Support the Filipino People’s Struggle, Not U.S. War

On December 10th, Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesperson announced the President would lift martial law in Mindanao two years after its initial implementation. This is a welcome development; however, under a President who has authored 30,000 killings in a war on drugs and unleashed endless attacks against human rights defenders, the move to lift martial law in Mindanao neither absolves Duterte’s guilt nor indicates a change a halt to the Presidents growing list of crimes against humanity. 


The news brings further attention to the fact that Duterte has not needed to declare martial law over the whole country in order to carry out military rule; Duterte has instead implemented Executive Order 70, the National Task Force to End Local communist armed conflict, and Memorandum 32, a redeployment of state forces to “suppress lawless violence.” According to Karapatan, Duterte’s program of harassment and violence have resulted in 293 political killings, at least 204 people tortured, 429 victims of frustrated extrajudicial killings, 94,075 threatened and harassed and the arrests of 382 of the 629 political detainees in the country. As long as Duterte can continue such a level of repression with impunity, he has no need for any formal declaration of martial law. 

But whatever guise Duterte uses to try and obscure his dictatorship, his attempts to dupe people in the Philippines and abroad are failing. As evident in the UN Human Rights Council investigation on human rights in the Philippines, the International Criminal Court movement towards its own investigation, the recent statement from U.S. Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders against repression of workers and unions in the Philippines, and in the growing number of people protesting Duterte worldwide, international dissent against the regime continues to grow. Even Bono is calling Duterte to accountability.  

Still, there are those who lend support to Duterte. Since 2016, the U.S. has supplied $554.55 million in defense assistance to the regime. Furthermore, In a recent report from the Commission on Human Rights in the Philippines, “47 major companies, including Shell, ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP and Total, could be found legally and morally liable for human rights harms to Filipinos resulting from climate change.”  Whether it is President Trump or multinational corporations, only those who seek to profit from the exploitation of Filipinos align with Duterte. In the end, those who do win financial gains from political repression are far outnumbered by those of us who support and uphold human rights in the Philippines; what remains for us is to organize more broadly and boldly. 

On International Human Rights Day, ICHRP-US declares our unequivocal solidarity with the Filipino people, and we voice our support not only for individual and civil rights in the Philippines, but to the Filipino people’s collective right to self-determination and national liberation. While millions of dollars flow to U.S. defense assistance and multinational corporations that exploit people and their land, we call on people in the U.S. to join the solidarity movement for the Philippines and support the Filipino people’s struggle, not U.S. war and exploitation! 

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As Attacks Against Activists Increase, Fight Like Brandon Lee! Advance the Solidarity Movement for the Philippines!

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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Stop the attacks! Defend Negros against Duterte’s Killing Spree!

In the last two weeks, over 21 civilians have been assassinated on the island of Negros. Arthur and Aldane Bayawa were brothers, one a school principal and another an official in the Department of Education. Marlon Ocampo was at home with his one year old son when their house was strafed by bullets, killing them both. Ramon “Bobby” Jalandoni and Ernesto Posadas were both local government officials. Attorney Anthony Trinidad, who represented political prisoners, was already on a hit list. He was ambushed on his way home from court by a pair of gunmen on a motorcycle. These are just glimpses into some of the lives taken away from us.

What most of the victims had in common is that they were known to be critical of the government, and that their killings were committed brazenly and in public, by people who do not act like they are scared to be caught. Testimony from eyewitnesses, including family members, linked the killings to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP). 

Negros has already become infamous for government-linked killings within the last year, notably because of the “Negros 14”, who were peasants killed by the police, and the “Sagay 9” massacre of sugar worker families. As of August 1st this year, 87 people from Negros, mostly farmers, have been killed under President Duterte’s regime. His explanation of this latest spate of killings has been to blame such “lawless violence” on the New People’s Army (NPA), despite the fact that he has also accused many of the victims of being NPA. In retaliation, he also promised to “replicate the atrocious acts”, especially with regard to the NPA’s alleged killing of 4 policemen. 

However these killings must be seen within the context of Duterte’s militarization of government bureaucracy, where more and more of his direct appointees are current or former military and police. Under Duterte’s Oplan Kapanatagan, the military and police are working together to practice a “whole-of-nation” counterinsurgency strategy, as outlined by Executive Order 70. 

Oplan Kapanatagan seeks to remove the distinction between police-style operations against ordinary criminals and organized crime, with military-style counterinsurgency operations. This strategy, which was crafted by the US Army and was also adopted by Duterte’s predecessor, former President Noynoy Aquino, gradually takes away democratic civilian rule and checks-and-balances. It employs politically-justified killings of indigenous people, unionists, and farmers advocating land reform, accusing those murdered as communist rebels or their sympathizers. In addition, it implements a total war strategy that does nothing to address the roots of the armed conflict in landlessness, joblessness and government corruption and impunity. Often, the same methods of extrajudicial killings have been used as those in Duterte’s infamous Oplan Tokhang “drug war”.

Additionally, Duterte’s Memorandum Order 32 specifically names Negros alongside Samar and Bicol as in a “state of lawless violence”, directing additional and more aggressive deployments of AFP and PNP forces. While Oplan Kapanatagan is a country-wide strategy, its local manifestation in Negros known as Oplan Sauron was developed in late 2018 as the military and police response to Duterte’s M.O. 32 order. Nadja de Vera, convener of the group Defend Negros, said the order “was just issued to legalize the killings” that were already happening. 

With these orders and military operations, Duterte has imposed a state of de facto martial law in Negros and other rural areas, using the 50-year-old communist-led insurgency as an excuse after rejecting the call for peace talks. However, even de facto martial law is not enough for Duterte. In response to the violence, which even pro-Duterte newspapers have speculated is the responsibility of the government, Duterte has opened a discussion of extending martial law beyond Mindanao and other “drastic measures,” in his own words. 

The killings in Negros come right after Duterte and Trump administration officials met in Manila to discuss topics including greater security cooperation. The US ambassador tweeted that they met to “explore ways to deepen our military partnership”, while US-trained and educated Philippine Secretary of Defense Delfin Lorenzana spoke about strengthening the Mutual Defense Treaty, one agreement that has long made the Philippines a major outpost of the U.S. military. As part of this relationship, the U.S. military has 280 operations planned in the Philippines in 2019, more than any other country which falls under the responsibility of the US military’s Indo-Pacific Command. 

The recent meetings between Trump’s State Department officials and the Philippine defense officials act to embolden, not curb Duterte’s fascism, and underscore the importance of ramping up the campaign to expose and end US support of Duterte’s regime. In 2018, the Philippines received at least 193.5 million dollars in direct military aid alone, with no sign of being reduced by Congress in 2019. Without restrictions or reductions, Duterte’s death squads operating with impunity becomes a moral issue not only for Filipinos, but for all of us.

#StopTheAttacks!

#DefendNegros

#EndUSAidPH

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. 

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