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Groups laud global calls for probes and sanctions on Duterte’s rights violations

Human rights groups welcomed measures by the international community to call for investigations and sanctions to stop human rights violations under the Rodrigo Duterte government.

Karapatan said the recent resolution on the human rights situation in the Philippines by the European Parliament is a “welcome step towards reckoning and accountability over the Duterte administration’s blatant disregard of its obligation to uphold human rights and civil liberties in the country.”

The European Parliament, voting last Thursday, September 17, said it proactively supports the adoption of a resolution at the ongoing 45th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council to establish an international investigation into human rights violations committed in the Philippines since Duterte became president.

The measure also recommended to the European Union (EU) to temporarily withdraw the Philippines’ Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus status that provides tariff perks for Filipino goods until the Duterte government “immediately carry out impartial, transparent, independent and meaningful investigations into all extrajudicial killings.”

“The resolution — adopted with 626 votes in favor, 7 against, and 52 abstentions —particularly killings related to the drug war as well as the recent killings of human rights activists Jose Reynaldo Porquia in Iloilo City, Randall Echanis in Quezon City and Zara Alvarez in Bacolod City while the Philippines is under coronavirus lockdown imposed by the government,” Karapatan said in a statement.  

The resolution also expressed alarm on the conviction of Rappler executive editor Maria Ressa over cyberlibel charges and the shutdown of ABS-CBN.


Philippine Human Rights Bill

US Congresswoman Susan Wild (D-PA). Supplied photo.

Filipino-American organizations meanwhile welcomed the introduction of the Philippine Human Rights Bill at the United States House of Representatives by Philadelphia Democrat Susan Wild.

The measure seeks to block US assistance to the Philippine police and military, including equipment and training, “until human rights conditions are met.”

The bill is co-sponsored by 18 other representatives.

If the bill becomes law, the US government shall stop funding support to the Philippine police and military unless the following are met:

  • Investigating and prosecuting members of the military and police forces who are credibly found to have violated human rights;  
  • Withdrawing the military from domestic policy;
  • Establishing protections of the rights of trade unionists, journalists, human right defenders, indigenous persons, small-farmers, LGBTI activists, and critics of the government;
  • 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
  • Fully complying with any and all audits or investigations regarding the improper use of security aid.

Organizations such as the Communications Workers of America (CWA), The Malaya Movement, the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines and Kabataan Alliance said they applaud the bill.

“[We are] proud to support the introduction of the Philippine Human Rights Act to protect the working people in the Philippines who are suffering greatly under the Duterte regime,” CWA Senior Director for Government Affairs and Policy Shane Larson said.

“Although we’re all dealing with the fallout of the pandemic right now, we cannot turn our backs on the crisis that Filipino workers have been facing under Duterte, which has greatly accelerated during COVID-19, with the Philippines government’s intensified power grab to persecute its political enemies. We must show Duterte that Americans and the labor movement won’t stand for him and his administration imprisoning and executing trade unionists and activists,” Larson added.

Other organizations supporting the bill include the Teamsters, 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 and others.

PH government response

In response, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque dismissed the effects of a possible revocation of the tariff perks on Philippine goods in Europe.

“No more discussions. They should do what they want to do during this time. If they want to implement it, go ahead,” Roque in an annoyed tone said.

“I’m sorry. I’m being very undiplomatic in my answer, but what else can I say? At the time of a pandemic, they’re threatening us. Susmaryosep, what else do we lose?” Roque added.

Philippine House of Representatives Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano for his part said the European Parliament’s resolution is an interference in the “country’s domestic issues.”

“The Philippine House of Representatives takes exception to the outright interference of the European Parliament in the purely domestic matters of the Philippines by dictating on the government ‘to renew the broadcast license’ of ABS-CBN and to ‘drop’ the Cyberlibel charges against Maria Ressa,” Cayetano said in a statement.

“To our friends in the European Parliament, we have a saying here in the Philippines that the world is round. The day will come – mark my words – that the Philippines will be in a position to impose economic sanctions on your countries,” he fired back.

Karapatan however thanked the political parties who initiated the European Parliament resolution and the members of parliament who supported and adopted it.

