Marcos US Visit Paves Way for Worsening Human Rights Crisis

When Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. first embarked on his travels to the US, UK, and Indonesia this May – he commented, “All we are worried about is the peace and the safety of our people, here and abroad.” 

Indeed, peace and safety would be a welcome development in the Philippines. Thousands of Filipinos leave their home country every day only to find precarious work abroad. Filipinos make up the highest percentage of seafarers in the world, a job known for its peril and isolation. Though Filipino health nurses comprise only 4 percent of nurses in the USA, ⅓ of Covid-related nurse deaths over the course of the pandemic were Filipino. On April 23, labor leader and LGBTQ activist Alex Dolorosa went missing and was found dead with signs of torture near a chicken coup. In the Philippine countryside, the civil war between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the Government of the Philippines continues on. Peace talks remain stalled since former President Duterte scrapped them. Just in the month before Marcos’ visit to the United States, the Philippine military brutally murdered three National Democratic Front peace consultants – Rogelio Posadas, Wilma Tiamzon and Benito Tiamzons –  further aggravating an already tenuous climate for peace talks. 

Military agreements and economic frameworks, however, remained at the forefront of the jet setting President’s global tour. While Marcos sells his priority as peace in the Philippines – his actions indicate quite the opposite. 

On May 1st, the Biden & Marcos bilateral highlighted the new US-PH Bilateral Defense Guidelines, which update decades-old bilateral agreements to consider non-conventional domains like cyberspace, transnational crime and terrorism, to cover concerns about the Indo-Pacific region and South China Sea more explicitly, and to elaborate on emerging regional security alliances. The Agreement emphasizes the whole-of-nation approach and military-civilian partnership, frameworks which have already aggravated human rights issues in the Philippines through the creation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, an entity which has worsened the dangerous practice of red tagging and further sidelined peace talks in developing solutions to the social and economic problems at the root of armed conflict in the Philippines. 

The Marcos Administration followed up the bilateral with Biden with dinners with Filipino billionaires and meetings with corporate leaders. The Philippine President boasted of over US$1.3 billion pledged in investments, especially in nickel and lithium extraction. While Marcos Jr. celebrated these as investments in “clean energy,”  the Philippines remains one of the deadliest for environmental defenders. With ancestral lands rich in resources, indigenous people in the country have long faced displacement and likely face more with greater foreign investment.  

When asked about the recent murder of Alex Dolorosa, Marcos Jr. dodged commenting and rather discussed the war on drugs. Marcos Jr. claimed the resignation of former police as a victory in addressing human rights concerns brought about by the war on drugs. But in the end, Marcos showed no inclination towards genuine accountability – neither through investigation nor prosecution, nor through holding the architects of the human rights crisis at the highest levels responsible, including former President Duterte. 

Marcos Jr. came to the United States preaching peace, but his conduct and agreements made in the United States will only make Filipinos more vulnerable to war. The Biden Administration, in working with Marcos Jr. so fervently, has also revealed its own prioritization of US military and economic interests over the dire human rights situation. Despite the prodding of civil society to meaningfully hold Marcos Jr. and the Philippine Government accountable, The Biden Administration carried on with its Indo-Pacific Strategy above all else. 

But community members & civil society organizations are not going along with it. On May 2nd, 4 protestors were arrested while confronting Marcos during one of his lavish dinners. 117 faith organizations called for support for the Philippine Human Rights Act. 14 representatives of Congress joined Jan Shakwosky in demanding for genuine accountability mechanisms be put in place and a strong judicial system in the Philippines guaranteed. The Biden administration may not be moving its stance on the Philippines; but many are bravely standing for genuine peace in the Philippines. Civil society can be on the side of peace and likewise support the Philippine Human Rights Act, which calls for the suspension of military aid to the Philippines until serious changes in the human rights situation occurs. 


117 Faith Communities Urge Biden to ‘Heed Voices of Oppressed’ and Halt Military Aid in Meeting with Marcos

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. 

On the deaths of Benito Tiamzon, Wilma Austria Tiamzon and their companions

ICHRP-US strongly condemns the abduction, torture and subsequent brutal murders of Philippines human rights activists, Benito Tiamzon, Wilma Austria Tiamzon, and their fellow companions on August 21, 2022. They were abducted, tortured, and murdered by the 8th Infantry Division of the US-backed and directed Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). It should be noted that since 2015 the US has given over $1 billion in military aid to the AFP. 

The Tiamzons were fiercely outspoken advocates for those facing injustice in the Philippines, and both assisted in peace negotiations with the Philippines Government in 2016 on behalf of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF). They committed their entire lives to assist those facing oppression in the Philippines. 

As part of the NDF negotiating panel, Benito and Wilma were fierce advocates of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER). They saw that the civil war in the country erupted from the grave problems of inequality and injustice in Philippine society, and sought to work for the CASER to address these issues. Wilma and Benito were warriors for peace above all- yet they became victims in the brutal conflict. 

