International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines – U.S.
On Thursday July 18, Congressman Brad Sherman, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and Nonproliferation announced the committee will hold a hearing featuring the Philippines on Thursday, July 25th. The hearing will cover three other countries in Southeast Asia in addition to the Philippines– Vietnam, Cambodia, and Rohingya.
The announcement of the hearing comes a week after the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution calling for a comprehensive investigation into the human rights situation in the Philippines. Since his election in 2016 and the most recent midterm election this past May, which was wrought with massive cheating and fraud to ensure Duterte candidates control the Philippine Senate, Duterte’s near 30,000 killings have earned the attention of international and governmental bodies including the UN, International Criminal Court, and now members of Congress.
Along with Duterte’s infamous war on drugs, Duterte’s regime has committed widespread attacks against human rights defenders, trade unionists, women, church people, farmers and indigenous people — Duterte’ repression is nationwide. Recent examples include the murder of a three year old Myca Ulpina, in a police drug operation, the massacre of 14 farmers in Negros in a joint operation between military and police, and the recent government shut down of 55 schools serving indigenous children in the hinterlands.
Far from Home, But Still Hits Close
“The Philippines can feel so far from the San Fernando Valley, but when friends and family become victims of Duterte’s human rights abuses, it hits close to home,” said Dominico Vega, member of Malaya Movement in Southern California and a constituent of Representative Sherman. Vega’s close friends, two Filipino Long Beach-based journalists, Eric Tandoc and Hiyas Saturay, experienced Duterte’s repression directly when arrested while filming a workers strike in the Philippines.
Vega is one of many Filipinos in the Malaya movement who have been drawing congressional attention to human rights violations under the Duterte administration and advocating for a hearing alongside advocacy groups such as the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines, the Ecumenical Advocacy Network on the Philippines, and Amnesty International. In April, over 400 rights advocates gathered in Washington D.C. and lobbied 100 offices to call for a congressional hearing, restrictions on aid to the Philippine military and police, and support for House Resolution 233 and Senate Resolution 142 to free Amnesty International prisoner of conscience Senator Leila de Lima, an outspoken critic of Philippine President Duterte.
“We applaud Congressman Brad Sherman for initiating a hearing that will cover the human rights situation in the Philippines. As people in the United States who advocate for peace and justice here, in the Philippines, and around the world, we oppose any form of aid that supports Duterte’s attacks on the people in the Philippines,” said Pam Tau Lee, Chairperson of ICHRP-US.
The hearing will take place on the heels of a global day of protest against the Duterte government of the Philippines scheduled in over 13 countries. In the US, protests in 10 cities are being organized by the Malaya Movement, including one in front of the Philippine Embassy in Washington DC. Their united call worldwide — “Tama Na, Sobra Na, People Power Na (Enough is Enough, People Power Now!), referencing the 1986 and 2001 People Power uprisings in the country that led to the ouster of former Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos and Joseph Estrada.
“The tide is turning against Duterte’s dictatorship. Duterte’s isolation in the international community is growing by the day. First was the resolution at the UN Human Rights Council, then this U.S. congressional hearing happening right after the largest global protest against any Philippine administration since the Marcos dictatorship,” states Yves Nibungco of the Malaya Movement.
“History teaches us how we, the Filipino people, both in the Philippines and abroad, take action when confronted with tyranny and fascism. We unseated Marcos, we unseated Estrada. Now with more global condemnation against Duterte, history is bound to repeat itself. And to our representatives in congress, we urge them to take a stand against Duterte’s tyranny and be on the right side of history.”
The Philippines is the largest recipient of US military aid in the Asia-Pacific region. In 2007, a landmark US Senate Hearing sponsored by former Senator Barbara Boxer led to the cutting of aid to the Philippine military based on the latter’s culpability in gross human rights violations such as extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances of government critics.