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.

Harris Visit to Philippines another Example of US Prioritization of Power over Human Rights

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. 

Demands to President Biden On Human Rights in the Philippines

Sign the open letter here:

Following the devastating impacts of the Rodrigo Duterte regime on human rights in the Philippines, the Filipino people continue to face ongoing crisis and gross human rights violations under the regime of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. 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:

To hold the Marcos regime accountable for the repression of labor activists and defend the right to unionize. 

On October 10, labor organizers Kara Taggaoa (KMU International Officer) and Larry Valbuena (PASADA-PISTON President) were indiscriminately arrested by the Quezon City Police on trumped up charges of direct assault. They were arrested before a warrant was even presented.

Kara Taggaoa is a labor rights organizer and was very active in fighting for the demands of workers’ organizations who were gravely affected by the pandemic. Larry Valbuena fought against the jeepney phaseout and against oil price hikes.

The unfounded charges against and arrests of Taggaoa and Valbuena is reflective of the rampant exploitation of workers in the Philippines. The Philippines is one of the worst countries in the world for workers. Union members are particularly at risk of violence, intimidation and murder according to the International Trade Union Confederation.

In his speech to Asia Society, Marcos Jr. touted one of the main reasons to invest in the Philippines as “human capital” due to a young, English speaking workforce. Marcos’ clamor for investment, much like his father’s, will further pad the wealthy while exploiting workers who already suffer low wages and police surveillance and repression for unionization. 

To 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. 

In April 1986, victims of Ferdinand Marcos Sr Martial Law and Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA) led the filing of a class-action suit on behalf of about 10,000 plaintiffs against Marcos in US courts, which eventually made a ruling in favor of the victims. The courts found that Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos “fraudulently diverted enormous sums of money that belonged to the Philippine Government and the Government of the United States, which money was intended for the benefit of the Philippine people.”

Now, Marcos Jr. currently faces a contempt of court case in the United States worth $353 million. Despite the heinous crimes of the underlying case, the United States affirmed Marcos Jr. diplomatic immunity making him free to enter the United States without arrest. This decision on the part of the United States is not only a slap in the face to victims of Martial Law, but also obscures the role of the U.S. in the financial, military and political support it provided Marcos Sr. 

To 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. 

Despite well-documented and ongoing human rights violations, the US government continues to funnel millions of dollars in aid to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP), who are the main perpetrators of human rights abuses. 

In their initial meeting in New York, Marcos Jr. raised with Biden the importance of the US role in bringing “peace and stability in the Asia Pacific” and expressed his appreciation of military agreements like AUKUS and QUAD. Meanwhile, the US maintains unequal treaties with the Philippines such as the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and Enhanced Defense Coordination Agreement (EDCA) which gives US troops impunity and access to military bases across the archipelago, as well giving the US military oversight on Philippine operations, and hundreds of joint operations. These treaties allow the US to use the Philippines as a base to further its interests in the Pacific, positioning personnel and arms in bases across the many islands. What this means for the Filipino people is hot-spots of abuse, prostitution, and murder around military bases such as seen in the the case of murdered trans woman Jennifer Laude, murdered by US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton murdered her in 2014 near Subic Bay. 

While the US and Marcos continue to work together around military aid and agreements, human rights violations and impunity continue to happen at the hands of the Philippine military and police. 

To hold the Duterte Regime responsible for it’s egregious crimes against humanity and ensure justice & accountability for the victims of state terrorism

Marcos Jr. has insisted that the Philippines will not rejoin the International Criminal Court while the ICC continues its investigation of the Philippines and former President Duterte’s war on drugs. Without justice and accountability for the thousands of victims of Martial Law and a thorough investigation into the crimes against humanity committed by the Marcos and Duterte regimes, political dynasties in the Philippines will continue to operate with impunity.

Brandon Lee, the first known US citizen targeted in an assassination under the Duterte regime, is one among thousands whose perpetrators have not been tried, foremost amongst them Duterte himself, who promoted the lawless violence of the military and police. 

We urge for further accountability and the use of Magnitsky Sanctions against the following: 

Architects of the war on drugs and campaign of state terror (Ronald “Bato” De La Rosa); the command-and-control structure of the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines when rights violations by state institutions allegedly took place (Gen. Diebold Sinas, General Jose Faustino Jr., General Hermogenes Esperon Jr., Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr, Delfin Negrillo Lorenzana  and Genral Eduardo Año); and the infrastructure of terror in the Duterte regime and participated in the public orchestration of alleged state repression (Bong Go, Harry Roque, Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert and Lorraine Badoy). 

To halt US corporate operations impacting climate change and resulting in the eradication of biodiverse ecosystems and the violation, harassment, and displacement of indigenous peoples.

The plans Marcos Jr. has presented so far show continued use of fossil fuel energy such as coal and fossil gas. He has also been pushing for the revival of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, even distorting evidence and promoting it as a “renewable” energy source appropriate for the Philippines despite scientific assessments showing otherwise. This undermines the Philippine government’s commitment to the global fight against global warming, as new fossil fuel projects would continue to increase the global carbon footprint. His proposed 2023 budget allocates over 450 billion pesos for “climate related” projects with no clear indication where these funds will go, leaving space for severe corruption and mis-allocation. 

The Philippines remains one of the most dangerous countries for environmental defenders in the world, and the attacks have persisted under Marcos including the arrest and cruel detention of two Lumad Indigenous organizers who are at the forefront of the struggle to defend their ancestral lands. With his commitment to expand fossil fuel projects and open the Philippine economy for foreign investment, Indigenous peoples and peasant farmers in the countryside will face increased militarization and displacement to pave the way for foreign-owned energy projects.

To delist the CPP-NPA from the US terror list in support of the peace process in the Philippines. 

Due to the long history of colonial rule, severe oppression and exploitation in the Philippines, the country has a history of armed rebellions that still continue today. For over 50 years, since the emergence of the Ferdinand Marcos I dictatorship, the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s army have been waging an armed revolution in the rural countryside where people are suffering severe government neglect and abuse in the form of lack of public services, hunger, poverty, militarization and indiscriminate aerial bombing that force families to flee their homes.

The Duterte administration, following the suit of the United States, has sought to proscribe the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army as a terrorist organization. Yet, a recent ruling the in the Philippines found that the Communist Party of the Philippines should not be included on the list of terrorist organizations in the country; the court found the program of the CPP shows that it is not organized for the purpose of engaging in terrorism but rather seeks address social ills and improve the lives of the FIlipino people. 

The US terror listing of the CPP thwarts peace talks between the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front and the Government of the Philippines and enables the Philippine governments deadly counterinsurgency campaign that has led to red-tagging, arrests, killings and the aerial bombings against civilians. At the heart of the peace negotiations are social and economic reforms that could address the root of armed conflict in the Philippines.


As people in the US, we see our interest and solidarity is with those poor and oppressed sectors of Philippine society against elitist rule and political dominance. We have common goals with the Filipino people for a peaceful and just society, and will not loiter along while lives are at stake in the Philippines. As the deepening human rights crisis and violations by state forces have become institutionalized, we cannot rely on the Philippine justice system to provide justice or create genuine change and must mobilize the broadest array of solidarity support to demand accountability and justice.

We call on people in the US to unite in solidarity with the Filipino people to advance the struggle for peoples’ rights and Reject US support of the Marcos Dynasty!