“[W]e hope this will enjoin other governments and the international community at large to continue to take a strong stance in denouncing the Duterte administration’s attacks on human and people’s rights in the Philippines and in supporting an independent investigation by the UN HRC on these attacks,” the group said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

The fascistic tendencies of Donald J. Trump and the impending US war with Iran

By Prof. Edberto M. Villegas, PhD

The spectre of fascism is haunting American society today. Just like Adolf Hitler (the Fuhrer) of Germany and Benito Mussolini (Il Duce) of Italy in the 1920’s-1930’s, US president Donald J. Trump is perceived as a strong leader among less- educated (no college education) working whites (40% of the US population) to whom he presents himself as their economic messiah. The ideology of fascism, developed by Italian intellectuals in the 1920’s, stokes up fears that other races are dominating the economy of one’s mother country, specially seen in Mussolini’s “Manifesto of Race”. It also particularly blames other races as the primary cause of crimes and violence in a society and of taking away jobs from the locals. These constitute Hitler’s and Mussolini’s rants as well as those of Trump in their various speeches. Trump’s placing in detention camps Latin Americans trying to enter the US Southern border, his separating immigrant children from parents, his decision (now pending in the US Supreme Court) to terminate DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood’s Arrivals), his campaign of hounding and jailing undocumented immigrants, even those who have lived in the US for years, before deporting them are reminiscences of Hilter’s pogrom of discriminating and incarcerating Jews. Trump also drums up fear of job insecurity among white Americans because of the influx of immigrants into the US and unfavorable trade agreements with other countries, particularly with China.

Rodrigo R. Duterte, a would-be dictator

At this point, allow me to digress on President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines. Duterte is compared to Hitler by the militants not because he likewise believes that other races are controlling the Philippine economy and society as, on the other hand, he panders to China and allows US military and economic dominance of the country. Duterte is compared to Hitler as a fascist because he silences through force his critics, and even aims to change the Philippine constitution to favor foreign business and his cabal of political opportunists. Unlike Hitler, Mussolini and Trump, Duterte persecutes those who oppose foreign control of the Philippine economy, even assassinating some of them he labels as terrorists. He has no plan for the expansion of Filipino industrialization and in fact, he opens up the local market wider to imports, killing Filipino-owned businesses. He even jokes of turning the Philippines into a a province of China. Actually, Duterte is just one aspiring to become a tin-pot-dictator in the likes of the US-sponsored Fulgencio Batista of Cuba, who thrived on the drug and gambling business in Havana before he was disposed in a revolution led by Fidel Castro in 1959, and the drug smuggler Manuel Noriega of Panama, who was ousted in 1989 by his very patron, the US, when it had no more use of him and he was becoming a liability.

Trump’s fascistic tendencies

But let us return to the emerging fascist dictatorship in the US and leave Duterte and his minions to the judgment and retribution of historical justice. Trump’s castigation of foreign domination of certain areas of the US economy, specially by China, through unfair trade agreements, is more hype than truth. In the case of Germany, immediately before the rise of Hitler to power in the 1930’s, its economic woes were very real. The German mark plunged in value to as low as one million mark to one US dollar and German factories were closing down with US and UK capital gobbling them up. The mark was even referred to as papiermark (paper mark) because it became practically useless. This economic crisis was primarily due to the very unfair provisions imposed on Germany by the Versailles Treaty of 1919 by the vengeful Allies after the defeat of the former in World War I.

Like Hitler and Mussolini, Trump is a racist, believing those with white skin and blue eyes are more intellectually superior to other races. In fact, he is not against immigrants per se, but immigrants with a different skin color, for he invites white Norwegians to come to the US. At one time, he even told four Afro-American congresswomen to go back to the “shit hole” where they originated, meaning Africa. These women are in fact American citizens, with only one of them a naturalized immigrant, having been born in Somalia, Africa. Trump called demonstrating white neo-nazis and members of the Ku Klux Klan, both extreme US rightist groups. in Charlottesville, Viriginia, “very fine people” even after one of them killed a woman . Like his fascist predecessors, Trump loves pomp and grandeur, claiming he had the biggest inauguration crowd ever in US history (which was untrue), and at one time wanted to hold a grand military parade, complete with tanks and airplanes, in Washington, but balked at pushing it through because of severe criticisms. Trump like his predecessors demonizes the US left, exemplified in the movement supporting Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, both Democratic candidates vying to replace him in the US presidential election this coming November and both campaigning for more extensive universal health care than Obama care and free tuition for college education, which threatens corporate America, a great segment of which supports Trump.