Contrary to the claims of the US government- and it’s close partner the Philippine government- the Tiamzons and their companions were not terrorists. Even the regional court of Manila recognised that there was no basis for the labeling of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) as terrorist in its decision last year. They pointed to the comprehensive program and aims of the CPP-NPA-NDF seeking to resolve the fundamental issues facing the Philippines as to why they could not be described as chaos seeking terrorists. The government of the Philippines had and has no legal basis for describing the victims of the Catbalogan 10 as terrorist- nor any of the many other victims of the civil war. 

This atrocity perpetrated by the AFP is a grave violation of international humanitarian law. ICHRP-US calls for a full, impartial, investigation into this and other war crimes committed by the US-backed AFP in the Philippines.

PH-U.S. Solidarity Month: Fight to end US support for the Marcos regime! 

Feb 4th marks the 124th anniversary of the beginning of the Philippine-American War when the United States launched a war of aggression against the Filipino following the overthrow of Spanish colonial rule in the Philippines. The Philippine-American war marks the start of a struggle that continues today — the Filipino people’s struggle against US economic and military control over the country. 

Today, both the US and the Philippine governments continue to tout the US-Philippine Alliance as a “friendship.” In reality, the US-PH alliance primarily serves elitist economic and military interests, neglecting the rights and welfare of the working class people of its countries. ICHRP-US recognizes that US aggression has dictated US relations with the Philippines; however, at the same time, we also recognize working class and oppressed people in the US can link in solidarity to oppose US economic and military programs that perpetuate the human rights crisis in the Philippines while the US government fails to address domestic social and economic problems. 

The Biden Administration in the US failed in responding to the crises of the Duterte regime in the Philippines and the thousands of human rights violations that came with it. Now, the Biden administration has given Marcos Jr. unequivocal support to ensure the US can hold onto its military stronghold in the Asia Pacific and profit from its business investments in the Philippines. 

At home we have seen prices skyrocket for basic necessities. In the Philippines inflation has continued to worsen and even basic goods- such as onions, sugar, garlic- have reached prices close to or even above prices in American grocery stores. Wages have not risen to match inflation in the US or in the Philippines. Those who fight for better wages and working conditions are villainised and harassed in both countries. In the US huge corporations have launched campaigns of union-busting to hold onto their huge profits at the expense of their workers. In the Philippines this anti-union struggle has led to the jailing and murders of union activists and leaders. We must understand that the peoples of both countries have more in common with each other than with the brutal Marcos regime or its happy business partner, the Biden administration. 

US Defense Secretary Austin visited the Philippines this week to secure the creation of 5 more bases under the Enhanced Defense Coordination Agreement (EDCA). EDCA was signed into law in 2014- under the Aquino III and Obama administrations, while Joe Biden was vice-president. It is fitting that he would continue this unequal treaty- and further implement US troop deployment and control of Philippines land, air, and seas. It was 124 years ago that US troops began their assault on the Filipino people, leaving 3 million dead. 

At that time however, progressive elements of the American people opposed US aggression in the Philippines. We Americans who wish to espouse freedom and democracy must question the need of our government to continue the American military presence in the Philippines. We call again- to build people-to-people solidarity and see that we can and must unite against these ills of society! 

As Americans, we have the ability to amplify the voices of the landless farmers, the exploited workers, the indigenous people, and the many other oppressed classes and sectors in Philippine society. We must stand in solidarity with them, and oppose Biden and the US’s role in supporting the son of a dictator, the despotic thief in Malacañang. We can not stand by as the US continues to export its aggression overseas! We can not bear to see a single penny or dime spent on continuing the bloody legacy of the Philippine-American war! Fight to end US support for the Marcos regime! 

#USPHSolidarity #USOutofPH #PassthePHRA

On 5th Anniversary, ICHRP-US Calls for Continued Resistance and Solidarity to Mobilize in Full Force Against US Support of the Marcos Dynasty!

Since our founding on December 9th, 2017, ICHRP-US has tirelessly campaigned to build solidarity support for the Filipino people’s aspirations for just and lasting peace. While the civil war in the country rages on between the National Democratic Front and the Government of the Philippines, political repression of activists has worsened and the struggle with poverty has intensified.

Over the past five years, people all over the U.S. — from Hawaii, Portland, Seattle, Northern & Southern California, Chicago & the midwest, Washington DC, Baltimore, New Jersey and New York, Pennsylvania have joined together to form an active solidarity movement in support of people’s collective rights in the Philippines. We have conducted hundreds of lobby visits, mobilized in the streets across the world, sent solidarity delegations to the Philippines and hosted speaking tours of Filipino unionists, church leaders and bishops, human rights defenders, indigenous and environmental activists. ICHRP-US has successfully mobilized solidarity support through campaigns to support of the Lumad people, to cut US military support to the Philippines, to defend the rights of peace activists and to oppose the unlawful and illegitimate red-tagging and harassment of activists. ICHRP-US has further raised awareness of the real situation on the ground in the country through participation in ICHRP Global projects such as the 2018 International People’s Tribunal, Investigate PH and the 2022 International Observers Mission. Below is a series of photos depicting major highlights of work since our first General Assembly in December 2017.

