Fil-Am activists slam deployment of PNP ‘community relations’ officers abroad
SAN MATEO, California — A Filipino human rights group slammed the deployment of Philippine National Police community relations officers in San Francisco and Los Angeles, calling them a “Duterte spy network” against progressive and democratic opposition abroad.”
PNP Police Community Relations Group’s (PCRG) is supposedly aimed at giving overseas Filipinos a chance to report crimes from abroad and seek assistance from Philippine-based law enforcement, according to PNP Chief Supt. Rhodel Sermonia, during a Sept. 21 program at the Philippine Consulate in Los Angeles.
The Filipino American Human Rights Alliance (FAHRA) expressed deep apprehensions” that the authoritarian “tentacles” of President Rodrigo Duterte would extend to Filipino communities in the United States and elsewhere in the guise of community relations. FAHREA read the statement in a forum on “Extra Judicial Killings in the Philippines,” at the Congregational Church of San Mateo, United Church of Christ, on Sept. 30.
“The main targets of the spy network under the guise of global policing” would be “Filipino citizens who are based in America, Filipino Americans, dual citizens and the American public, whom the Philippine government can monitor when they visit the Philippines,” the FAHRA statement added.
The statement also sternly reminded that the killing of Gene Viernes and Silme Domingo in Seattle, Washington in 1981 by the order of dictator Ferdinand Marcos should not be repeated.
Human rights activist Edwin Batongbacal said, “If the PNP in the U.S. simply wants to conduct ‘public relations to improve its image among Filipino Americans, it should instead just stop its heinous and merciless executions of people in the Philippines,” Batongbacal reasoned. “More concerning is that PNP officers deployed to the U.S. might even initiate spying and covert operations in order to silence their U.S.-based opposition.”
Los Angeles-based activist Art Garcia also spoke, together with San Francisco-based Rodel Rodis, longtime advocate Geline Avila, and Pastor Rev. Dr. Penny Nixon. FAHRA asked attendees to sign a petition asking the International Criminal Court to hasten the investigation of President Duterte for crimes against humanity with his “war on drugs.” Also available was a petition to the US Congress to stop EJKs in the Philippines by passing Senate Bill 1055 entitled “Philippine Human Rights Accountability and Counter-Narcotics Act of 2017.”
Rodis and Garcia depicted current developments in the Philippines as déjà vu, a repeat of Ferdinand Marcos’ authoritarian actions.
Today, Garcia reported, religious people are increasingly being persecuted, reminiscent of Marcos’ time when “Fr. Nilo Valerio was beheaded. Rev. Jeremias Aquino of UCCP, Fr. Pykes Fernando, Fr. Eduardo Kangleon were killed and made their executions appear as car accidents. Redemptorist priest in Cebu Fr. Rudy Romano has disappeared and up to now cannot be found.”
Garcia said victims of extrajudicial killings (EJK) stood at 24,640 as of September 25, 2018 including 32 children and minors referred to as collateral damage. “On behalf of FAHRA, I call on everyone to express solidarity in our struggle for a stop in the killings and not create another dictator in the Philippines. Fight for democratic rights in the Philippines,” Garcia urged the participants.
“He told the military to shoot female guerillas in their vaginas that would make them useless showing his low regard to women. How can a monster that we never thought would happen even compare himself to Hitler mistakenly believing that Hitler killed only 3 million Jews and can match that?” Rodis stated.
“Duterte signed an agreement with China for infrastructure to be built by Chinese labor,” Rodis charged. “Even now, a hundred Chinese workers are working in the casinos all over Metro Manila,” said Rodis who likened the trade deal to China’s deals with other countries that were left in debt and invaded by Chinese workers.
Another activist, Geline Avila, argued that President Duterte’s touted move “away from the U.S. and towards with China” is not completely true. “There is still a lot that Americans can do despite Duterte’s pronouncements. And, in fact, we stand before you this morning to ask for your solidarity once again like when you helped us during the Marcos dictatorship. Today the fact remains that the Duterte government still relies primarily on the U.S. for military assistance. For 2017, President Trump allotted $180 million for the Philippines. So, it still is a strong factor.”
“Today as people of faith, of good conscience, of justice, we stand in solidarity and we denounce these crimes against humanity. And we want the world to know what is going on there. And to the families that have lost people, we express our deepest sympathy and we ask that you continue to have courage in this long fight that many have been in. You are not alone,” Rev. Nixon declared.She said that letting FAHRA talk to members of her congregation was her way of showing support.
“I feel like all of us that didn’t know about the situation were able to learn more. We were then given specific steps that we could take to help. So, I think this is a huge success, I hope thousands of people were able to watch this on social media, and I hope that this is the beginning of the groundswell to make some difference. This just a start and we are all one,” declared Nixon.
Congregation member Brenda Kelley, a daughter of an American serviceman stationed in the Philippines during World War II, listened to the statements of the speakers intently to know more about what is happening to the country her father served during the war.
She said: “I was kind of horrified of the stories about what happened during Marcos and what may be happening today. My antenna went up when I heard that there is an (PNP) office being opened in San Francisco. I do not know much about that, but I am going to be looking and reading about that. And that scares me because I worry about very good people in this country that may feel threatened, and so I want to know more.”