Rally for Human Rights at the Philippines Consulate in San Francisco
On Monday July 22, Filipino leaders from the Bay Area held a rally at the Philippine Consulate to coincide with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) that he delivers to the Philippines Congress. Every year, in Manila, there is a rally called the People’s SONA delivered as the people’s counter narrative to the President’s address. This rally asserts the true State of the Nation from the people’s lived experience and demands for the government to change the conditions of the Filipino people.
Millions of Filipinos have migrated to countries around the world seeking better economic conditions for their families. These Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) leave their families for work and send a significant portion of their wages, known as remittances, home to support their families. Although remittances help keep the Philippines economy afloat, the OFWs that generate this money are generally in unfavorable situations while working abroad. Economic distress and abuse is a common experience for Filipinos at home and abroad, so the people’s SONA is a protest that happens not just in Manila, but throughout the world as Filipinos organize in protest against the government and its policies that perpetuate these hardships and systems of exploitation.
Gaby Pascua, the Educational Officer at Anakbayan East Bay said that “Every SONA, [President Duterte] makes promises to the people that he doesn’t keep.” But the crowd in San Francisco had very specific demands for the Duterte administration. As Princess Bustos of Migrante Daly City said, “One demand would be to end contractualization in the Philippines. Without having job security, [Filipinos] live a very precarious life. The second demand would have to be fighting for national sovereignty. We have fishermen in the Philippines who can no longer fish in their own water to survive. The third demand is to stop extrajudicial killings, human rights abuses against activists, and the taking of political prisoners.”
There may be hope that at least the US Congress is starting to pay attention to some of the issues raised at the People’s SONA. Just this morning, July 25, the US House of Representatives’ Committee on Foreign Affairs took up the issue of human rights abuses in the Philippines. As the Committee’s chair, Representative Brad Sherman from the Los Angeles area said in his opening remarks, “The human rights situation there (in the Philippines) is appalling” as he talked about the extrajudicial killings in President Duterte’s war against drugs and the denial of rights to the indigenous people of the Philippines.
As Shara Orquiza, member of the League of Filipino Students at San Francisco State University said, “Our top demand is a hearing from Congress, which is already happening on 7/25/2019. We want the truth about the extrajudicial killings happening in the Philippines. Filipino people are forced to move out of the Philippines to find better jobs, but instead a lot of migrant Filipinos and Filipinas end up in abusive or exploitative jobs.”
The New York Times reported on July 11, just a couple of weeks ago, that “The United Nations’ top human rights body voted on Thursday to examine thousands of alleged extrajudicial police killings linked to President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs in the Philippines, a campaign that rights groups around the world have denounced as a lawless atrocity.”
According to the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP-US), they have made demands in advance of this morning’s Foreign Affairs Committee hearing that there be a restriction in aid from the US to the Philippines; mandatory reporting on human rights; and that there be and end to extrajudicial killings and the jailing of people for political purposes.