US Congressional Hearing: An Important First Step Forward

Towards Accountability over “Appalling” Human Rights Situation in the Philippines

On Thursday, July 25, members of the Malaya Movement and ICHRP-US joined Chairman Brad Sherman and the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and Nonproliferation for a hearing on Human Rights in South East Asia, featuring the Philippines. 

While Duterte’s administration has been vocal in its feedback to foreign governments who criticize his regime, Chairman Brad Sherman was blunt in his opening remarks, calling the human rights situation in the Philippines “appalling.” 

“This hearing is an important first step in the road to accountability over the human rights crisis in the Philippines,” states Drew Elizarde-Miller of ICHRP-US. “Our advocacy towards ensuring not a single US tax dollar is spent towards any form of human rights abuse in the Philippines does not end here. We will continue to advocate our lawmakers to stand with the Filipino people, especially the tens of thousands of victims of these abuses under the Duterte government and their families. This is just a beginning, there is more work to be done.”

At the hearing, Congressman Sherman recognized Beverly Longid, Chairperson of the Indigenous People’s Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation. Longid, one of the activists listed on Duterte’s terror list that vilified human rights defenders, explained the human rights situation in the Philippines in an interview prior to the hearing: “One killing is one killing too many, especially if it’s done in the context of violating due process of law . . . it speaks of the danger human rights defenders or activists or anyone critical of the Philippine government face, where you can find yourself in a situation where you are arrested, incarcerated or probably dead.”

Attacks on Human Rights Defenders, Indigenous People

Francisco Bencosme, the Asia Pacific Advocacy Manager at Amnesty International, testified at the hearing. Bencosme’s testimony highlighted the recent killing of a three year old, Myka Ulpina, in the war on drugs, as well as the regime’s attacks on human rights defenders, including death threats on Cristina Palabay and other Karapatan human rights workers. Bencosme shared, “There is an urgent need, particularly in the context of extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations, to make this a priority.”

Ann Wagner, Congresswoman from Missouri, raised the problem of threats on indigenous people. Wagner stated, “I am especially concerned about the plight of indigenous people in the Philippines. In Mindanao, which has been under Martial law since May of 2017, the Duterte Administration has committed these extrajudicial, illegal killings, illegal arrests, and attacks on indigenous schools set up in partnership with NGO’s.” 

Bencosme elaborated on government attacks on the indigenous people and human rights defenders: “The way the Philippines government acts is it red-tags them — legitimate organizations — or it brands them as communist fronts, which has led to an increase in harassment or attacks by unknown individuals against them.”

During an interview, Longid further explained the impact on indigenous people: “The attacks have been relentless because we have been facing intensified intrusion into our ancestral lands because of the government’s ‘Build Build Build’ policy that would bring in destructive projects like mining, corporate energy projects and plantations. Alongside the ‘Build Build Build’ policy is Duterte’s ‘kill kill kill’ policy against people who are resisting, dissenting, or critical to his policy or programs.”  

US Aid to the Philippines, Call for Investigation 

Deemed a “a major non-NATO ally” by Congressman Sherman, the United States maintains strong economic and military interests in the region, sending 193.5 million dollars in aid to the Philippine military and police in 2018 alone.  Even this amount is just one aspect of military aid to the Philippines — this number does not include arms sales, donated equipment of unreported worth, nor the costs of annual joint trainings like the Balikatan exercises. In a statement, Ecumenical Advocacy Network on the Philippines, made recommendations on how to deal with U.S. support of Philippine military and police.

Congressman Gerry Connolly of Virginia noted the importance of U.S. opposition to Duterte’s crimes, saying, “by not speaking out, he [President Trump] has, in fact, sadly encouraged Duterte and his vigilantes to persist, if not expand, their gross violations of human rights.”

“Now that US lawmakers have posed their questions, it’s time to investigate what is happening on the ground to get the answers,” states Yves Nibungco of Malaya Movement. “A US Congressional investigation on how exactly US aid to the Philippines, particularly to the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, is spent should be conducted, in order to make certain such aid is uplifting the lives of the Filipino people and safeguarding human rights and democracy. Until then we call on US aid to the Philippine be withheld or for a temporary moratorium pending such an investigation.”

Earlier this month, the United Nations Human Rights Council  (UNHRC) in Geneva passed a resolution to conduct an independent investigation on the human rights situation in the Philippines, the findings of which would be included in a comprehensive country report. 

