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US Congress asks Trump to call out Duterte on EJKs

The United States Congressional committee on human rights urged US President Donald Trump to express their country’s “profound concern over reported extra-judicial killings” in the Philippines ahead of his meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte during the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Manila.

Congressmen Randy Hultgren and James P. McGovern, Co-Chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the US Congress, wrote Trump on November 2 urging him to impress on Duterte that human rights violations must not be a consequence of the Philippines’ ‘war on drugs.’

Trump is due to arrive in the Philippines Sunday to participate in the 31st ASEAN Summit, which includes the US as a partner country.

The letter said that a Commission hearing earlier this year included strong evidence that police have killed 7,000 alleged drug dealers and users without charges or trial since the Philippine government launched its campaign against illicit drugs.

“The Co-Chairs request that, just as the President [Trump] will reaffirm to President Duterte the United States’ unwavering commitment to the Philippines, he should also reaffirm the United States’ commitments to fundamental human rights, including due process, and the rule of law,” part of the letter said.

“As co-chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, we ask that you raise these concerns in your talks with President Duterte,” the letter added.

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Dear President Trump:

During your upcoming visit to the Philippines for meetings with regional leaders at the ASEAN summit in Manila, including Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, we urge you to impress upon President Duterte the United States’ profound concern over reported extra-judicial killings associated with the Philippine government’s “war on drugs.” 

We certainly recognize the strategic importance of maintaining our strong partnership with the Philippines, especially amid rising tensions in the region over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs and Chinese territorial sovereignty issues involving the South China Sea.  At the same time, we believe the United States must remain a champion of human rights, due process, and the rule of law.

According to the Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 2016 by the Department of State, there has been a significant increase in the number of extra-judicial killings in the Philippines.  The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights referred to the recent increase as an “appalling epidemic.”  At a Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission hearing earlier this year, we were distressed to learn that police have killed 7,000 alleged drug dealers and users without charges or trial since the Philippine government launched its campaign against illicit drugs.

Human rights are fundamental.  Every government should afford their citizens the protection and due process of the law.  The Philippines is a valuable ally of the United States and major recipient of U.S. aid.  For these reasons, it is paramount that human rights violations not be the consequences of the Philippines’ “war on drugs.”  It is the obligation of the United States to advocate for and defend those human rights as set forth in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

As co-chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, we ask that you raise these concerns in your talks with President Duterte even as you reaffirm the United States’ unwavering commitment to and friendship with the Philippines.

Sincerely,

Randy Hultgren                                                          James P. McGovern
Member of Congress                                                  Member of Congress 
Co-Chairman, TLHRC                                               Co-Chairman, TLHRC

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Anti-Trump rallies

Meanwhile, progressive organizations in the Philippines took to the streets Friday to protest Trump’s arrival in the Philippines, accusing the US government of trying to drag the Philippines into a possible shooting war against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Hundreds of protesters filled the streets leading to the US Embassy in Manila to denounce increased US military presence in the country, including its involvement in the war in Marawi City.

The protesters held placards saying “Ban Trump – Fight US Imperialist War and Plunder” and burned images of both Trump and Duterte.

In a statement, progressive group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan said Trump’s arrival and participation in the summit represents “the worst aspects of US imperialism.”

“Trump seeks to maintain the grossly unequal relations between the US and the Philippines. He is right now the biggest threat to regional peace with his provocations against North Korea,” the group said.

Anti-Trump rallies were also held in Central Luzon, Northern Luzon and Northern Mindanao Friday while more are expected to be held across the country on Trump’s arrival Sunday.# (Raymund B. Villanueva)

The Hague Joint Declaration @ 25


Despite the stalled GRP-NDFP peace talks, the 25th anniversary of The Hague Joint Declaration setting the framework for the peace negotiations was celebrated on September 2, 2017 with messages from Luis Jalandoni of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and Prof. Jose Ma. Sison, NDFP chief political consultant. Senator Loren Legarda supported the GRP-NDFP peace efforts and graced the event with hundreds of moro, lumad and other indigenous peoples camped at U.P. Diliman against intensified militarization of their communities.

