Nat’l leaders call on U.S. to stop military aid to Duterte
Voicing strong support for the Philippine Human Rights Act (PHRA) reintroduced in the House of Representatives on June 14 by U.S. Rep. Susan Wild (D-PA), more than 50 U.S. leaders from religious groups, labor organizations, state legislatures and the Filipino American community called on the U.S. “to stop the relentless abuse of human rights and escalating assaults on the Philippines’ constitutional democracy by the government of President Rodrigo Duterte.”
The urgent appeal, addressed to the international community and notably the U.S. administration, amplifies Rep. Wild’s declaration that U.S. taxpayer dollars should not fund “a government that brutally represses those who oppose it.” The PHRA aims to block U.S. funds for police or military assistance to the Philippines, including equipment and training, until such time as human rights conditions are met.
The bill’s reintroduction came the same day the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) sought authorization to conduct an investigation into President Duterte’s drug war. Since becoming president in 2016, he has overseen the deaths of thousands of civilians, and has extended the orders to kill until 2022.
“The worldwide United Methodist Church has long regarded the United Nations, including related bodies like the International Criminal Court as ‘the best instruments now in existence to achieve a world of justice and law,” says Rev. Dr. Liberato Bautista, Assistant General Secretary for United Nations and International Affairs General Board of Church and Society of The United Methodist Church. “This spotlight on the Philippines by the ICC underscores the accountability of peoples—primarily those exercising power and authority—to international norms and standards that uphold human dignity and human rights.”
Michael Ramos, Executive Director, The Church Council of Greater Seattle, adds: “People of faith throughout the world have a stake in protesting any national regime that fails to respect basic human rights and that stifles dissent and democracy. The current situation in the Philippines shows all the signs of a repressive formula tried over and over that can only be confronted through collective action to tie aid to fundamental change. “
Stressing that the U.S. has “a moral imperative to ensure that any of its military aid or arms sales are not used in the furtherance of human rights abuses,” Rebecca Singleton, lawyer and former legal extern for UN Women’s Peace and Security program, says that “any further assistance by the U.S. government to the Duterte administration renders the United States complicit in the atrocities being committed against Filipinos by their government.”
The Duterte administration’s war of terror against the Philippine labor movement is also of grave concern to U.S. labor leaders. “In alignment with a resolution passed at our 2019 national APALA convention, we support the reintroduction of the PHRA and support the sending of an International Labor Organization investigating team to look into repression against the labor movement in the Philippines,” says Alvina Yeh, Executive Director, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA).
Reminded of U.S. support for the Marcos Dictatorship in the 1970s through the 1980s, Filipino American community leaders have been organizing protest actions in the U.S. to call attention to extra-judicial killings committed by the Duterte administration.
“We call on President Biden to use the power of his office to send a strong message to human rights violators like Duterte that America’s continued support is conditioned on his respect for democratic values,” says Loida Nicolas Lewis, National Chairperson, US Filipinos for Good Governance (USFGG).
Adds Maryland Delegate Kris Valderrama: “As a state legislator, I know that Rep. Wild’s legislative measure expresses the will of the American people to ensure that their tax dollars do not embolden authoritarian governments like Duterte’s to further repress and violate the rights of the Filipino people.”
The more than 50 signatories to this urgent appeal are in total agreement with Rep. Wild that US foreign policy should be centered around human rights and dignity.
“As U.S. citizens, we have a long history of pressuring our government to end US aid to authoritarian governments who abuse human rights and destabilize democracy. The reintroduction of the PHRA as well as the ICC’s continued investigation into Duterte’s human rights abuses add urgency to our resolve to speak out loudly, now!” says Cindy Domingo of Akbayan North America and a board member of A Legacy of Equality Leadership and Organizing (LELO), Seattle, WA. [SIGNED STATEMENT BELOW]
|An Urgent Appeal to End U.S. Military Aid and Arms Sales to the Repressive Duterte Government in the Philippines|
We appeal to the international community, especially the United States, to help stop the relentless abuse of human rights and escalating assaults on the Philippines’ constitutional democracy by the government of President Rodrigo Duterte.
The climate of political violence engendered by the actions and policies of the Duterte Government has reached a point that the Philippine Supreme Court recently had to condemn increasing threats and attacks on lawyers, prosecutors, and judges. “To assault the judiciary is to shake the very bedrock on which the rule of law stands,” the high court stated. Indeed, more lawyers have been killed (61) in five years of the Duterte Administration than under the 14 years of the Marcos dictatorship.
However, arguably the most shocking illustration of state violence by far under President Duterte was the brutal March 7, 2021 “Bloody Sunday” police-military raids that killed nine nonviolent political activists and human rights advocates in their homes and offices in several provinces near Manila. The brutal bloodletting followed President Duterte’s exhortation to soldiers and police officers to “kill, kill, kill” alleged rebels with impunity, and that he “didn’t care for human rights.
