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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Extension of Martial Law in Mindanao is an Extension of Trump-Duterte’s Tyranny

On December 11, the the day after International Human Rights Day, Philippine Congress voted to extend martial law in Mindanao until the end of 2019. The extension — which will continue the suspension of habeas corpus and further enable the gross human rights violations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police — comes a full year and a half after Duterte’s initial declaration of martial law in May of 2017.

The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines-United States, a broad network of organizations concerned about the human rights situation in the Philippines, denounces the extension of martial law in Mindanao.

Duterte’s martial law has proven to be far more than just an attempt to fight terrorism in Marawi City. The destruction of Marawi City, where over 450,000 were displaced from their homes, has shown the intention and character of the Duterte regime, whose growing militarization of the country has only brought destruction and misery. Instead of providing sanctuary and justice, the Duterte regime has only replaced the homes in Marawi with shady business deals benefiting foreign entities, lenders and businesses. Evacuees are still living in inadequately equipped evacuation centers while their lands are being sold off. Additionally, Martial Law in Mindanao has not only increased repression of activists, illegal arrests and extrajudicial killings in the Southern Philippines, but has set precedent for the militarization of the whole country and a nationwide declaration of martial law.

This extension of martial law took place just a day after Duterte signed Executive Order 70 (EO70), another measure that will increase militarization of communities under the facade of peace-building. After scrapping the possibility of much needed social and economic reforms with his rejection of peace talks with the National Democratic Front, President Duterte created EO70, which claims to address root issues of armed conflict in local communities through basic services administered by the Armed Forces. Yet, given the many opportunities to pursue peace talks with the National Democratic Front at the behest of the masses of the Filipino people, along with the 23,000 killings under his leadership, Duterte has no credibility in developing peace programs. Rather, Duterte’s peace programs, EO70 or the deadly counterinsurgency program, Oplan Kapayapaan, have only resulted in further slaughter and exploitation of landless peasants, indigenous people, union leaders and the Moro people struggling for self-determination.  

Behind Duterte’s militarization is the intelligence, support and interest of the United States, who created and orchestrated Operation Pacific Eagle in the backdrop of the Marawi crisis and the declaration of martial law. Despite the well recorded human rights abuses of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police, the United States has not wavered in its support of the Philippine military and police, providing the former with 184.5 million dollars in training, tactical guidance, drones and other forms of military equipment. Further, when Jerome Aba, a Moro peace activist from Mindanao, came to the United States at the invitation of United Methodists in April 2018 to speak on the human rights situation in Mindanao, U.S. customs detained, tortured and barred Jerome from entering the United States. In the context of Trump’s repression of migrants, activists and oppressed people in the United States, along with his war-mongering around the world, the extension of Martial Law in Mindanao is also an extension of Trump’s tyranny abroad.

We forge ahead in solidarity to demand: End Martial Law in Mindanao! End U.S. Support of the Duterte Regime! Cut U.S. Aid to the Philippine Military and Police!  

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The U.S.-Duterte Regime Cannot Silence Us: No PNP in the U.S!

The International People’s Tribunal in Brussels, Belgium found Presidents Trump and Duterte guilty of human rights abuses. Two weeks later, the Philippine National Police held a public forum announcing a new “Police Community Relations” program in the U.S, to include the deployment of Philippine National Police (PNP) officials on both the East and West Coast.

This past Friday, October 5, at another public forum at the Philippine consulate in New York, members of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, an ICHRP member organization, as well as the Malaya Movement, confronted the PNP press conference to denounce Duterte’s killings and the presence of the PNP in the U.S, under the cry of “No War Criminals in the U.S.”. While Bayan and Malaya members raised their concerns, Duterte supporters at the scene shouted down the activists, resorting to physical aggression and assault against the protestors, resulting in injuries.