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Ecumenical Advocacy Network on the Philippines

STATEMENT ON THE HOUSE FOREIGN AFFAIRS ASIA-PACIFIC SUBCOMMITTE HEARING ON HUMAN RIGHTS IN SE ASIA, 7-25-2019

Reference: Paul Bloom, prb@umn.com, Tim McGloin,timlinmcg@msn.com

We of the Ecumenical Advocacy Network on the Philippines (EANP) thank Chairman Sherman and the other members of the Asia-Pacific Subcommittee present at the hearing and those witness who spoke out on the human rights situation in  Philippines.  It is important that the  hearing emphasized the continuing and escalating human rights abuses by the Duterte Administration’s “war on drugs”, the extrajudicial killings of indigenous leaders and human rights defenders by paramilitaries, the harassment of journalist Maria Ressa, and the imprisonment of an Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience, Senator Leila de Lima. The statement by witness Francisco Bencosme of Amnesty International about the very  recent killing of a human rights lawyer, followed by total silence of Philippine government officials at all levels, illustrates the alarming impunity felt by the perpetrators of crimes against human rights defenders. In addition Mr. Bencosme spoke about sedition charges that have been filed against 36 persons who have openly opposed  human rights violations, including Catholic Bishops, Catholic  nuns of the Rural Missions of Mindanao, human rights defenders, former Senatorial candidates,  a Senator, and the Vice President.  

In response we call on :

1. Congress to take action on the recommendations proposed by Amnesty International’s recent report, “They Just Kill Us”, that include the following:

“A call on the Philippine government to cooperate with an independent, impartial and effective investigation led by the UN into alleged crimes under international law and other serious human rights violations in the context of the “war on drugs” and to ensure that individuals responsible for violations of domestic law and international human rights law are held accountable, regardless of rank or position, in fair trials before civilian courts.”

2.  The Appropriations Committees  to include human rights restrictions on Foreign Military Financing to the Philippine Army and International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement assistance to the Philippine National police.

3. Support H Res 233 and S Res 142 that condemn the incarceration of Sen De Lima, the harassment of human rights defenders, and politically motivated harassment and charges against journalist Maria Ressa, executive editor of online news outlet Rappler and advocate of press freedom.

In addition we urge the US Department of State to refuse an export license for the purchase of weapons by the Philippine National Police.

The archived video of the hearing is available at; https://foreignaffairs.house.gov/2019/7/human-rights-in-southeast-asia-a-regional-outlook

While Vote on UN Investigation of Duterte Awaits, We Condemn Duterte’s Attempt to Gain U.S. Support through “Lumad” Tour

This June, the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) of the Philippines kicked off a speaking tour across the United States in an attempt to gain support for Duterte’s counterinsurgency program, Oplan Kapanatagan, a recently initiated joint operation plan between the Philippine military and police.

The timing of President Duterte’s tour comes at no coincidence.

Last Thursday, Iceland led over two dozen countries in submitting a resolution to the United Nations Human Rights Council to conduct an independent investigation on the Duterte regime’s war on drugs. The resolution comes just a week after the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines hosted its Global Assembly in Hong Kong, and less than a year after the International People’s Tribunal in Brussels, Belgium, found Duterte guilty of gross human rights violations. The Human Rights Council is set to vote on the resolution by July 12.

In response to growing international scrutiny against Duterte, the PCOO has paraded a group called the Mindanao Indigenous Peoples Council of Elders and Leaders (MIPCEL) across the United States, a collection of tribal dealers and leaders of paramilitary groups who are wreaking havoc on Mindanao’s indigenous (Lumad) communities. The said “Council” have collaborated with the Armed Forces of the Philippines since 2003 to recruit Lumads into the regular armed forces and paramilitary groups to conduct counterinsurgency, as outlined in a Memorandum of understanding with the Mindanao Eastern Region Command.

Since the declaration of Pres. Duterte’s Martial Law 2 years ago — which spurred further U.S. military support in the form of Operation Pacific Eagle — 31 Lumad leaders have been killed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, its gunmen, and paramilitary groups. More than 400,000 have been forcibly evacuated under Duterte’s Martial Law in Mindanao. Under Oplan Kapanatagan, joint operations between the military and police have resulted in more massacres, especially against farmers and indigenous people.

