Demands to President Biden On Human Rights in the Philippines

Sign the open letter here: https://tinyurl.com/ICHRPLettertoBiden

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.

Conclusion

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!

Expose the “Maid in Malacanang” Movie’s Lies! Oppose the Continuing Effort of the Marcos Family and their Cronies to Sanitize the True History of the Marcos Dictatorship!

Leading up to the 50th Anniversary of the Declaration of Martial Law in the Philippines declared by late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr., the Marcos family and their cronies have continued their unrelenting effort to erase the family’s historical record of corruption and human rights violations committed during Marcos dictatorship. The movie “Maid in Malacanang” is not just a fictional piece of art or the simple story of one family.  The movie, which was written and directed by Daryl Yap and produced by Senator Imee Marcos herself, horrendously seeks to rewrite the Marcoses as the victims of the 1986 People Power Revolution to create sympathy for the family. It plays an insidious role in paving the way for Marcos II, who was inaugurated on June 30, 2022, to smoothly advance the interests and control of the Marcos family and their allies while they again hold power. The film, which will premiere in the US on August 12, plays a crucial role in projecting a fictional and sanitized image of the Marcos family to people in the US.

The film adds insult to injury for the actual victims and survivors of martial law – the critics who were killed, disappeared, and tortured, and their families. It is a slap in the face to the Filipino people as a whole whose collective wealth was stolen by the Marcos family, and on whose backs massive international loans were secured – loans whose payments are still squeezing the country and the people dry today. It attempts to be progressive by using the perspective of the common person, a maid, while glossing over the reality that Marcos I systematized the labor export policy which drives millions of Filipino migrants to leave the country yearly to do some of the dirtiest and most dangerous jobs in the world. This has been the sole option aggressively promoted by the Philippine government for the people to support their family and uplift the economy.

As people in the US, we must reject the US government’s ongoing support for the Marcos II administration and its willingness to turn a blind eye to the murderous and corrupt record of the Marcos I regime. Already, the US government has welcomed the Marcos II presidency, even assuring Marcos II safe passage into the US despite a US court judgment made in favor of the victims of martial law that was never settled by the Marcos family. In fact, Marcos II has been invited to speak at the UN General Assembly in NYC on September 20, on the eve of the 50th anniversary of martial law. Let’s combat the widespread disinformation that led the Marcos dynasty to regain Presidency and educate ourselves and our communities on the true history and struggle of the Filipino people under the Marcos I dictatorship. Join us for the ICHRP-US educational series starting August 11 and to take ongoing action to reject US Support of the Marcos Dynasty. Uphold the Collective Memory and True History of the Marcos Dictatorship from the People’s Perspective!

Duterte Government Terror Tags International Church and Labor Allies

On Sunday, April 10, elements of the Republic of the Government of the Philippines harassed and red-tagged labor activist Joe Iosbaker in front of his hotel in Manila, Philippines. Iosbaker, from Chicago, was visiting the Philippines for eight days. 

Before 7am that day, members of the Criminal Investigation & Detection Group (CIDG) hung three banners at the fence of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines national office bearing the name and image of Iosbaker. The banners read, “Ally of CTG [Communist-Terrorst Group],” “Don’t meddle with PH affairs. You’re not welcome here!” At around 8:30 am, a small group of people rallied in front of the office of National Council of Churches in the Philippines. Their placards read: “Banyagang Terorista, Alyado ng Komunista, Layas!”(Foreign Terrorist, ally of Communists, Out!”).

The following Monday, April 11, Reverend Cathy Chang, a mission co-worker of the Presbyterian Church (USA), found similar banners and stickers outside of her home in Quezon City. The stickers and tarpaulin, with her photo, mirrored those written about Iosbaker, reading “Supporter of Terrorist CPP-NPA-NDFP” and threatening her to “Get Out of the Country.” Rev Chang and her family have lived in the Philippines for six years where she serves in migrant ministry at the invitation of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP). 

The tagging of Iosbaker and Chang as “supporters of terrorism” is another example of the Philippine government’s counterinsurgency program that increasingly targets overseas Filipinos and solidarity Activists. In recent years Bayan USA, Gabriela USA, Migrante USA, Anakbayan-USA and the Malaya Movement USA have faced online harassment and red tagging. Just weeks prior to the tagging of Iosbaker and Chang, Harry Roque, former spokesperson for President Duterte and current Senatorial candidate, made the preposterous but dangerous claim that the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines is a ‘legal front’ for the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army.

As documented in ICHRP’s recent Bulletin on “Fighting Red-Tagging in Philippine Elections” red-tagging is on the rise in the Philippines as pivotal elections approach. While the country sits on the brink of a potential return of the Marcoses to power, the Duterte camp has red tagged Leni Robredo, the main opposition candidate, accusing her of working with the Communist Party, while also calling for voters to withdraw support from Makabayan Bloc under similar accusations of support for the Community Party. The political situation remains tenuous as the upcoming elections await, and clearly red-tagging continues to be used to intimidate, harass, quell dissent and attempt to discredit opposition. 

In the end, red-tagging does not put to question the credibility of its victims but rather exposes the ineptitude of its perpetrators. In this moment, the need becomes to increase solidarity support, not to quash it from fear of retribution. 

#ActivismIsNotaCrime #ActivismIsNotTerrorism #DefendtheDefenders #PassthePHRA

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Sec-Gen of Karapatan Wins Human Rights Prize

ICHRP-US congratulates Cristina “Tinay” Palabay, Secretary General of Karapatan Human Rights Alliance, for winning the Franco-German Prize for Human Rights and Rule of Law Award. The award signifies international recognition of the justness of Palabay’s work despite many attempts of the Duterte regime to attack her, Karapatan, and human rights defenders across the Philippines. 

“I, we, stand with all of you today — unburied by those who wanted to take life and our rights away from all of us. This recognition, the Franco-German Human Rights Prize and the Rule of Law Award, is not only for me: it is for each and every person who believes in defending and advancing people’s rights,” Palabay said.

Tinay Palabay is our friend and we are a proud partner of Karapatan Human Rights Alliance. We have been privileged to host Tinay on speaking tours in the United States in 2017 and 2019. We are committed to genuine solidarity with the struggle of the Filipino people and will continue to support Karapatan’s work in the face of increasing attacks and human rights violations.