This most recent attack on Filipinos and allies outside the Philippines is a reflection of the weakening and desperate grasp of a U.S.-backed Duterte regime struggling to gain international support amidst growing international condemnation and organizing against the Duterte dictatorship. This summer, Duterte threatened deportation of Sister Pat, an Australian missionary in the Philippines who has dedicated over 20 years of her life to serving alongside farmers and indigenous people in their fight for self-determination. Similarly, Australian human rights advocate and Professor Gil Boehringer was deported from the Philippines this year, along with three United Methodist missionaries who also had recently gone on an international solidarity mission and recorded human rights violations perpetrated by the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The incident in New York is not the first harassment of Philippine human rights defenders on U.S. soil this year. During ICHRP-US and the Malaya Movement’s Stop the Killings Speaking Tour, state repression and the collaboration between the US and Duterte clearly emerged in the torture, harassment and deportation of peace activist Jerome Aba — Chairperson of the Suara Bangsamoro. He was targeted because he could speak to how U.S. aid and support in the destruction of Marawi and Duterte’s Martial Law was affecting the Filipino people.

Most recently, after the International People’ Tribunal found Trump and Duterte “guilty,” Duterte’s office was outspoken in calling the tribunal a “sham” despite the Tribunal’s reliance on the testimonies of victims, public officials, expert witnesses, lawyers and professionals from Philippines and around the globe. Duterte further threatened international human rights activists, saying, “ If I fell short, then as a Filipino, that is your right to criticize and even slam me if you want. I would never, never take it against you. . . . These Caucasians, they go here to look for our faults . . . Go ahead, one day if you run out of targets, and you want live fire and live human target, I will send three there, all of them white.”   

While Duterte makes an appeal to the colonial history of the Philippines to repudiate European criticism and target international activists, Duterte’s programs and administration have ultimately remained subservient to one of the most blatantly racist and colonialist Presidents in Donald Trump. In practice, Duterte has not only sought and won the admiration of Trump for his war on drugs, but has ignored his early claims to abhor U.S. intervention in the Philippines, claiming $184.5 million in military AID from the U.S. in 2018, and recently agreeing to an increase in joint military operations between the U.S. and Philippine military. In reality, Duterte’s remarks are but a feeble facade to cover up the power of the international & multinational movement against his fascism.

The recent moves of Duterte to align with the former and current presidential powers — Marcos, Arroyo, and Trump — along with attempts to silence human rights defenders and any political opposition, and his new community police relations program in the U.S. — all indicate the instability of the Duterte Administration, the growing strength of the people’s movement in the Philippines and the relevance of international solidarity in challenging this worsening dictatorship. In light of these developments, ICHRP-US expresses its solidarity and support of human rights defenders in New York and in the Philippines and calls for a higher and more determined struggle across the U.S. against U.S. military aid to the Philippines and against U.S. support of Duterte’s dictatorship. The U.S.-Duterte Regime cannot silence us: No PNP in the U.S.! Long live International Solidarity!

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Please donate to the International People’s Tribunal here and carry on its victories.

Statement of Solidarity for the International People’s Tribunal on U.S.-Backed Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s Crimes Against the Filipino People

Warm Greetings!

Less than a year ago, over 40 organizations launched ICHRP-US, calling for an end to dictatorship in the Philippines and declaring that “resistance is our right and solidarity is our duty.” Since our launch, we organized the Stop the Killings Speaking Tour: The People’s Caravan for Peace and Justice in the Philippines, and have continued forward in building and expanding our coalition, and in waging a campaign against U.S. military aid to the Duterte dictatorship.

At this moment, ICHRP-US would like to especially raise the recent indictment of former General Palparan, “The Butcher,” as a clear victory on the part of the people’s movement in the Philippines, while also recognizing there are many still suffering to whom justice has not been delivered. Palparan’s arrest comes in a moment in which one of Palparan’s greatest supporters, U.S.-backed former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, is now returning to power as Speaker of the House  at the delight of another U.S.-backed dictator, Rodrigo Duterte. While fascism in the Philippines heightens, the people raise the call for peace and justice and wield the truth to reach victory in the case of Palparan, who is only symbolic of many in the Armed Forces of the Philippines who have not yet been tried.

