Portland, OR — In the evening of January 8th, the Portland Human Rights commission voted to submit a historic resolution to the Portland City Council to suspend U.S. military Aid to the Philippines. Since 2016, the U.S. has provided the Philippines with over 550 million dollars in military aid, despite Philippine President Duterte’s infamous and widespread human rights violations that have resulted in over 30,000 killings in the country.
Dozens of Filipino human rights activists and community members joined the Portland Human Rights Commission meeting to support the resolution and testify about the effects of Duterte’s “war on drugs” and crackdown on human rights defenders.
“Youth should not have to grow up looking down the barrel of a gun” said Veronica Porter from GABRIELA Portland and the Malaya Movement, describing the situation of many youth growing up in the Philippines who are facing indiscriminate harassment from state forces. Porter recently returned from a delegation to Panay island in the Visayas, Philippines.
Dr. Crystallee Crain, Portland Human Rights Commissioner and author of the resolution, stated, “I believe that it’s important to use our voices for change and to impress upon the leaders of the city, state, and country that we do not support these violations of human rights.”
Clearly moved by the constituent testimonies, the Commission voted 6-1-1 to push for the resolution at the level of Portland City Council. The Commission also voted to write a public statement of support. The current draft of the resolution will be submitted for a vote at Portland City Council on a later date yet to be determined.
“While this is a big step in the right direction, I encourage leaders in Congress to divest unnecessary military aid that are being unjustly utilized. We should not allow our elected officials to squander tax dollars to dictatorships that aim to bolster their own power. We need massive review and reform of appropriations on the federal level. Our local work is meant to catalyze the movement in that direction,” continued Dr. Crain.
Sam Miller, Regional Coordinator for the Portland Chapter of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines, added, “In a progressive city like Portland, this is an important move forward in living those progressive values on an international level. I applaud the members of the Human Rights Commission for recognizing the interconnectedness of their advocacy for human rights in Portland and the global struggle for freedom, democracy and justice.”
The Portland resolution is a part of growing diplomatic pressure against Duterte and a contribution to the U.S.-wide campaign to suspend military aid to the Philippines. In 2019, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution calling for an investigation of the human rights situation in the Philippines, and in September, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a similar resolution, which calls for the suspension of military aid to the Philippines. On the same day of the Portland Human Rights Commission vote, the U.S. Senate passed Resolution S142, which condemns human rights violations in the Philippines and the detention of Senator Leila De Lima and harassment of journalist and Time Magazine Person of the year Maria Ressa.