Regarding Human Rights Violations in the Philippines and the PHRA

In the Philippines, the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, widely known as Anti-Terror Law, was approved by the Philippine Congress and signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte. On July 18, 2020, this act effectively replaced the Human Security Act of 2007. The Anti-Terror Law threatens Filipin@s’ basic human rights and freedom of press. Under the law, the definition of the word “terrorism” is so vague and unclear that it leaves it up to the government’s interpretation. This gives the Philippine government the chance to weaponize the law against voices of opposition, leading to abuse of power both domestically and abroad. Some of the most vulnerable populations that this law targets include journalists, unionists, human rights defenders, indigenous peoples, farmers, and activists. Ethnic studies classes and Filipin@-American organizations abroad, like Kasamahan, can be targeted as well.

In the months leading up to the signing of the Anti-Terror Law, we have already been seeing evidence of the Philippine government violating human rights of Filipin@s. 

  • Arrest of journalist Maria Ressa
  • Shutdown of the ABS-CBN (leading Filipino news network)
  • Arrest of 20 LGBTQ+ protesters
  • School closures affecting indigenous Lumad people
  • Assassinations of outspoken activists like Randy Echanis and Zara Alvarez
  • Release of U.S. Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton (Jennifer Laude’s perpetrator)
  • Granting Reina Mae Nasino (human rights activist and political prisoner) only six hours to attend her daughter’s wake

Actions must be taken against the Anti-Terror Law and the continuing violations of human rights. The Philippine Human Rights Act (PHRA) is an act that is currently being proposed to the U.S. Congress members. It calls on the U.S. to halt security assistance to the Philippines until human rights violations by the Philippine government are stopped and those responsible have been held accountable. Funding for the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) who commit these human rights violations come from our own U.S. tax dollars and ultimately contribute to the Duterte administration expanding their power over Filipin@ people. This act will put pressure on the Philippine government to be more accountable for their actions by suspending U.S. military aid with the Philippines.

We, the members of Kasamahan at the University of San Francisco, call on USF and students to stand in unity and solidarity with Filipin@s around the world. Being members of a Filipin@-American organization, it is a privilege to learn about issues in the Philippines rather than experience the Philippine government’s violation of human rights firsthand. This is not the case for some of our students, family, and friends who live in the Philippines, most vulnerable to the government’s abuse of power.  It is crucial for us to use our privilege to speak up and amplify the voices of fellow Filipin@s. To stand in solidarity with those affected by the Anti-Terror Law is to practice cura personalis and being people for others. The Philippine Human Rights Act is a step to preserving the human rights and freedoms of Filipin@s back home and abroad. These human rights must be protected to empower people with the dignity and respect they deserve.

Isang Bagsak