Duterte’s Pardon of U.S. Marine Indicates U.S. Meddling

This week, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte pardoned U.S. Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton, who murdered Jennifer Laude, a trans Filipina woman, in October 2014 in the Philippines. We express our sincere condolences to the family of Jennifer Laude, who have contested Pemberton’s early release. 

Pemberton’s early release is not a matter of an individual’s good behavior, but rather a matter of national sovereignty and foreign intervention. 

The timing of Pemberton’s release does not come by chance. 

Duterte is pardoning Pemberton months after the U.S. State Department approved multiple arms sales to the Philippines worth more than $2 billion. Duterte has since suspended his previous termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States, the same agreement under which Pemberton was given special treatment and his own prison cell inside a military camp, separate from the overflowing prisons in the Philippines. 

The Philippine government has decried criticism of it’s anti-terror law and human rights record as a form of interference. The truth is, the United States, as in the case of Pemberton and in the aformentioned arms sales, continues to wield military aid & might to influence Philippine matters. 

This is another case demonstrating why U.S. Congress should pass the Philippine Human Rights Act & suspend military aid to the Philippines — to cease using the Philippines as a pawn of US interests and to uphold human rights.  

Junk the Anti-Terror Law: Introduce the Philippine Human Rights Act

This Friday, President Rodrigo Duterte signed the Anti-Terror Bill into law, a move widely criticized by human rights groups and recently by the United Nations High Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet. 

As ICHRP-US, we unite in solidarity with the Filipino people and vehemently condemn the passing of the law. The legislation allows state forces to broadly label individuals as terrorists without due process, arrest without warrant, detain for up to 14 days, and wiretap for up to 90 days among other concerning provisions. Duterte’s law will serve as a means to further crackdown on activists and terrorize the Filipino people. 

In the context of the Duterte regime’s recent political maneuvers, the passage of the Anti-Terror Law is not random but calculated.

The law comes in wake of a series of foreign policy developments in relationship to the United States — the April notification of major arms sales proposals from the United States and then the suspension of Duterte’s prior termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement. Along with these developments, We cannot overlook the influence of the United States in the push for the Anti-Terror Law, which in design mimics the increased state surveillance and state power modeled in the U.S. Patriot Act. It is clear Duterte — who led a militarist response to the Covid-19 pandemic and made a “shoot to kill” order against quarantine violators — is exploiting the current medical and public health crisis to push policy changes that benefit the strengthening and extension of his dictatorship. Finally, it seems no coincidence Duterte waited until after the UN Human Rights report was made public to finally sign the bill.

The rise of Duterte’s fascism has not relented, and neither must we relent in our advocacy. With the passage of the Anti-Terror Law, the time is ripe to build upon the grassroots movement for the suspension of military aid to the Philippines and make Congress decisive in introducing a Philippine Human Rights Act that will hold Duterte accountable and withhold US tax dollars from human rights violations in the Philippines. 

As made clear on today’s date “Philippine-American Friendship Day” the United States government places great value on “friendship” with the Philippines. But we oppose any manipulation of friendship being used as a veil for US intervention in the Philippines. Rather, we call for people in the United States to uphold genuine friendship with the Filipino people, which is based on solidarity, not intervention. 

Sign and share these petitions: Junk the Terror Law (tinyurl.com/junkterrorlawnow) & Support the Phililppine Human Rights Act (tinyurl.com/PHRApetition).


60 Organizations and over 1,100 Sign ICHRP Letter, Say #NoArmsSalestoDuterte

Note: On April 30, the U.S. State Department announced two pending armssales to the Philippine government, of $450 million to $1.5 billion. The following organizations and signatories have sent the below open letter urging Congress to oppose these sales, given the human rights situation in the Philippines.  Human Rights Watch and Karapatan, a human rights organization in the Philippines, have also issued statements against the proposed sales.  The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines supports ongoing efforts by members to Congress to garner more time to properly review and provide thorough oversight over recently proposed arms sales.   

