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Fil-am, workers union, rights advocates laud new bill seeking end to PH military aid

Rep Susan Wild

Human rights situation created by Duterte is what’s “wild”

Press Release
September 25, 2020

The Communications Workers of America (CWA), The Malaya Movement, the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) and Kabataan Alliance held a Zoom press conference about the recent introduction of the Philippine Human Rights Act (H.R. 8313), led by Rep. Susan Wild (D-PA) and co-sponsored by 19 other representatives in response to the increasingly dangerous actions of the Duterte regime to punish and execute trade unionists and activists.

The newly-proposed Philippine Human Rights Act earned the irk of Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque describing the bill filed by Pennsylvania Representative Wild as a “very wild suggestion.”

In an online post, The Malaya Movement was quick to tell Roque that it is the human rights situation in the country that is “wild.” The reply was superimposed in a dictionary definition of “wilder” and “wildest” with the words “unstrained by reason or prudence” encircled. In bold letters, the group said “PH Gov’t says PHRA is a “wild suggestion” but what is wild is the human rights situation they created. Time to pass the #PassThePHRA!”

“While Duterte has recently made comments to the United Nations calling for objectivity and non-interference on human rights issues in the Philippines, what is objectively clear to the world is the Duterte regime is tyrannical and laden with abuse and atrocities,” said ICHRP Secretary General, Rev. Michael Yoshii. “We must withdraw U.S. military support from this growing dictatorship.”

“Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal regime is using the pretext of a so-called “Anti-Terrorism Law” to ramp up efforts targeting labor organizers, workers, and political opponents,” said Rep. Susan Wild on the House floor today. “This law allows suspects to be detained by the police or military without charges for as long as 24 days and placed under surveillance for up to 90 days. Let us make clear that the United States will not participate in the repression. Let us stand with the people of the Philippines.”

“We cannot stand idly by while Duterte kills labor activists one by one,” said CWA’s Senior Director for Government Affairs and Policy Shane Larson. “We must condemn it, and do every single thing within our power to stop it. And that starts with mobilizing to enact legislation like the Philippine Human Rights Act. CWA is committed to battling against the sorts of egregious labor and human rights abuses that are the reality facing the Filipino people under the Duterte regime and we are proud to be in this fight with all of you.”

“This bill is the result of years of organizing by the Filipino-American community, as well as our allies, who refuse to be complicit in the oppression of the Filipino people,” explained Nicanora Montenegro from the Malaya Movement. “Activists and organizers have worked hard to gain the support of our legislators, even as the Duterte government attacks us for speaking the truth. And we will continue to organize until we stop this tyranny and achieve genuine democracy for our people,” Larson concluded.

“Filipino-American youth say enough is enough,” declared Mikaela Tajo, a leader with George Washington University’s Philippine Cultural Society, which is a member of Kabataan Alliance. “We demand more from our country, both of our countries. Lives are at stake with this bill, and we cannot sit idly waiting for others to take action. And now we’re challenging you to do the same.”

Address human rights violations or else

Earlier this year, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte signed the Anti-Terrorism Act – a law that ICHRP has called the “last piece of the puzzle” in his government’s martial law agenda. The law is clearly aimed at expanding the government’s ability to target political opponents and activists. It allows suspects to be detained by the police or military without charges for as long as 24 days and placed under surveillance for up to 90 days.

The Philippine Human Rights Act blocks U.S. funds for police or military assistance to the Philippines, including equipment and training, until such time as human rights conditions are met. Specifically, the Philippines must meet the following conditions to lift restrictions set by the bill:

1. Investigating and prosecuting members of the military and police forces who are credibly found to have violated human rights;

2. Withdrawing the military from domestic policy;

3. Establishing protections of the rights of trade unionists, journalists, human right defenders, indigenous persons, small-farmers, LGBTI activists, and critics of the government;

4. Taking steps to guarantee a judicial system that is capable of investigating, prosecuting, and bringing to justice members of the police and military who have committed human rights abuses; and

5. Fully complying with any and all audits or investigations regarding the improper use of security aid.

Other organizations supporting the bill include: the AFL-CIO, SEIU, Teamsters, American Federation of Teachers, Ecumenical Advocacy Network on the Philippines, United Church of Christ - Global Ministries, United Methodist Church - General Board of Church & Society, Migrante USA, Gabriela USA, Anakbayan USA, Bayan-USA, Franciscan Network on Migration, Pax Christi New Jersey, Kabataan Alliance, and National Alliance for Filipino Concerns.

Download PHRA bill copy here.