Washington, DC – Ahead of Philippine President Marcos Jr.’s visit with President Biden on Monday, May 1st, over one hundred faith organizations and institutions–including Ecumenical Advocacy Network on the Philippines, Pax Christi USA, Presbyterian Church – USA Office of Public Witness and the United Methodist Church Board of Church & Society – initiated an ecumenical letter with the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines to call on President Biden to abstain from any new military agreements with President Marcos that will further contribute to human rights violations. The cosigning faith groups additionally urged President Biden to support the Philippine Human Rights Act, which would suspend US security assistance to the Philippines until the Government of the Philippines has investigated and prosecuted human rights abuses in the military and police force.
Noting the lack of change since Marcos assumed office 10 months ago, faith communities state: “President Marcos and his administration have shown ongoing impunity for human rights abuses similar to those seen under the preceding Duterte presidency. Human Rights Watch reports there has been “no let up” in the war on drugs under Marcos Jr., which took as many as 30,000 lives under Duterte. Karapatan Human Rights Alliance reports that from July to December 2022, there were 17 extrajudicial killings, 165 illegal arrests, and a total of 825 political prisoners, 73 of whom are elderly. Karapatan additionally recorded 200 cases of red-tagging and notes that the Marcos Administration continues to use the Anti-Terrorism Act and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) “to create an unsafe environment for activists, rendering them more vulnerable to attacks against their persons.”
The ecumenical letter, which follows an interfaith delegation hosted by ICHRP that traveled to the Philippines in February, notes the delegation “met with dozens of community members and organizers who confirmed that the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police are guilty of widespread violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. We are aghast,” it states, “that despite the human rights situation, our government continues to channel various forms of resources to the Philippines (i.e. military training, weapons). In addition, the most recent military deal to build four more US military bases in the country is an affront to the peace of the region. As people of faith, we strongly oppose and condemn the use of a large portion of our country’s budget to support regimes that oppress their populations.”
The release of the letter comes alongside mass protests of Filipino-Americans and allies from labor and human rights organizations, who are holding an all-day vigil in front of the White House on Monday.