Witnesses said police and military units executed the victims and planted evidence to prove that they “fought back,” which is also a typical feature of extrajudicial killings by law enforcers in the government’s so-called war on drugs. This “war” has summarily killed 8,663 suspected drug users and dealers (other sources give much higher counts). It is now paired with a “war on terrorism,” with unarmed political activists, critics, journalists, and human rights defenders in the crosshairs of a “Whole-of-Nation” counterinsurgency campaign.
Among the components of Whole-of-Nation counterinsurgency is the indiscriminate “red-tagging” or labeling as communist people and organizations critical of President Duterte’s policies. Hundreds of groups and people (including the United Nations special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz)have been red-tagged, making them likely targets of harassment, arbitrary arrest, and assassination by police and paramilitary elements in violation of international laws prohibiting state violence against non-combatants.
State-sponsored violence has justifiably alarmed international institutions including the UN Human Rights Council and the International Criminal Court. “Extrajudicial killings of human rights defenders, lawyers and judges, and peace consultants, have continued to climb,” the international human rights coalition Investigate PHreported to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
- Between July 2016 and 30 June 2020 up to 318 labor organizers, peasant leaders, priests, journalists, and advocates of indigenous communities were killed by law enforcers or by unknown assassins, according the human rights group Karapatan.
- Since President Rodrigo Duterte took office, 113 environmental activists have been killed, making the Philippines the most dangerous place for environmental activists, according to international environment watchdog Global Witness.
Most Filipinos are now convinced that freely expressing criticisms of government could come at the cost of one’s life or liberty. A recent survey shows that 65 percent of adult Filipinos agree “it is dangerous to print or broadcast anything critical of the (Duterte) administration, even if it is the truth.”(Underscoring supplied)
Bolstering this widespread fear of state repression is the new Anti-Terrorism Law championed by President Duterte. Multiple civic petitioners are vigorously challenging the law in the Philippine Supreme Court due to menacing and chilling provisions that further constrict the already narrowing democratic space. For example:
- It sets up a government-appointed Anti-Terrorism Council that can designate a person or a group as “terrorist,” for which they can be arrested without warrant or charges and be detained for weeks.
- It includes broadly defined offenses such as inciting others through “speeches, writings, proclamations, emblems, banners, and other representations tending to the same end” could carry a punishment of 12 years in prison.
Encoding Strong-Arm Behavior
The Anti-Terrorism Law essentially encodes President Duterte’s already active disregard of due process, accountability, the rule of law, and his predilection for weaponizing legal instruments to silence or seek revenge on critics of his war on drugs and other policies.
- Senator Leila de Lima, a top critic of President Duterte who initiated an investigation into the “drug war” killings in 2016, has been incarcerated since February 2017 on blatantly concocted charges.
- The Administration has tried to cause the arrests of more than 30 personages including Vice President Leni Robredo, former Senator Antonio Trillanes, and members of the political opposition and of the clergy.
- It pushed the conviction of Maria Ressa, the CEO of Rappler news website, along with a reporter, for cyber libel for an article published years before the enactment of the applicable law.
- The President’s majority in Congress shut down the country’s largest broadcast network, ABS CBN, by refusing to renew its franchise on dubious charges of bias and foreign ownership.
Democracy’s Survival at Stake
Combined with the pattern of state repression are disturbing efforts to undermine Constitutional authority. Fanatical Duterte supporters chronically plead for him to declare a “revolutionary government.” Likewise, some in his legislative majority call for unwarranted and self-serving changes to 1987 Philippine Constitution.
President Duterte also has persistently chipped away at the primacy of civilian rule. He has repeatedly expressed preference for former military men when it comes to government work because military men, unlike “bureaucrats,” never debate with him, he says. A third of his 30-member Cabinet are retired military officers.
He has coddled the Philippine military and police with increased budgets and vows of impunity while constantly referring to them as “my soldiers.” The Philippine National Police now practically functions as his personal armed auxiliary.
The Philippines’ constitutional democracy ushered by the successful 1986 “People Power” revolution against the Marcos dictatorship has survived several military coup attempts. But it now faces an existential peril from President Duterte’s abusive and repressive governance.
His is a governance that is fully convinced that due process, the rule of law, and constitutional guarantees of democratic and human rights are all bothersome obstacles to be circumvented or eliminated in pursuit of political and military ambitions.
We, therefore, urge the United States government to halt all military aid, arms sales, and any forms of assistance that tend to bolster the Duterte Government, until it stops its single-minded disregard for universal human rights and ceases to destabilize Philippine democracy.