OPINION: How Duterte misjudges the Left

President Rodrigo Duterte sprung another surprise tonight by addressing the protest rally outside the House of Representatives after delivering his second State of the Nation Address. It turned out though he too would be surprised by his unprecedented move.

Fresh from delivering a speech in front of an overwhelmingly servile audience, Duterte should have known the leftist protesters would be an entirely different crowd altogether. The protesters he made to wait under pouring rain are tens of thousands of victims of his government’s failed promises and are not the crowd to applaud his rambling speeches and his crude brand of levity.  Furthermore, he should not have expected them to remain silent while he spoke.

Even before he could really launch into his speech, the president was met with chants—something he did not expect to hear, nor want to, for sure. “No to martial law! No to martial law!” the crowd shouted. Duterte reverted to his customary mode and told his audience to shut up and just listen. “Huwag muna! Patapusin mo muna ako diyan!” he said with a dismissive wave of his hand.

The president reminded the drenched crowd he still has leftists in his cabinet.  He said he is only trying to make everyone happy, that he means to spend billions for poor people and agrarian reform would happen given time. He said he does not own government and that he only receives his salary for all that he does.

But those are the words the protesters did not want to hear. They wanted categorical statements on their most pressing problems. “Manggagawang kontraktwal, gawing regular!” the workers shouted. “Militar sa kanayunan, palayasin!” bellowed the Lumad in front of the stage.

It is hard to guess what Duterte was thinking at that point, but he clearly did not like the people telling him what they demand of their president. “E kung ganyan ang turing niyo sa akin, parang kalaban, wala na. ‘Wag na tayong mag-usap!” he said. “Pati ako, gusto niyong patayin…Pag-uwi ko galing Marawi, ambush-in niyo ako,” he added.

There was a brief moment when Duterte lifted the crowd’s spirits up. “Ang relasyon ko sa Left, ok pa,” he said. Inexplicably, he immediately turned it into a threat that definitely did not help any. “Huwag niyong sirain kasi magkasamaan tayo ng loob. Damay ako, damay kayo,” he said.

The crowd responded with another chant of “Peace talks, ituloy!” to which Duterte typically responded, “Hanap kayong maganda diyan, iharap sa akin.” He then again said, “In-ambush niyo ako!” referring to the Arakan, North Cotabato incident last week. It was the first time anyone has heard he was there.

It was clear at this time the protesters wanted a dialogue with Duterte and they did not want to listen to more of what they have already heard him say in his SONA. He should have taken the cue when the crowd affirmatively answered him when he asked if he should release all political prisoners. “Oo!” the crowd roared, but Duterte missed it.

It was immediately after this exchange that Duterte let out what he really wanted to say to the Left. “Kailangan tahimik (kayo). Mag-respetuhan tayo. Huwag niyo akong i-ambush,” he said. Coupled with his earlier statement that the Left should give him time, he really wanted their silence while he focuses on what he says must be done first. The President did not appear before the protesters to listen; he was there to issue an order.

For someone who claims to be a leftist himself and for someone who never tires of reminding the Left of his ties with their comrades in his home region, it was hard to believe he now misjudges them badly. The Left has never made secret its opposition to martial law, the militarization of the countryside, environmental plunder, contractualization of labor, human rights violations and other social ills left unresolved by the Duterte administration. To ask them to be silent, even for just a period of time, is asking for them to be complicit. It is something no one could ever imagine they would, because they never had.

A visibly disappointed Duterte abruptly ended his speech and left the stage in a huff. But he must know, his appearance and speech has left the crowd even more disappointed. “Bakit pa siya pumunta?” was a question many asked as they ended the SONA protest made bizarre by a guest who invited himself. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

 

Bayan releases 20-point wish list for Duterte’s 2nd SONA

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) announced its list of 20 “urgent people’s demands” it urges President Rodrigo Duterte’s to address on his second State of the Nation Address on July 24.

Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said their list aims to push the year-old Duterte government to “address the worsening crisis confronting the nation and the Filipino people,” including unfulfilled promises on land reform, national industrialization, peace talks, independent foreign policy, expanded social services, respect for human rights and measures against corruption. Read more

Activists to Duterte: Is this the change you promised?

Marking Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s first year in office, people’s organizations from the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) evaluated his performance using emoticons in a rally in Manila last June 30.

While acknowledging that the Duterte government delivered on some of his promises, the activists said the president promised so much more but has yet to deliver.

They added that whatever achievements the administration may have delivered, these are rendered inconsequential when compared to the killings of thousands under Duterte’s so-called war on illegal drugs.

They expressed opposition to martial law in Mindanao and demanded its lifting.

(International League of Peoples’ Struggle – Philippines video / Music by Danny Fabella of Musikang Bayan / Featured photo by Mark Kevin Reginio)

Read more

AFP blocks humanitarian aid to Marawi evacuees

A humanitarian mission with 400 relief packs for evacuees was denied entry to Marawi City today by the military, its leaders announced.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan spokesperson and former Bayan Muna representative Teddy Casiño said an Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) checkpoint at the entrance to the city proper stopped the National Interfaith Humanitarian Mission at around 8:45 today.

“We were told to turn back because the relief goods were supposedly not needed by the evacuees anymore,” Casiño said.

The mission, principally organized by the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao Region, was scheduled to distribute more relief packs to civilian evacuees and meet with local government officials to know what other forms of assistance was needed in the war-torn city, he said.

Gabriela Women’s Party representative Arlene Brosas was among the mission participants.

Casiño said prior permission had been secured from Marawi local government officials and the military ground command through a Captain Clint Antipala of the Philippine Army.

He explained Marawi officials assured them beforehand relief packs are needed in the evacuation sites in the city.

“Local government officials later told us that under martial law, it was the military that had the final say on such matters,” Casiño said.

“Essentially, the military prevented humanitarian aid from reaching the displaced families in Marawi City.  This is unacceptable,” Casiño said.

He added that they are still seeking an explanation on the AFP’s decision. # (Raymund B. Villanueva/Photos courtesy of the National Interfaith Humanitarian Mission)

 

Relief packs of food and medicine ordered to turn back by the military at the entrance to Marawi City.

Renato M. Reyes, Jr. BAYAN secretary general

Joma on Gina’s rejection: Reactionaries in Congress won

ENVIRONMENT and Natural Resources secretary Regina Paz Lopez’s rejection by the Commission on Appointments (CA) diminished the prospects of negotiated reforms for a just and lasting peace, National Democratic Front of the Philippines chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said.

Reacting to CA’s 15-9 vote against Lopez’s confirmation today, Sison said “reactionaries in Congress cast a dismal shadow on the prospects of legislation that is needed to enable the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) to fulfill its obligations under the CASER (Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms) now being negotiated,” Sison said.

Despite widespread support of Lopez’s anti-destructive mining crusade, the 25-member commission rejected with finality one of President Rodrigo Duterte’s most popular cabinet appointments.

“The people are left with no choice but to fight even more fiercely against the big compradors, landlords and the corrupt politicians,” Sison said, blaming “reactionaries” in the Duterte government for Lopez’s rejection.

Progressives also expressed dismay at the development, calling it a victory for mining oligarchs.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said an extraordinary chance to protect the environment and the rights of the people has been squandered.

“Bureaucrat capitalism and vested interests triumph once again in the rejection of the appointment of Gina Lopez,” Reyes said.

Reyes said compromises may have been made along the way and questioned how such a rejection can happen under the Duterte regime that wields the majority in both houses of Congress.

“Big business interests continue to hold sway in the Duterte regime, both in the executive and legislative branches,” he said.

Reyes encouraged Lopez to continue her environmental advocacy even as a private citizen once more.

“We thank Gina for her outstanding service to the Filipino people. She is more than welcome to continue her activist role for the environment, in the mass movement and even in the peace negotiations between the GRP and the NDFP,” Reyes said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)