ICHRP members and supporters at December 2017 launch of ICHRP-US hold action to expose US culpability in Duterte’s killings
ICHRP-US Chairperson Pam Tau Lee speaks at Stop the Killings Rally in Los Angeles in 2018
Hawaii Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines at the 2019 Friendship & Learning Tour in the Philippines
Rep Susan Wild speaks at House Triangle on National Day of Action for the Philippine Human Rights Act
ICHRP Global Council Member Sadie Stone and Brandon Lee Rally at Philippine Consulate in San Francisco
ICHRP-US National Coordinator Drew Miller speaks at rally opposing Biden meeting with Marcos Jr in September 2022
Members of Kalikasan Solidarity Organization, a member of ICHRP-US protest President Biden during visit to Portland Or, demanding a stop to US Support of the Marcos Dynasty

The Current Situation

Today, the Filipino people face an unparalleled economic crisis at the hands of the Marcos Jr. regime. The value of the Philippine peso is at an all time low, public debt has hit record highs, workers are struggling with low wages that are merely half the amount needed for an average size family, and increasing inflation continues to impact the poorest and most vulnerable people.  Farmers in the countryside are facing increasing rates of poverty and lack of access to land, while super typhoons and other disasters continue to ravage communities already facing severe government neglect.

Human rights violations have only continued since Marcos Jr. took office, as he intends to uphold Duterte’s fascist policies such as the Anti-Terror Law and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) to sow more fear and attacks against critics of the government. Poor peasants, indigenous leaders, journalists, trade unionists and human rights defenders continue to face politically motivated attacks in the form of illegal arrest, cruel torture and detention, and even killings. Since Marcos Jr. took office there have been 29 attacks against workers, aerial bombings waged by the AFP in Bukidnon, and an entire community on Negros Island placed under military lockdown without access to food and diapers for their children. The AFP continues to commit international war crimes, with the recent murder of NDF Peace Consultant Ericson Acosta after he was captured while consulting on the situation of farm workers in Southern Negros.

Meanwhile, US Vice President Kamala Harris recently returned from a visit to the Philippines where she met with President Marcos Jr. and other government officials to  reaffirm the partnership between the US and the Philippines. The outcomes of their meetings include further economic investments in the Philippines and reaffirmation of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement to pave the way for future deployment of more US military troops to the Philippines. We must expose and resist the US pursuit of hegemony and dominance in the Asia Pacific region at the expense of workers, farmers, indigenous peoples and all exploited and oppressed people in the Philippines. Let us continue to mobilize people in the US to unite in solidarity with the Filipino people in advancing the struggle for people’s rights and rejecting US support of the Marcos Dynasty!

Call to Action 

Despite the widespread protests and reports on the severe human rights crisis in the country, the Biden administration’s policy towards the Philippines continues to prioritize US economic and military pursuits over human rights. 

We are outraged at President Biden’s pursuit of US hegemony and dominance in the Asia Pacific region at the expense of workers, farmers, indigenous, and all exploited and oppressed people in the Philippines. We are further dismayed at Biden’s ongoing military funding of the Philippine government while people in the US continue to suffer from the ongoing impacts of the Covid pandemic and face insufficient wages, food and housing insecurity, mental health crisis, police brutality, lack of access to health care, and increasing inequality between rich and poor. We are therefore resolute in our solidarity with the people of the Philippines.

We issue the following demands to the Biden Administration

  1. Hold the Marcos regime accountable for the repression of labor activists and defend the right to unionize
  2. Give due justice to the victims of Martial Law and uphold the contempt of court case against Marcos, revoking his immunity as the head of state of the Philippines
  3. Halt US aid to the Philippine military and police by passing the Philippine Human Rights Act, and to halt all future arms sales to the Philippines
  4. Hold the Duterte Regime responsible for it’s egregious crimes against humanity and ensure justice and accountability for the victims of state terrorism
  5. Halt US corporate operations impacting climate change and resulting in the eradication of biodiverse ecosystems and the violation, harassment, and displacement of Indigenous peoples
  6. Delist the CPP-NPA from the US terror list in support of the peace process in the Philippines

While we will continue to make demands of the US government it is ultimately the people who are the decisive force in creating genuine change in society. As we move forward after 5 years of experience of organizing, we must be persistent and unrelenting in our solidarity. We call upon people in the United States to continue mobilizing the broadest solidarity support to advance the struggle for peoples’ rights in the Philippines and to reject US Support of the Marcos Dynasty!