Amidst Repression of Church Workers, Expand the Movement Against Tyranny!

In recent weeks, three United Methodist missionaries — Adam Thomas Shaw, Tawanda Chandiwana, and Miracle Osma — have experienced the terror of the Trump-backed Duterte regime before all safely returned home in the past few days. In only two years, the Duterte regime has wrought over 20,000 killings and shut down the possibilities of peace talks amidst a fifty year civil war in the Philippines; now, the regime is targeting church workers who work in solidarity with the poor.

In February 2018, the three missionaries (Shaw, Chandiwana and Osman) participated in a fact-finding mission — as a part of an ICHRP International Solidarity mission — in rural South Cotabato, Mindanao. The missionaries documented eye-witness accounts of the Lake Sebu massacre in which the Armed Forces of the Philippines killed 8 indigenous farmers. On their way back to the city, Philippine authorities apprehended the three missionaries, along with two others. Government authorities then placed the missionaries on a blacklist for their human rights work, and accused the missionaries of being ISIS members.

Most recently, the Philippine government gave orders for Shaw, Chandiwana and Osma to leave the country because of their “political activities.” Chandiwana was detained for 2 months before being deported, while the Bureau of Immigration withheld documents necessary for Shaw and Osma to leave the country. The United Methodist Church since launched a campaign to #LetThemLeave, and Shaw returned to the United States on July 4, while Osman has just recently been released.  

The three missionaries are among many church workers that have experienced Duterte’s rising fascism. Sister Patricia Fox, a 71-year-old Catholic nun from Australia, also faced threats of deportation due to her work with peasant farmers, but remains in the Philippines after cries of protest from church people across the globe.  In December 2017, assailants killed Roman Catholic priest Father Tito Paez, and since then, three other priests have been killed – Father Mark Anthony Ventura, Father Richard Nilo and Father Rey Urmeneta. On July 3rd, a Mayor and United Methodist, Ferdinand Bote, was gunned down.  

The common thread of these church workers has been their concern for and work with poor and struggling Filipinos. As Adam Shaw recently noted, “I think the church, especially in the Philippines, will always be with the poor, the oppressed, and the marginalized because it is part of our mandate as people of faith to be supporting, to be a platform, and to give space for their voices.”

Reflecting on the grave human rights crisis, Shaw further recounted, “Because I had my prior experience in Mindanao, witnessing all these things happen to people that I work with, having trumped-up charges, being disappeared, being arrested, and some being killed, that maybe I’m a bit more numb or more understanding,” Shaw said. “Yes, I’m on the watch list but it could be much worse. Yes, I’m on the blacklist but I’m still alive and I haven’t been disappeared. It kind of puts it more in a reference.”

Under the Duterte administration, the suffering of only a few individuals — whether Kian De Los Santos, Father Tito Paez, Jo Lapiro, Adam Shaw, or Sister Pat— has been enough to enrage and move thousands across the Philippines and the world to resist Duterte’s dictatorship. But these names are just a few of thousands who have suffered, and Duterte’s long list of human rights violations are not acts merely against church leaders out of spite for Christianity, nor are Duterte’s violations mere personal attacks on individuals, nor, are these attacks even limited to the Filipinos.

Rather, Duterte is waging an all out war against the Filipino people and all those who seek peace and justice in the face of rising fascism, labeling ordinary activists and faith leaders as terrorists. As U.S. military aid continues to support the Duterte administration, Duterte’s all out war is another link in the chain through which U.S. war and intervention holds oppressed people captive across the world.

The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines  joins the United Methodist Church to demand an end to the repression of church workers. Further, if human rights violations against a few church workers has already garnered the ire of thousands — over 18,000 signed the United Methodist petition to let the missionaries go home — then now when there is an all out war against the broad sectors of Filipinos and all those who seek justice in the country and across the world, we call for an even greater expansion of a U.S. mass movement against Duterte’s tyranny and against U.S. military aid and intervention in the Philippines. ####

Take Action:

  • Support the struggle of poor and indigenous communities for self-determination and flourishing: Donate to the Save Our Schools Network as centers of community education and development. Through the United Methodist Church all donations of the Save Our Schools Network are tax deductible and 100% of your donation goes to support the network.
          • To donate online: Go here or go to umcmission.org and search Save Our Schools, Protect Indigenous Life (#3022305).
          • To donate by check, please make your check payable to Advance GCFA and the Advance number on the memo line and mail to: Advance GCFAPO Box 9068 GPO

