From November 20-22nd, Vice President Kamala Harris visited the Philippines in a US effort to “revive ties” with Manila. Harris’ visit follows the announcement of US Ambassador to the Philippines, MaryKay Carlson, promising $100 million in foreign military financing to the Philippines. ICHRP-US strongly stands against the continued financing and support of the AFP and PNP by the Biden Administration, as they are being rewarded for their continued human rights violations against the Filipino people instead of being held accountable.
During her visit, Harris met with a human rights lawyer and a LGBTQIA+ advocate, a member of a network fighting against child labor and exploitation, a labor leader, and a journalist. Some of Harris’ guests were red-tagged in their course of standing up for their advocacies. Harris told them: “So when I think about the fight for human rights, I think about it in the context of what it requires for the fighters. And one of the things that requires is that you remember, you are not alone,” One report saw this as “an act of solidarity.”
On the 21st, however, protestors rallied in Manila against the visit by Harris. Liza Maza, an official of the International League of People’s Struggle said, “We don’t want our country to be used as a pin board or launching pad of the wars of the United States again China or any other country. Raymond Palatino of BAYAN said that Harris’ visit “is harmful because her agenda include additional aid for the military.”
The concerns of the protestors call into question Harris’ so-called gesture of solidarity in telling human rights defenders in the Philippines “you are not alone.” During the trip, Harris also told President Marcos, “We stand with you in defense of international rules and norms as it relates to the South China Sea. An armed attack on Philippine armed forces, vessels, or aircrafts … would invoke U.S. mutual defense commitments.”
Instead of focusing on military might, Harris should demand accountability and justice for Brandon Lee and other victims of violence by the government. Marcos and Duterte continue and intensify a bloody war against the peasants in the countryside, whose work provides food for the people. The ongoing military campaign of aerial bombings, killings, fly-by strafing, staged surrenders, and forced evacuations are funded by US support for and will only lead more deaths and abuse of more and more farmers, the workers, the youth, the fisherfolk, the indigenous communities.
Meanwhile, the intensive counterinsurgency efforts of the Philippine government continues to operate outside the Philippines and directly in the United States. As noted in a recent statement of BAYAN-USA, the Philippine government is currently conducting a “Special Mission Project” Filipino community in DC, Virginia, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.
The main speakers on the tour collude with state agents – the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict. They claim to be peace advocates, but red-tag individuals and organizations working for freedom and democracy in the Philippines. This leads to harming human rights defenders, labor unions, peasant associations and land rights. The cost of these tours take money away that should provide essential services for Filipinos in the Philippines.
ICHRP-US believes in meaningful solidarity that holds the Philippine and United States governments accountable for crimes against the Filipino people. We must continue to stand in genuine solidarity with the Filipino people who are working for a truly democratic and sovereign Philippines. We must continue to lobby Congress to pass the Philippines Human Rights Act to hold the AFP and PNP for their continued crimes against the Filipino people.