Mindanao, where the Lumad reside, holds the world’s second largest known gold reserves in addition to copper, nickel, and other minerals. Those who resist the encroachment of private business on their ancestral domains are subject to “clearing” operations by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and paramilitary groups. Through Ancestral Domain Management Systems, Inc., MIPCEL cooperate and collude with private corporations aiming to exploit the natural resources in the ancestral domains, receiving hefty financial kickbacks. MIPCEL is no advocate for indigenous rights, but a mechanism of Philippine government to exploit indigenous people for the benefit of the Philippine elite and foreign corporations.

“Clearly the purpose of this MIPCEL tour is not to create dialogue, but rather is a desperate propaganda stunt to create a semblance of international support for Duterte’s bloodbath. No matter what antics the Duterte administration undergoes to justify its blatant disregard for human rights, the facts are indisputable,” said Drew Elizarde-Miller, National Coordinator of ICHRP US.

While Duterte seeks to consolidate the Philippine military and police to strengthen his hold over armed and security forces, the Philippine government also grows more defiant in its attempt to cover its attacks against the Filipino people. The Presidential office attributes increasing international pressure to false news, claiming that no other government could know the Philippines as well as its own government. Such pleads to Philippine sovereignty from the Duterte regime hold little weight when the Philippine government continues to sell the lands of indigenous people to foreign companies, increase its debt to the U.S. and China, and do nothing to defend the West Philippine Seas while China violates international maritime law. In this vein, the Presidential Communications Operations Office’s Lumad tour does not make our solidarity waver for the Lumad and the Filipino people’s struggle. In the face of the Duterte regime’s growing propaganda in the United States and across the world, we hold strong in our call to end U.S. support of the Duterte Regime and cut aid to the Philippine military and police. We urge the U.N Human Rights Council to pass the recently tabled resolution and investigate the sins of Duterte.

Hands off Tinay! Defend Human Rights Defenders!

Reference: Yoko Liriano, ICHRP-US Communications Coordinator

Contact ICHRP-US: (443) ICHRP-US/ (443) 424-7787, ICHRPUS [at] gmail.com

At 4:30pm on April 22, 2019, Bernardino “Toto” Patigas, 72, a survivor of the Escalante Massacre of 20 farmers and farmworkers during the Marcos dictatorship, became the 48th Karapatan human rights worker murdered under the Duterte Regime.

Human rights defenders, particularly in Negros, where 14 farmers were massacred just a couple of weeks ago, receive threats regularly due to their human rights work–Toto Patigas included.  In 2017, trumped up complaints were filed against Patigas but were dismissed due to lack of probable cause. In April of 2018, Patigas’s name and picture, together with that of slain human rights lawyer Benjamin Ramos and 60 other individuals and rights advocates, were included in a poster of alleged communist personalities.

This is the style of political killings and intimidation in the Philippines.  

Duterte and his cronies like Brigadier General Antonio Parlade, demonize and red-tag activists, grassroots organizations, research and law institutions, faith leaders, etc., labeling human rights activists and community members as terrorists and members of the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army. The cost of the Duterte regime’s words are deadly–their words become law and justify the violence of the Philippine military and police. In one recent case, after Duterte’s inflammatory remarks about shooting women guerilla fighters in the vagina, an alleged NPA leader was found last week with her arms fractured and her genitals shattered by a bullet.

Within 24 hours of Toto Patigas’s murder, Cristina (Tinay) Palabay, the Secretary General of Karapatan, received a death threat via text message: “Condolences: We already started, you are our priority, along with Clarissa, Roque, Nolie, Rey, Aldren, Patigas, Cristian, Dolly, at si Alyas Tatay Ogie who can be seen in Silay or Libertad. They are our priorities for this year.”

Palabay recently completed a speaking tour in the United States sponsored by ICHRP-US and Amnesty International. Responding to the 184.5 million in tax dollars that went to the Philippine military and police in 2018, Palabay urged people in the United States to stop “sending aid to support the mad slaughter in the Philippines.”

Harassment and terrorist tagging continues to happen to speakers who come to share the human rights situation in the Philippines to people in the United States–both in the case of Jerome Aba, the peace activist invited to the U.S. for Ecumenical Advocacy Days and en route to speak on ICHRP’s Stop the Killings Speaking Tour in 2018 who was detained at SFO Airport, tortured, and accused of being a communist-terrorist, and most recently in the case of death threats against Tinay Palabay, who spoke and lobbied across the U.S. this March 2019.