Common Dreams, Democracy Now!, The Diplomat, and other outlets have provided media coverage of efforts to halt these sales.

Dear Members of the United States Congress,

We want to express our concern about the proposed Foreign Military Sales (FMS) of attack helicopters and associated heavy arms to the Philippines that now only Congress can stop. Time is of the essence as without Congressional action to stop these proposed sales by May 29, the arms deal could result in violent and devastating impact on Filipinos.

Published in detail April 30 by Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the following is a brief summary of the two possible deals, both of which mention the possibility of offsets, which means that US taxpayers could end up shouldering some of the cost: 

  1. From Boeing and Lockheed Martin, the offer includes attack helicopters, a long list of armaments, including rockets and air-to-ground and air-to-air missiles – a total offer of $1.5B to upgrade anti-insurgency capabilities against insurgent forces in the Philippines that do not even have any aircraft.
  2. From Bell Helicopter and General Electric, the offer includes attack helicopters and associated arms including missiles, laser guidance missile systems, and semi-armor piercing high explosive Incendiary rounds – a total offer of $450M.

The Philippines under President Rodrigo Duterte, has a history of human rights violations including a brutal war on drugs that has claimed tens of thousands of lives, a crackdown on the media and freedom of speech, and numerous politically motivated arrests and extrajudicial killings. Since the onset of Covid-19, human rights of Filipinos have further deteriorated. UN High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet, along with organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, has raised serious questions about Duterte’s “highly militarized response” to the current public health crisis. The Philippines ranks at the top of countries with quarantine-related arrests, which have reached over 30,000 to date. While the Philippine police continue to commit abuses against civilians, the shutdown on May 5th of the largest media broadcasting company (ABS-CBN) may foreshadow re-implementation of a nation-wide martial law. It is noteworthy to recall that the last time such a drastic measure was taken to censor the media was during martial law under the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos in the 1970s-80s.

The insurgent New People’s Army (NPA) which remains active after 50 years is maintaining its influence in limited areas of the country but is also engaging, off and on, in a peace process with the government. However, on April 27, 2020, Duterte turned down any possibility of pursuing peace talks over disputes about where the talks should take place, and at the same time threatened to declare martial law. Under the “Whole-of Nation” strategy initiated under Executive Order #70 (2018), Duterte has declared an all-out war against the NPA. This includes “red-tagging” a highly arbitrary tactic whereby members of the military publicly post lists of those deemed as dissenters. Human rights activists, community leaders, legal rights defenders, journalists, religious and tribal leaders, are accused of being members of the NPA. Some have been harassed, threatened, arbitrarily detained and even killed by security forces and government-backed paramilitaries. Among the victims is journalist Brandon Lee, a US citizen who was reporting on human rights abuses targeting environmental activists and was shot and critically injured. Joint police and military operations have resulted in mass killings of farmers and human rights defenders on the island of Negros, and ongoing intimidation, harassment, and killings of indigenous leaders and communities throughout the country.

The indiscriminate use of attack helicopters firing on rural villages has been documented by the KARAPATAN, a Philippine human rights group. In one of the attacks in June 2019, a farmer was killed and 3 people were injured, 14 houses destroyed, and 1000 residents were forcibly evacuated. Most of these attacks have been on indigenous Lumad villages in Mindanao, but two have been reported in Southern Luzon. Also, mass bombing, including bombardment with attack helicopters, resulted in the death of civilians and displacement of 400,000 residents of Marawi City in 2017. Fatalities included members of the armed forces during instances of “friendly-fire.” Civilians have questioned the necessity of the extent of the damage.

The Philippine government is struggling financially to respond to the needs of Filipinos resulting from the Covid-19 crisis, and Duterte has stated that the country may even need to start selling government assets. What could help the Filipinos right now is aid for their under-resourced healthcare system and for programs to assist poor people to survive during the current lockdown, not an arms sale.

We plead with you to use your voice against the gross human rights violations in the Philippines and put forth a resolution to stop arms sales to the Duterte administration until the government takes the effective steps to end human rights abuses.