SIGNATORIES as of June 15, 2021
- Loida Nicolas Lewis, National Chairperson, US Filipinos for Good Governance (USFGG)
- Honorable Sharon Tomiko Santos, Washington State Representative, 37th District
- Darien DeLu, President, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, US Section
- Dr. Liberato Bautista, Asst. General Secretary for United Nations & International Affairs, General Board of Church & Society of the United Methodist Church
- Gloria T. Caoile, Director of Civic Engagement, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, NV
- Jon Melegrito, Former Executive Director, National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA)
- Ruben Carranza, Senior Expert, International Center for Transitional Justice, New York NY; former Commissioner, Philippine Commission on Good Government
- Matthew Hoh, Senior Fellow, Center for International Policy
- Mariano A. Santos, Editor, Pinoy News Magazine, Chicago, IL
- Walden Bello, Professor, State University of New York at Binghamton, and National Chairman, Laban ng Masa
- Matt Haney, Member (District 6), Board of Supervisors, City and County of San Francisco, CA
- Medea Benjamin, Co-founder, CODEPINK
- Aquilino Javier, Jr., Former President, National Association of Filipino-American United Methodists (NAFAUM)
- Irene Natividad, Co-Chair, Asian-American Action Fund
- Ernie Llorente, Retired Deputy City Attorney, City & County of San Francisco, CA
- Mila Llorente, San Francisco, CA
- Martha L. Schmidt, LL.M., J.D., Co-Chair, Human Rights Framework Project, National Lawyers Guild
- Estella Habal, Professor Emerita, San Jose State University, CA
- Ninotchka Rosca, American Book Awardee, feminist, human rights activist
- Jerry Clarito, Convenor, Filipino American Human Rights Alliance, Chicago, IL
- Kris Valderrama, Delegate, Maryland Assembly
- Bill Fletcher, Jr., Past President, TransAfrica Forum, trade unionist
- Michael Ramos, Executive Director, The Church Council of Greater Seattle, WA
- Conchita Taylor, San Francisco, CA
- Rebecca Singleton, Associate Attorney, MacDonald, Hogue and Bayless, former legal extern for United Nations Women’s Women, Peace and Security program in the Philippines
- Davianna Pōmaika’i McGregor, Ph.D., Professor of Ethnic Studies, University of Hawai’i Mānoa
- Rene Ciriacruz, Filipino-American journalist, San Francisco, CA
- Ago Pedalizo, Filipino-American Human Rights Alliance USA, San Francisco, CA
- Honorable Velma Veloria, Former Washington State Representative
- Jeffrey Robinson, Executive Director, The Who We Are Project
- Rey Culaba, CSsR, San Francisco, CA
- Marily Mondejar, CEO and Founder, Filipino Women’s Network*, and Board Member, International Hotel Senior Housing*
- Michael Withey, prosecuted the civil conviction of President Ferdinand Marcos in the 1981 murders in Seattle, WA of ILWU labor leaders, Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes
- Marjorie Cohn, Professor Emerita, Thomas Jefferson School of Law
- Hilton Obenzinger, American Book Award author
- Michael Schulze-Oechtering, Asst. Professor, Fairhaven College, Western Washington University
- Cindy Domingo, Akbayan North America, and A Legacy of Equality Leadership and Organizing (LELO), Seattle, WA
- David Valderrama, Former Maryland State Legislator
- Sara Flounders, Co-Director, and in behalf of the International Action Center
- Susan Po-Rufino, San Francisco, CA
- Russell Budd, Attorney, Baron and Budd Law Firm*, Dallas, TX, American Association of Justice Awardee
- Patricia Penn Hilden, Professor Emerita, University of California Berkeley
- Timothy Reiss, Professor Emeritus, New York University
- Edwin Batongbacal, in behalf of Akbayan North America, Oakland, CA
- Honorable David Della, Former Seattle City Councilmember, WA
- Gerry Condon, Past President, Veterans for Peace*
- Rosanna ‘Anolani Alegado, Ph.D., Honolulu, HI
- Catherine Murphy, Founder of The Literacy Project, filmmaker and producer
- Daniel Bryson, Whitfield Bryson, LLP*, Raleigh, NC
- Moon-Ho Jung, Dio Richardson Professor of History, University of Washington
- Jose Lalas, Ph.D., Elected Governing Board of Trustee, Corona-Norco Unified School District; Director, Center for Educational Justice; and Full Professor, University of Redlands*
- Joe Lombardo, United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC)
- Rinabeth Apostol, actor/educator/activist, Berkeley, CA
- Hugh J. McGavick, Attorney, Tumwater, WA
- Michael McCann, Gordon Hirabayashi Professor for the Advancement of Citizenship, University of Washington
- Kevin L. Nadal, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York
* for identification purposes only
View the latest list of signatories at https://bit.ly/3xWu0C5
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