The United States Network of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP-US) denounces the killing of Toto Patigas and the continual attack on human rights defenders in the Philippines. We call on the international community to increase the pressure against the Duterte Regime and support human rights defenders and progressive organizations, which includes supporting the call for sanctuary for human rights defenders.

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TAKE ACTION:

  1. Pressure lawmakers to end support for the Duterte Regime — follow up with Congressional Offices especially those that Tinay visited while on tour with an email to the aide, office, or set up a lobby visit
  2. Garner signatures for campaign for a congressional hearing: ichrpus.org/campaign
  3. Donate to ICHRP-US to support human rights defenders in the Philippines: paypal.me/ichrpus

U.S. Human Rights Groups Condemn Additional U.S. Funding to Philippine Military and Police and Call for a Congressional Hearing to Investigate Human Rights Violations Under the Duterte Regime

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Contacts:
Drew Elizarde-Miller | ICHRP-US Secretariat | 503-476-2179 | dcsmiller@gmail.com
Narissa Lee | ICHRP-US Media | 415-613-1432 | ICHRPUS@gmail.com

U.S. Congress approved more military aid to the Asia Pacific Region, while the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines-U.S. chapter (ICHRP-US)  launched a campaign to urge Congress to cut aid to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP)

Despite the U.S. government shutdown, President Trump signed into law the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act, S.2736 and the House version H.B. 6888, which authorizes $1.5 billion in annual funding to the region, including the Philippines, from 2019 to 2023. As U.S. tax-funded aid to the AFP and PNP has been heavily associated with rampant human rights violations and killings in Philippines, human rights groups are calling for a congressional hearing to ensure that the additional funding under this bill does not contribute to increased killings and other violations of human rights of Filipinos.


While the bill states that no support will be provided to the PNP for counternarcotics assistance unless international human rights standards are met, human rights advocates are concerned about further aid to the AFP and weapons procurement for the PNP. Last month, the Ecumenical Advocacy Network of the Philippines, a network of faith-based organizations, released a public statement urging the House and Senate to reject any version of S.2736 and H.B. 6888 that does not specifically state that none of the additional proposed funds can be appropriated to the PNP and AFP.

“US foreign policy towards China should not infringe upon the sovereignty and rights of people in the Asia Pacific,” said Pam Tau Lee, Chairperson of ICHRP US.  “The $1.5 billion in military aid approved by members of Congress is being mistakenly lauded as a step to protect human rights in the Philippines by some media. In reality, if allocated to the AFP, it will directly fund the crimes they perpetrate, including extrajudicial killings of peasants and peasant leaders, illegal arrests and detentions, and ceaseless harassment and intimidation of civilians, including arbitrary shootings of schools in Mindanao.


Since Duterte took office in July 2016, over 23,000 people — estimated by the PNP itself — are suspected to have been murdered; at least 540 people are being detained as political prisoners; and more than 430,000 people have been displaced by the AFP.

In 2018 alone, U.S. Congress approved $184.5 million in military aid to the Duterte administration. In response to the worsening human rights crisis in Philippines, ICHRP-US launched a nationwide campaign to call for an end to all U.S. support for the Duterte Administration, beginning with calling on Congress to cut funding to the AFP and PNP.

Joy Prim, the ICHRP-US Regional Coordinator in Southern California which is home to the largest number of Filipinos in the country, urged human rights advocates in the United States to participate in the campaign:  “Human rights defenders in the U.S. have a responsibility to grow the movement against fascism in the Philippines and end the United States’ role in aiding and abetting Duterte’s murderous regime. We are calling on all human rights supporters in the United States to demand a congressional hearing and help expose and halt the use of tax dollars that’s funding the Duterte administration’s murder spree, which is now in the tens of thousands.”

In 2007, Senator Barbara Boxer hosted a congressional hearing on extrajudicial killings in the Philippines under then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Later that year, Congress restricted U.S. aid to the Philippines until certain human rights conditions were met.

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Fil-Ams disrupt Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, orchestrator of U.S.-funded Philippine “War on Drugs”

For Immediate Release: Sunday, December 16, 2018

Contact: Joy Prim, International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines Southern California Network (ICHRP SoCal) | ichrpsocal@gmail.com

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.


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Solidarity is Our Duty! Build the Movement to End US Support of the Duterte Regime: 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.

Closing

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!  End US Support of the Duterte Regime! Uphold human rights in the Philippines!