            New York, NY 10087-9068

          • To donate by phone, please call 1-888-252-6174.
  • Take Legislative Action:  Join congressional advocacy efforts to ensure that U.S. tax dollars are not used to fund the Philippine military and national police.
  • Conduct vigils, write statements, and participate in actions for the people’s State of Nation Address, July 23rd Philippines time. Raise the calls of ICHRP: Stop the Killings! End U.S. military aid to the Philippines! No to Fascist Dictatorship! Resume the Peace Talks!
  • Expand the movement against tyranny — invite churches, organizations, and individuals (whose organization is not yet able to join ICHRP) to join the of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines-United States!

 

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U.S. Senate Highlights Extrajudicial Killings in the Philippines

On the heels of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP US) Stop the Killings Speaking Tour: The People’s Caravan for Peace & Justice in the Philippines, the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on State Foreign operations adopted new language that adds to the international condemnation of human rights violations under President Duterte.  The national speaking tour kicked off in Washington D.C. and included advocacy days led by the Ecumenical Advocacy Network on the Philippines (EANP), which featured testimony from Philippine indigenous human rights defenders in 20 congressional visits.  The visits urged members of Congress to restrict aid to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police.

“It is good to see that at least some members of the US Congress are responding to the outcries of Filipinos and their allies in the US about the many serious human rights abuses in the Philippines,” said Paul Bloom, co-coordinator of EANP.

On June 21, the Senate Appropriations Committee adopted language on extra-judicial killings in the funding bill for the US State Department Foreign Operations, requiring the Secretary of State to submit a report within 90 days of enactment “assessing the extent to which the AFP is respecting human rights and the rule of law, particularly regarding involvement in extrajudicial killings, and the investigation and prosecution of military personnel who commit gross human rights violations.” It required that the report “include a description of the steps taken by the AFP to implement policies and reforms to prevent such abuses.”

A week earlier the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee approved their version of the funding bill.  The Committee stated that, “Extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, including those committed in the conduct of the anti-drug campaign, erode confidence in the Government of the Philippines’ commitment to human rights, due process, and the rule of law”.

The funding bills prohibit the PNP from using any US aid funds for its program of extrajudicial killings in the war on drugs.  The bills require that ” — funds be made available to USAID [Agency for International Development] to continue support for the national and community based drug treatment and demand reduction program implemented by the Philippine Department of Health and local entities”.

“This victory is small, but significant,” said Reverend Dr. Mary Susan Gast, Chair of the National Ecumenical-Interfaith Forum for Filipino Concerns in Northern California (NEFFCON NorCal). “Our organizing and persistent communication with legislators have resulted in Senators’ spotlighting extra-judicial killings in the Philippines and calling for accountability and reform as conditions for receiving military funding from the United States.”

The bills allocate funding for fiscal year 2019, which begins October 1, 2018.

The human rights language in these funding bills comes in the wake of reports of an excess of 20,000 killings in President Duterte’s war on drugs; his recent listing of 600 suspected terrorists that includes human rights defenders and even the UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Rights; and, of many recent reports of killings of human rights defenders, indigenous rights leaders, environmental activists, and religious leaders.

“So long as human rights abuses in the Philippines persist, so will our legislative advocacy to ensure that our U.S. tax dollars do not contribute to the suffering of Filipinos,” said Pam Tau Lee, Chair of ICHRP US.  “We will continue to strengthen the global movement for just and lasting peace in the Philippines.”

The network of groups involved in advocacy efforts included EANP, ICHRP, NEFFCON Norcal, the Justice and Witness Ministries of the United Church of Christ, U.S. Filipinos for Good Governance, and StoptheDrugWar.org.

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Portland Filipinos & Advocates Take Torture Case, Philippine Human Rights Situation to the City

Portland, OR– On May 6, 2018 members of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines – Pacific Northwest Chapter (ICHRP-PNW) gathered to give testimony in front of the Portland City Council, calling the City to support a resolution passed by San Francisco Board of Supervisors in the wake of the torture and deportation of Jerome Aba, a Filipino human rights and peace activist. ICHRP-PNW members further explained the human rights situation in the Philippines under the US-Duterte regime, informing the council about the over 20K extrajudicial killings (EJKs) which have occurred under Duterte’s bloody drug war, and finally calling for the safe passage of all migrants and international travelers through Portland ports.

