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“Basagin ang pananahimik” – Fil-Am Human Rights group

United States congress human rights commission to investigate human rights violation in the Philippines Photo © ABS-CBN News

APPARENTLY encouraged by the strong support of American legislators during last Thursday’s hearing of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the United States Congress, Philippine human rights advocates urged Filipino-Americans to intensify protest against extra-judicial killings.

Ellecer Carlos, spokesperson of In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (iDefend), called on all Filipino Americans to add their voices to the growing international clamor for the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte to respect of human rights and the rule of law in the Philippines.

“Basagin na po natin ang pananahimik. Ipagtanggol ang karapatang pantao. Nanawagan ako sa mga Filipino Americans na tumulong na basagin ang katahimikang ito sa ating bayan,” Carlos pleaded.

Carlos spoke on various fora in five US cities from June 25 to July 5 before attending the Tom Lantos hearing. His tour was sponsored by the Filipino American Human Rights Alliance (FAHRA).

During the hearing, American lawmakers, a Republican and a Democrat, both denounced the administration of President Duterte for its alleged complicity, if not outright promotion of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.

Rep. James McGovern (R-Bakersfield), chair the human rights commission, even went on to say that he will personally lead a protest rally if ever President Duterte comes to the US on invitation of US President Donald Trump.

“No other country – I repeat that, ‘no other country’ – comes to mind where people are assassinated on the streets in the name of fighting drugs, and leaders brag about it as a good thing,” McGovern said at one point during the live streamed conduct of the hearing.

McGovern said the Us government can not “afford to have any degree of complicity with the kinds of human rights violations that are occurring.” Rep. Jackie Speier (D- San Mateo) aired a similar sentiment.

“We need to call this deranged policy out for its state-sanctioned vigilantism that contravenes the rule of law and damages the international standing of the Philippines,” Speier said.

Speier also criticized US President Trump for cozying up with Duterte who has brazenly announced that he “don’t care about human rights and called President Obama son of a whore.”

“It is critical that both Congress and the President condemn President Duterte’s unacceptable human rights abuses in the strongest possible terms and to take concrete action to ensure that the United States is not enabling these practices,” Speier stressed.

Speier has championed the causes of Filipino Americans in the US Congress. She sponsored the Filipino American Veterans Fairness Act. She plans to re-sponsor and re-introduce the said bill.

Aside from the iDEFEND, other parties that participated in the hearing were Matthew Wells, senior crisis advisor of Amnesty International and Phelim Kine, deputy director of Human Rights Watch Asia Division.

Abner Galino
The author is a poet and a writer. He was a cultural worker before he became a reporter for Tinig ng Masa and Malaya Midday Edition during the Marcos regime. He later became a reporter of People's Tonight shortly after 1986 EDSA Revolution. He went on to become its Chief of Reporters, City Editor and News Editor. He retired after 15 years in the Journal Group of Publications. He now writes for Weekend Balita and the US Asian Post (USAP), weekly Filipino-American newspapers based in Los Angeles, California.

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