In July, routine and peaceful protests of the Philippine president’s yearly “state of the nation” (SONA) speech were transformed into yet another example of current president Rodrigo Duterte’s growing fascism. Socially distanced protests were held in Manila, other parts of the Philippines, and among the Filipino diaspora abroad and in the U.S. They were organized by a politically diverse coalition of labor, progressive and socialist groups under the slogan of “SONAgkaisa”, nagkaisa meaning “united” in Tagalog.
Duterte and his Department of Justice tried to declare the protest illegal, citing Covid-19 restrictions. Duterte’s response to Covid-19 has been characterized by neglecting public health, deploying militarized police lockdowns and mass arresting “quarantine violators,” crowding more people into one of the most congested and dangerous carceral systems in the world. 141 were arrested in connection to the demonstrations. Four women from an organization of the urban poor were even arrested for participating in an online protest.
Since that time, government repression has escalated. In August, Duterte’s Anti-Terror Law went into effect. The law’s vague definition of terrorism grants the government the power to label its critics as terrorists, and allows wiretapping without notice, arrest without warrant, and detention for up to 24 days—beyond the limit prescribed by the Philippine Constitution.
On August 10th, Randy Enchanis, 72-year old leader of Anakpawis Partylist, the electoral wing of the Kilusang Mayo Uno labor center and Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas peasant organization, was tortured and murdered by suspected state forces, alongside his neighbor. At the time of Enchanis’ funeral, Zara Alvarez, a Karapatan human rights worker from the island of Negros, a hot spot for repression and resistance, was assassinated by unknown gunmen after receiving death threats for her activism.
The Anti-Terror Law applies to Philippine citizens and nationals no matter where they are in the world. This is only one aspect of the internationalization of the government’s militarism. In 2018, the Philippine National Police, infamous for tens of thousands of “drug war” killings, set up outposts in San Francisco and somewhere on the East Coast. We oppose these outposts, which we believe have been set up to spy on activists with the cooperation and complicity of Trump’s intelligence agencies. They do not serve the interests of the people of the U.S. or the Philippines.
Democratic Socialists of America calls for an end to the violent repression of political dissent in the Philippines. To that end, we call on the U.S. government to immediately cease all funding and related support to the Philippine military and police.
We call on our elected representatives to join Representatives Susan Wild, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, and Ilhan Omar in introducing and passing the Philippine Human Rights Act. This bill aims to suspend US security assistance to the Philippines until human rights violations by Philippine security officials cease and responsible state forces are held accountable. Although it has only recently been introduced into the House, it already has a total of 21 cosponsors. Advocates are working to get more supporters from both parties and the Senate. Human rights bills directly targeting U.S. militarism have a long and uphill battle to get through both branches of Congress and signed into law by the US President, so it is essential to do community organizing, education, and alliance-building to mobilize support for the cause.
To that end, we call on our members to continue to support peaceful resistance to the Duterte administration through their local chapters and in cooperation with Filipino and Filipina comrades living in the U.S.. There are about 4 million Filipinos spread across the U.S. with major concentrations in Hawaii, across California, and in Chicago, Houston, and the New York City metropolitan area. We recommend that chapters in these cities organize political education events for our membership in collaboration with local Filipino activists, and for all chapters to share this statement with general membership.
DSA stands in solidarity with Filipinos communities, on both sides of the Pacific and around the world, who are fighting for their rights and livelihoods, for their country’s genuine independence from U.S. imperialism, and for democratic socialism.
If you wish to get more involved, email [email protected].