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ICHRP-PNW members highlighted the growing partnership between the U.S. and Duterte regime through the detainment, torture, and interrogation of Jerome Aba, who fell subject to the harassment of US Border and Customs Agents in April. Aba held a ten year visa when he arrived at San Francisco International Airport as a part of the Stop the Killings Speaking Tour, and was set to arrive in Portland in May.

As Tabitha Ponciano, Chairperson of Portland Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines shared, “after returning to the Philippines, Aba recounted the Guantanamo style torture he was subjected to at the hands of the US border and customs agency. He was stripped naked and put in front of an industrial fan in order to make him cold, forced to sign blank documents, and repeatedly left alone in a room with either a loaded gun or an active grenade in order to taunt or intimidate him. Several times during his 28 hours of detainment he was told he had no rights and no right to speak to his lawyer who was waiting outside the entire time. Aba recounts being told on several occasion that if he attempted to run he would be shot and the agents regularly unfastened their guns in order to show they meant what they were saying.”

Despite Aba’s account, the US government has skirted all accountability and insisted that a “technical error” in his visa was the reason behind his 28+ hours of detainment. Nikki De Leon, a speaker from an ICHRP member, the National Alliance of Filipino Concerns, reiterated “There is an unevenness of application to migrants of Customs and Border Protection . . . [migrants] are free to be used for labor power in the United States, but if we are to be peace advocates to point out the influence on the U.S. on the Philippines, we could potentially be tortured.”

ICHRP-PNW member Melissa Munoz connected Aba’s experience with that of Claudia Gomez, a 20-year-old Guatemalan woman killed by US border patrol agents while trying to flee violence in her home country last month. Munoz implored City Council, “Sadly, this is not the first time U.S. agencies have done something like this to fellow migrant residents here in America. The resolution we are asking you to pass today is one that acknowledges the rights, hard work, and respect that all migrants, refugees and international travelers deserve.”

Alma Trinidad, Social Work Professor at Portland State University and at Large Member of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines added: “We want to put a stop to tax dollars to U.S. supported militarization, economic gains, or any form of aid that justifies human rights violations . . . Money speaks volumes. Money put to inhumane treatment customs and border, into advisory groups, into technical support and equipment, including intelligence and surveillance drones, means explicitly investing in violence.”

Twenty-three Portland area faith leaders joined ICHRP-PNW’s call for a City Council resolution condemning human rights abuses in the Philippines and at the US border, “As faith leaders and people seeking peace, we join the City of San Francisco Board of Supervisors in condemning the inhumane treatment of Jerome Aba and call the City of Portland to create a resolution to further condemn the action and to call on our Federal representatives to investigate,” the letter read. “We ask that the City of Portland to uplift Jerome’s message to stop the killings in the Philippines.”

Mayor Ted Wheeler expressed his support for the ICHRP’s cause, saying, “I will put it on the record, in my opinion, President Duterte is not a credible leader that should be supported by the United States.” In a similarly positive statement, Commissioner Chloe Eudaly simply remarked, “Let’s take action,” referring ICHRP-PNW to address the Portland Human Rights Commission to further their advocacy around human rights abuses in the Philippines.

Portland City Council members are not the first major U.S. voices to speak out against the ongoing crimes in the Philippines. Mayor Wheeler and Chloe Eudaly join U.S. Senator Merkley; the Senator wrote a letter of support for ICHRP in May, declaring, “I will continue to work with my colleagues in demanding that the Trump administration join us in condemning instead of rewarding President Duterte’s human rights abuses and violations.”

Taking it’s message to the Portland streets, ICHRP-PNW also posted a billboard add that reads: Stop the Killings: End U.S. Military Aid to the Philippines” on the corner of SW 6th Ave. and SW Broadway.

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ICHRP-PNW, born in December 2017 in Portland, seeks to unite with “any possible” individual and organization for the cause of a just and lasting peace in the Philippines. As human rights violations in the Philippines increases and as the campaign for Justice for Jerome Aba heightens, ICHRP-PNW calls for the broadest possible solidarity for the Filipino People.

You can view the full hearing of the City Hall meeting here, between 6 minutes and 25 minutes.


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