As people based in the United States, we bring to the International People’s Tribunal (IPT) our outright condemnation of Trump’s support of Duterte’s human rights violations, and rise in opposition to the military aid that goes to the Philippines. As the amount of aid to the Philippines this year alone has now risen to 184.5 million dollars through Operation Pacific Eagle and investment in the Philippine National Police’s anti-narcotics operations, people in the U.S. continue to lack basic social services and housing while our tax dollars go to violence in the Philippines. In light of this, abhorrence seems too light of a word to describe our outrage at the injustice of Trump and Duterte’s practices — only our actions towards justice can speak properly of our determination.

Carolyn Forche, a poet and human rights advocate who covered human rights in El Salvador, once noted to herself: “It is not your right to feel powerless. People better than you have felt more powerless.” In the same vein, ICHRP-US Chairperson Pam Tau Lee expressed: “As people from the United States who find the people’s movement in the Philippines deeply powerful, and as people whose tax dollars fund grave human rights violations in the Philippines, we cannot for a moment feel powerless in our ability to make change. We can only forge ahead and continue to organize at a higher and more courageous level. As our member organizations from the United States watch IPT from afar, we are honored and decisive to deepen and strengthen our commitment to stop the killings in the Philippines, say no to another fascist dictatorship, and strengthen our organizing against U.S. military aid to the Philippines.” Resistance is our right and solidarity is our duty!

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To donate to ICHRP-US’s delegation to IPT, please go here. For more information on this year’s IPT, visit the official page on the ICHRP Global website,

Free the NutriAsia 19! No U.S. Aid to Philippine National Police!

While community and faith leaders gathered for an ecumenical mass on Monday, July 30 amidst the NutriaAsia picket line, Philippine National Police violently dispersed the line and arrested 19 people. The arrestees included Eric Tandoc and Hiyas Saturay, two longtime community organizers from Southern California who were part of a group four journalists covering the NutriAsia strike. Police went so far as to beat and bloody Leticia Espino, an elderly woman and organizer of Kadamay, the largest urban poor alliance in the Philippines.   She is now in the hospital without funds to pay her hospital bill.

We condemn the violent breakup of the ecumenical mass and the disrespect of the people’s sacred ceremony that affirms human dignity and the workers’ struggle, and we demand an end to the repression of activists and faith leaders.

We condemn the continued media blackout and the crackdown on journalists, and we demand the immediate release of the journalists and all those detained.

We condemn the brutal treatment and repression of striking workers and their allies, and we call for the broadest solidarity with NutriAsia workers.

We cannot downplay any role of the U.S. training and support for the Philippine National Police in the violence against faith leaders, the elderly, or striking workers. While the Philippine National Police claimed that protestors and journalists held drugs and guns, the 20,000 killings at the hands of the Duterte regime have shown the planting of evidence as a worn out and obvious framing tactic when the killings are clearly intentional and out of control. As U.S. based peoples, we condemn and we demand an end to all form of US military aid or training to the PNP.

Stop the repression of activists and faith leaders!

Stop the repression of trade unions!

No US aid to Philippine National Police!

Free the NutriAsia 19!

Actions:

 

    1. Mobilize labor groups to sign onto Trade Union Solidarity Letter. Add Trade Union Names directly to google doc.
    2. Donate to the fund set up for NutriAsia workers on behalf of the Asian Pacific American Labor Association.
    3. Boycott Nutriasia brands & products: Mang Tomas, Jufran, Datu Puti, Golden Fiesta, etc.
    4. During the media blackout on the NutriAsia strike, write statements of support and raise awareness on the situation, particularly amongst workers and trade unions.

Share attached memes and banners on social media.

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!

 

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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