In a large yet intimate gathering seated around the projector in the middle of Baltimore’s NoMüNoMü gallery on Aug. 18, the Black Alliance for Peace- Baltimore and Malaya Baltimore held a discussion “From the Philippines to Baltimore: The Indo-Pacific Command, Neocolonialism, and You!” The event was part of BAP- Baltimore’s “Baltimore Summer School” series. Information handed out at the start of the event explained the exploitative nature of Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF). APEC is a “neoliberal scheme called ‘free trade’ that makes it easy for… transnational corporations … by eliminating labor and environmental protections.”
The story I want to tell has to do with the Philippines in the early twentieth century. But it will also have to do with policing across the United States and here on campus, and ultimately with the University of Chicago. In 1898, the United States declared sovereignty over the Philippine Islands, places which President McKinley and most Americans had no idea even existed. But as a result of the Spanish-American war in 1898 the US did come to learn about the Philippines. It sent its troops there to fight the Spanish, and upon defeating Spain, it seized the Philippines and its millions of inhabitants as its new colonial territory.
For call center workers in the Philippines, attempts to unionize the workplace don’t just entail confrontations with local management—but overseas US-based multinationals and the US federal government’s foreign policy agenda as well. Since 2022, the Biden administration has promoted a new economic initiative known as the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF). Touted as a vehicle for “writing the new rules of the 21st century economy,” the IPEF links 14 nations across the Pacific Rim into an emergent bloc that has been compared to the defunct Trans-Pacific Partnership. Like the TPP before it, the IPEF attempts to build an exclusive economic regional pact that excludes China.
U.S. Secretary of Defense, and former Raytheon board member, Lloyd Austin visited the Philippines, where he met with President Ferdinant Marcos Jr. on Feb. 1 to announce the expansion of the U.S. military presence there, from five to nine bases. The expansion and establishment of these bases are allowed under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). This announcement has sparked outrage among the people of the Philippines, who held mass demonstrations in 1991 and shut down Clark Air Base and Subic Naval Base, which had been used to support the U.S. war of aggression against Vietnam.
The Philippines has agreed to give the US military further access to more local bases across the country. The move was announced by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr on Thursday, February 2, along with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who is on a visit to the country. As per the agreement reached by the two countries, the US will gain access to four new bases under the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). This military access will be facilitated by the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) and will be on top of the already existing EDCA facilities that the US has access to. The EDCA, put in place during Barack Obama’s administration, is the most prominent military agreement signed between the US and the Philippines since the complete withdrawal of US troops in 1992. The agreement gives the US access to strategic military sites in the Philippines, allowing extended stays for US troops, and the building and operation of facilities on Philippine bases.
On June 30, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, son of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, was elected in the presidential election in the Philippines. His coming to power raised concerns about the status of human rights in the country, especially when it comes to red-tagging and other forms of repression of human rights activists. Viva Salud, a Belgian organization working to protect and promote the right to health, met with Tinay Palabay, secretary-general of Karapatan, an alliance that conducts research and advocacy of human rights, to discuss what the new government will bring to health activists. I fear that Marcos will reinforce President Duterte’s culture of impunity. For instance, the new president has promised Duterte protection from international legal proceedings. This means that he cannot be sued for the human rights violations he committed during his time in office. Perpetrators among the state actors are emboldened to continue violating human rights because they’re not held accountable for previous violations.
As Filipino government officials participate in events across New York City over the course of the UN General Assembly, US-based Filipino activists have been determined to raise awareness about dictatorship in the Philippines. Actions have been organized in New York City by organizations such as Anakbayan, the youth wing of larger US-based progressive Filipino organization Bayan, Kabataan Alliance Northeast, an alliance of Filipino youth and student organizations, and the International League of People’s Struggle (ILPS). On September 19, over 70 activists attended a protest and rally at the Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza at the UN Headquarters, as the United Nations Transforming Education Summit convened.
36 years after a popular revolution overthrew the regime of Ferdinand Marcos, the Philippines on May 9 elected the former dictator’s son to the presidency. According to the partial vote count released by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) at 98% reporting, Ferdinand Marcos Jr, also known as Bongbong Marcos, is set to win the presidency by securing around 60% of the popular votes counted so far. Bongbong’s running mate Sara Duterte, daughter of outgoing president Rodrigo Duterte, also won the vice-president’s post with over 61% of the popular votes in total. The marathon round of elections had a turnout of over 80% from among the 67 million eligible voters, electing thousands of officials and legislatures at the national, state and local levels.
I just returned from eight days in Luzon, the largest island in the Philippines, where the capital, Manila, is located. For many years, the movement for national democracy in the Philippines has asked for international solidarity, including human rights defenders to aid them in their struggle for economic and political rights. The presence of people from other countries can help diminish the violence of the Philippine military and national police against the movement. In addition, as national elections approach on May 9 there has been a rise in human rights abuses, and so the need for international solidarity is more pressing.
In the early morning of 30 December 2020, joint police-military units embarked on two simultaneous operations in the mountainous regions of Panay Island in the Philippines. Their assignment was to quell the spread of firearms allegedly proliferating across the region’s provinces by capturing 28 supposed members of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). What the police described as a “regular law enforcement activity” ended up in the brutal killings of nine Indigenous community leaders. Council members of the Tumandok tribe were reportedly asleep when they were gunned down in front of their families, yet police claimed that they fought back and resisted arrest. Days later, residents of the town where the killings took place fled their homes in fear of more state violence.
Earlier this year, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte signed the Anti-Terrorism Act—a law that Amnesty International has called “yet another setback for human rights.” 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. “CWA is 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.”
Over 100 international lawyers and lawyers’ associations issued an open letter to President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, and members of the Congress of the Philippines. The urgent open letter was issued to express high levels of concern about the proposed Anti-Terrorism Bill in the Philippines, which has been harshly criticized for its violations of human rights norms. As the letter notes, “The international community is alarmed by the apparent abuses of power and civil unrest that the law will bring about. It will suppress and criminalize free speech and dissent, label and punish political enemies as terrorists, and unjustly deprive them of basic internationally recognized human rights and due process.”
Junk The VFA! Tubbataha Disaster Shows How Us Military Presence Is Poisonous To The Philippines! — Bayan USA
Filipino-Americans under the banner of BAYAN USA are calling on Philippine President Benigno Aquino III to terminate the US-RP Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) as protesters descended upon the US Embassy in Manila yesterday to rally against the disaster surrounding the USS Guardian, a US naval minesweeper that got stuck onto the Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea over one month ago.
MANILA (Reuters) - Colonel Romeo Caramat oversaw the bloodiest day in the blood-soaked war on drugs in the Philippines – 32 people killed in 24 hours in the province north of Manila where he was police chief in 2017. Now the head of drug enforcement for the Philippine National Police, Caramat said that ultra-violent approach to curbing illicit drugs had not been effective. "Shock and awe definitely did not work," he told Reuters in an interview, speaking out for the first time on the issue. "Drug supply is still rampant."