Duterte Extends Martial Law in Mindanao, U.S. Senator Merkley Voices Support for National Campaign to Stop Killings in the Philippines
The December 9 national convening of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines-US in Vancouver, WA was attended by 100 human rights leaders representing organizations in dozens of cities across the country.
Vancouver, WA -- One hundred human rights leaders from dozens of cities across the U.S. rallied on December 9 to launch a national campaign against “fascist dictatorship in the Philippines” and form the U.S. chapter of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP-US). Days after, Philippine President Duterte received Congress approval for a one year extension of martial law in the whole island of Mindanao. Participants of the ICHRP-US gathering vowed to strengthen their advocacy for human rights in the Philippines, including Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Senator Jeffrey A. Merkley.
“Know that your voices are not in isolation: I have joined Senate colleagues in demanding that President Duterte stop his campaign of murder…,” said U.S. Senator Merkley in a personal statement read by his office during the ICHRP-US convening. “As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I will continue to push for demonstrated improvements in President Duterte’s human rights record and an end to extrajudicial killings.”
The call of the national convening, to stop the killings in the Philippines, was echoed by rallies across the country that took place the same weekend. The rallies also protested Duterte’s Chief of Philippine National Police and primary enforcer of Duterte’s war on drugs, Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa, who was touring the west coast to garner support for Duterte’s program of extrajudicial killings, with one rally prompting the cancellation of Bato’s speaking engagement due to “security concerns” about an anticipated “large protest.”
Aurora Victoria David, secretary-general of ICHRP member National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), remarked that the cancellation of Bato’s event signified “they are scared of the people, of what we have to say.” She continued, “Human rights advocates in the U.S. are sending the message that Bato is not welcome, Duterte’s war on the poor is not welcome, and we are strengthening coordinated efforts across the country to prevent the rise of Duterte’s fascist dictatorship.”
Following Duterte’s one year extension of martial law, protests are expected to increase.
Pam Tau Lee, a participant in an International Solidarity Mission led by ICHRP last month stated, “During our mission, on a daily basis, leaders of local communities were being killed and families and children were being terrorized by the presence of militarized police, para-military, Philippine and US military, women were raped.” Lee continued, “Duterte’s fascism is being normalized and now he has secured an extension of his military rule - we cannot let that happen. Not with our U.S. tax dollars and not under our watch. We need to press for spending that promotes true peace over military engagement and warmongering.”
Since the initial imposition of military rule across Mindanao in May, 400,000 people were forcibly evacuated from their homes. Martial law was limited by the constitution to 60 days, but a five-month extension was issued in July 2017, followed by the one-year extension just granted today, Wednesday December 13, extending military rule until December of 2018. Duterte’s martial law has drawn widespread criticism from non-governmental organizations and advocates citing cases of the enforced disappearance, torture, harassment and murder of civilians active in human rights advocacy.
Members of the newly formed ICHRP-US approved a “unity statement” of the 100 participants present. The closing sentences read: “Our gathering is a testament to the growing movement in the U.S. to defend human rights and end all forms of US military aid and support for fascism in the Philippines. We resolve, as ICHRP-US, that for EVERY spike in human rights violations, so will we strengthen our efforts across the country to stop the killings and end all forms of fascist attacks against the Filipino people.”
ICHRP-US members ended with a rally against fascist dictatorship in the Philippines that included the marking of a painting of Trump and Duterte with red handprints signifying the over 14,000 Filipinos killed with the support of U.S. tax dollars and the signing of a large letter to Congress urging the restriction of U.S. military aid to the Philippines.
All photos courtesy of Portland Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (PCHRP) unless otherwise noted.
The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines is a global network of organizations outside the Philippines, concerned about the human rights situation in the Philippines and committed to campaign for just and lasting peace in the country. In 2015, ICHRP along with the National Lawyers Guild hosted the International People’s Tribunal Against President Aquino in Washington D.C. In 2015 and 2016, ICHRP U.S.-based organizations also coordinated national speaking tours hosting indigenous, faith-based, and environmental grassroots leaders in major cities in the U.S.