Ecumenical Advocacy Network on the Philippines
International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines – U.S.

Advanced League of Peoples’ Artists – Melbourne, Australia
American Friends Service Committee
Anakbayan – Philippines
Anakbayan – USA
Asians for Black Lives
Bai Indigenous Women’s Network – Philippines 
Bay Area Poor People’s Campaign
BAYAN – Portland
Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists Social Justice Committee
Boston PEAR
Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression
Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES)
Democratic Socialists of America — San Francisco International Solidarity Committee 
Dutch Philippine Solidarity Association
Global Exchange
GuateMaya L.A. Mujeres en Resistencia
Haiti Action Committee
Human Rights Alliance for Child Refugees and Families
Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace
International Migrants Alliance – USA
Kilusan Pilipino
League of Filipino Students 
Liyang Network
Liyang Western Massachusetts
MAIZ (Movimiento de Acion, Inspirando Servicio)
Malaya Movement
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Massachusetts Peace Action
Migrante – Austria
Migrante – Perth, Australia
Migrante – USA
National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA
National Lawyers Guild International Committee
National Lawyers Guild of Los Angeles
Nikkei Resisters
No Mames Radio
Nodutdol for Korean Community Development
Parable Of The Sower Intentional Community Cooperative
Parisol / Pacific Rim Solidarity Network Seattle
Philippine Study Group of Minnesota
Philippines-U.S. Solidarity Organization – Seattle 
Portland Central America Solidarity Committee
Prevention At The Intersections
Resist US-Led War Movement
Resource Generation
Sama-samang Artista para sa Kilusang Agraryo (SAKA, Artists Alliance for Genuine Agrarian Reform) Science For The People
Southern California Pilipinx-American Student Alliance (SCPASA)
Stand with Kashmir
The Resistance Center for Peace and Justice
University of Washington United Students Against Sweatshops
War Resisters League
Whatcom Peace & Justice Center
Win Without War
Women Against Military Madness
World Without Genocide at Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Young Democratic Socialists of America – Northern Arizona University 

In addition, over 1,100 individuals and community leaders from the U.S., Philippines, and around the world have also signed.  To add your name, please visit this website.

7 Points on Defense Secretary Lorenzana’s Attack on ICHRP and Response to U.S. Arms Sale

On May 13, in a press conference with President Duterte’s cabinet, Philippine Star Journalist Tina Mendez quoted a recent ICHRP-US statement that demanded accountability for newly approved U.S. arms sales to the Duterte regime, in which we noted an arms sale would be going “to state forces who are becoming only more ruthless under Covid-19.”

Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana responded to the ICHRP-US statement, saying, 

“On the commentary on why we are going to purchase those helicopters — and that we should just channel the fund in those in need . . . .   I agree with what these leftists are saying. But first you should end your armed struggle, so we will stop buying such arms. You’ve been waging your armed struggle for 50 years, and you’re just causing trouble, and you want us to stop importing arms, but you’ won’t stop fighting.” 

While red-tagging ICHRP, accusing it of involvement of the armed struggle in the Philippines, Secretary Lorenzana also claimed the Philippines could not afford the 450 million or 1.5 billion arms sales. Lorenzana further argued the arms sale is in no way connected to the termination for the Visiting Forces Agreement. 

With this development, we offer 7 points in response to Secretary Lorenzana’s claims: 

