FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 12, 2017
Nina Macapinlac, BAYAN USA Northeast Regional Coordinator
email@example.com, (201) 839-6050
NEW YORK—As part of a global call to protest on International Human Rights Day, Filipinos and their allies gathered outside the Consulate General of the Philippines in New York City to demand an end to President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent crackdown on activists and to condemn the rising threat of dictatorship in the country.
Led by BAYAN USA Northeast, 75 people mobilized with banners that read “Fight Against the Fascist US-Duterte Regime” and held signs featuring recently slain community leaders. In the first weekend of December, 10 activists were murdered within 48 hours, including a priest and pastor in Nueva Ecija and Oriental Mindoro respectively, and eight indigenous Lumad leaders in South Cotabato. This spate of killings follows Duterte’s formal termination of the peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and his labeling of activists and members of legal mass organizations as “terrorists.”
“It seems that Duterte is looking for terrorists when all he has to do is look in the mirror, and look at his Cabinet, and look at the Armed Forces of the Philippines who have killed so many of our comrades back home and displaced our people,” said Mike Legaspi of BAYAN USA.
Protesters also called out the heightened militarization and displacement of indigenous communities in Mindanao under Duterte’s martial law. Over 400,000 people from Moro and Lumad national minorities have been displaced from their homes since the start of the Duterte administration. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is currently barring internally displaced Lumad communities in Surigao del Sur from accessing food and medical aid. After being the center of clashes between the local ISIS-affiliated Maute group and the AFP, Marawi City has been razed to the ground from the daily aerial bombings of the AFP between May and November.
“After meeting with evacuees from Marawi and indigenous Lumad communities, it was clear that Duterte’s martial law in Mindanao not only razed Marawi to the ground, but has committed grave human rights violations against the people. Despite Duterte’s statements, Marawi is not liberated,” said May Madarang of GABRIELA NY, who reported the findings of a recent international humanitarian mission to Mindanao. “We ask the community at large to rise up against the unjust treatment of the Lumad and Moro People, to resist fascism and tyranny in the Philippines and everywhere.”
This intensification of state sanctioned violence and militarism comes at the heels of US President Trump’s meeting with Duterte at the East Asia Summit. Trump politically and financially backed the human rights abuses of the Duterte administration by congratulating Duterte on his anti-drug and anti-terrorism efforts and pledging an increase of more than $16 million of military aid. Additionally, the US is initiating an economic Free Trade Agreement with the Philippines and eyeing the country as a “prime piece of real estate” for military basing.
“The US has even more firmly attached its puppet strings to Duterte, supporting Duterte’s fascism and moves toward a full fledged dictatorship,” said Rhonda Ramiro, vice chairperson of BAYAN USA, in a recent statement.
In light of the steadily mounting number of state-sanctioned killings and human rights abuses under Duterte’s administration, the organizers of Sunday’s protest called on overseas Filipinos to resist the imminent threat of a US-Duterte dictatorship.
“Kian de los Santos’ mother was an OFW too. She had to fly back home to bury—not visit—her son. Is this the Philippines that you want when you go back to visit your families?” said Dominique Liwanag of MIGRANTE NY. “We Filipino migrants and OFWs are not just going to sit here and watch you do what you want. We will hold you accountable, Mr. President, for all the human rights violations you have committed.”