The ongoing events in the US political arena are similar to the period before the rise to absolute power of Hitler and Mussolini. Trump like his two predecessors reiterates in rallies the entitlements of the Nordic race, specifically its male members, to social and economic privileges, even accusing Latin Americans and Middle Eastern immigrants as rapists, murderers and potential terrorists. He also constantly rails against the liberal free press and calls it as “enemy of the people” like Hitler. Trump’s adulation of strong man Putin of Russia is akin to Mussolini’s admiration of his fellow totalitarian leader, Hitler. Trump knows he owes Putin gratitude in the latter’s intervention, proven by US intelligence sources, in the 2016 election which catapulted the former television host to the US presidency.

Like Hitler and Mussolini, Trump is a populist leader, pumping up the primeval instincts of fear, pride and anger of his base, particularly among lower-class white Americans. Trump’s limited vocabulary like that of Hitler,replete with street language, appeals to the less-educated working whites. He easily connects with his crowd, inciting their emotions, with aggressive calls like “Lock her Up” and “Send them home”, which are echoed by his audience. These are akin to Hitler’s tirades against Jews as “vermins of the earth” and “killers of Jesus”, homosexuals as “freaks” and Russian communists as “subhumans”.He receives instant feedbacks from his listeners, repeating his slogans, unlike the sedate and intellectual orator Barrack Obama, who tries to appeal to reason rather than to passions. Trump is addicted to big crowds, often interrupting his responsibilities in the White House to rabble rouse his supporters.

Trump, also like Hitler and Mussolini, plays with the truth, creating what he calls “alternative facts”, which can dumbfound principled and good (politically naive?) people. To him what is true is what will serve his interests, and incessantly lies and insults his opponents, similar to Joseph Goebbels’s maxim (Goebbel was Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda) that lies can be believed by people as truths through repetitions (no different from capitalist advertisements) or propaganda. Trusting men of integrity and truthfulness were easily outwitted by Hitler. Remember how Hitler hoodwinked the gullible British prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, when he was able to make the latter believe that he will not invade Poland because he signed the Munich Agreement, but which soon after he violated. Because of the breakdown of the Munich peace agreement, Chamberlain was replaced by the more politically astute, Winston Churchill. The lesson here is beware of treacherous peace-bearing incorrigible liars. #

(Tomorrow: Fascism and Capitalism and the US impending war with Iran)

Dr. Villegas authored “Global Finance Capital and the Philippine Financial System” and other political economy books and articles. He is a retired University of the Philippines and De La Salle University professor.

US holds Filipino activist, denies entry

A prominent Mindanao activist is being held by US immigration authorities at the San Francisco International Airport, various human rights organizations and individuals said.

Sandugo – Movement of Moro and Indigenous Peoples for Self-Determination co-chairperson Jerome Aladdin Succor Aba has been denied entry to the US and is being held at the airport, the alerts said.

Aba is scheduled for deportation back to the Philippines Wednesday night, April 18, US time, the alerts added.

US immigration authorities have not released the basis for the denial of entry against the Filipino activist.

Fellow Moro advocate Amirah Ali Lidasan said Aba’s travel papers are in order, including a 10-year multiple entry visa to the US.

Lidasan added that no lawyer has been allowed to see Aba even after 15 hours of detention and they do not know if he has been treated well and fed.

A well-known critic of the Rodrigo Duterte government’s war in Marawi and elsewhere the Philippines, Aba was invited to the US by several church institutions, including the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Sisters of Mercy, and the General Board of Global Ministries-United Methodist Church to serve as a resource speaker at their respective events.

Aba was to speak on the human rights situation in the Philippines under the Duterte government during the Sixteenth National Ecumenical Advocacy Days (EAD) for Global Peace with Justice in Washington D.C. on April 20 to 23.

The EAD is an annual national gathering of churches on peace and social justice issues that includes lobbying visits to Capitol Hill.

He was also scheduled to go on a speaking tour elsewhere in the US to campaign for a stop to the killings in the Philippines sponsored by the US Chapter of International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines.

Filipino-Americans and other supporters including Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-USA have picketed the airport to demand Aba’s release and for him to be allowed entry to the US.

Advocates from outside the San Francisco/Bay Area have also launched a phone barrage to the US Customs and Border Protection Agency, the alert said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Activists burn Duterte effigy in US Embassy rally

On the 25th anniversary of the Philippine Senate rejection of the extension of the US-Philippine Military Bases Agreement, nationalist groups marched to the US Embassy in Manila Friday to protest what they say is the increasing American intervention in the Duterte regime.

The rally ended with the first-ever burning of a Duterte effigy by activists.