  1. The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines, of which ICHRP-US is a chapter, is a coalition of organizations and institutions from different regions of the globe who are deeply concerned about the human rights situation in the Philippines and are inspired by the efforts of people’s organizations in the country to struggle for the rights and a just peace. 
  1. Lorenzana’s attacks on ICHRP and so called “leftists” evade government responsibility to hungry citizens. Lorenzana’s accusations are simple conjecture and fail to obfuscate the government’s paltry response to the needs of the people. 
  1. If the Philippine government does not have the money for the proposed deal, it is better to forego the arms sale. The Philippine government can instead direct the funds towards Covid-19 relief. According to IBON, there are currently still 6 million Filipinos who have not received the government’s promised economic relief. 
  1. The Philippine government does have money and resources, but the Duterte Administration prioritizes war spending and infrastructure building that profits rich bureaucrats and foreign corporations. Duterte’s 2020 budget saw increases in defense and infrastructure spending and a decrease in health, agriculture, and social welfare. Meanwhile, the administration has grown the trillions of dollars of debt owed to the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank, Japan, and China and the United States among others.
  1. The Armed Forces of the Philippines’ human rights’ record speaks for itself as to why it should not receive U.S. helicopters and heavy artillery. Karapatan has documented that “at least 456,103 civilians have been forcibly evacuated from their homes in the course of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) bombings and indiscriminate firing on communities. Victims have identified the AFP’s use of attack helicopters, jet fighters, howitzers, grenade launchers, and bombs, including white phosphorous bombs, in the said attacks.”
  1. In accordance with the framework of the previous agreements of the peace talks between the GRP and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, until such time the roots of the armed conflict in the country are resolved– landlessness, joblessness, and extreme poverty afflicting the majority of Filipinos in the country– the armed conflict will continue.
  1. It is irrelevant whether or not this new arms sale is in direct response to the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement. The issue here is the U.S. State Department’s approval of the arms sale indicates there are those within the U.S. government willing to sacrifice human rights for the sake of profit and military power in the Asia Pacific region. The need to campaign against the arms sale before it’s May 30th approval deadline is urgent. 

Stop Arms Sales to Duterte!

Sign the petition and join the movement here: https://bit.ly/ICHRPUSsignOn.

ICHRP-US Demands Accountability for Approved 2 Billion Dollar Arms Sale to Duterte

Philippine President Duterte’s military response to Covid-19 and “shoot-to-kill” order against violators of social distancing — condemned by human rights groups and the UN High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet — would seemingly make the United States question its regular military assistance to the Philippines. 

On Thursday, however, the United States Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced State Department approval of two new foreign military sales to the Philippines. 

The first sale, worth 450 million, includes six attack helicopters, six hellfire missiles, 26 Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System, machine guns, rocket launchers, and other technical equipment, citing the principal contractors as Bell Helicopter and General Electric Company. The second sale, worth 1.5 billion dollars, primarily contracted with Boeing and Lockheed Martin, includes another six attack helicopters but multiplies other weapons requests by the hundreds (i.e. 200 hellfire missiles and 300 Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System). 

The arms sales would be headed to Duterte’s state forces who are becoming only more ruthless under Covid-19. 

Since Duterte declared an “enhanced community quarantine,” 38,000 have been arrested for “violation of quarantine.” Luzon has seen a drastic increase in military troops deployed to the region mimicking Dutere’s previous counter-insurgecny programs in Negros and Visayas that resulted in numerous killings of activists.

 A farmer Junie Dungog Piñar from Southern Philippines was shot by military men for violating the COVID19 lockdown three days after Duterte’s shoot-them-dead order. Another farmer, Noel Galvez from West Samar was tied like an animal and tortured before he was killed last April 18. Six volunteers with Tulong Anakpawis providing relief efforts were arrested and illegally detained in Norzagaray, Bulucan. 

Just this week, Philippine police shot former army veteran Winston Ragos was shot dead in while suffering from PTSD. Jory Porquia was shot dead in front of his home after facing harassment from the Philippine National Police while working on relief project in Ilo Ilo. 

Meanwhile, Duterte has further scuttled peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, failing to free political prisoners and failing to adhere to genuine ceasefire whilst pushing for heightening military operations against the New People’s Army. 

Duterte’s Covid response is de facto martial law — and the new U.S. arm deals will only fortify the Presidents arsenal.

ICHRP-US condemns the new arms deal in the strongest terms and demands accountability from the United States government in its foreign arm sales to the Philippines and. We call for widespread education to mobilize people against the deal. The United States Congress has 30 days to veto the deal before it passes.