, the US gave at least $195 million in military aid to the state forces responsible for the shooting of Brandon. In addition, 5 million rounds of ammunition was given to the Armed Forces of the Philippines by the US government.  The bullets that remain in Brandon, a US citizen, and the many bullets used to enforce Duterte’s tyranny, are very likely to have been provided by US taxpayer money. Despite the overwhelming proof of grave human rights violations by the Duterte Regime, the US government continues to violate the Leahy Law which prohibits the US government from using funds to assist foreign security forces that commit torture, extrajudicial killing, enforced disappearance

While the United States has yet to take decisive action in response to Duterte’s crimes, the situation in the Philippines worsens. Duterte imposes de-facto martial law across the country through widespread killings, surveillance, and the raids.

As Brandon’s mother, Louise Lee, reflected on the human rights situation:

“My son, who like many innocent people in the Philippines, was senselessly shot for speaking out for those who have no voice, for those who are marginalized, and for those who are being taken advantage of.

Let’s not permit this failed assassination attempt on my son’s life be in vain.

Unlike Brandon, there are tens of thousands of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines who remain unknown because they do not receive the same international attention as Brandon. My son would say, his fight for justice is for them too.”

Brandon fights because the Filipino people are fighting back: lawyers pursue justice for trade unionists jailed with trumped up charges, activists rally in the streets, indigenous people defend the environment, farmers create collective cooperatives to ensure enough food in crisis, and some even choose to take up arms to defend threatened communities. ICHRP-US calls community members and organizations to join with the Filipino people: Fight like Brandon Lee! Advance the solidarity movement for the Philippines! End U.S. Support of the Duterte regime!

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