On Dec. 14, progressive Filipino community organizers hosted a press conference at Dr. Jose Rizal Park to condemn a recent tour by officials from the Philippines government. According to the organizers, members of the government’s National Security Council and other agencies had planned to visit Filipino communities in the states between Dec. 10 and 18.
However, the organizers claimed that the officials canceled the tour midway-through, before its expected stop in Seattle that day.
Organizers had planned to use the tour to protest the government’s counterinsurgency policies. In 2020, former president Rodrigo Duterte signed the Anti-Terrorism Act, which gave the government broad powers to crackdown on groups accused of aiding terrorism. Some opposition organizations, such as Gabriela Seattle, have been labeled terrorist organizations, a practice activists call “terror tagging.”
Since the June inauguration of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., the son of the late dictator, the government has been criticized for continuing these repressive tactics.
Marie Artap, the regional coordinator for Bayan Seattle, said that some of the officials were part of a task force that attacks opposition groups and accuses them of aiding armed insurgent groups in the country.
“The government bureaucracy that has no intention to promote peace, reconciliation and unity, but instead uses millions of their Filipino people’s tax dollars to spread anti-people propaganda and blatant lies to attack the National Democratic Movement and all of the critics of the Philippine government,” Artap said.
“Honestly, I do think they utilize these tactics because they are afraid of the growing mass movement in the Philippines,” Artap said.
Organizers also decried the tour as a wasteful public relations stunt, costing the Philippines government 3.7 million Philippine pesos (approximately $67,000), which could have gone toward other needs.
The organizers claimed that the U.S. has played a role in aiding and abetting the Philippines government’s counterinsurgency strategies. They said that many aspects of terror tagging were directly borrowed from America’s “War on Terror.” They also highlighted U.S. military aid and arms sales to the Philippines.
According to the Center for International Policy, the United States has sold more than $900 million in arms and provided more than $1.3 billion dollars in security assistance to the Philippines since 2002.
Jessica Valdez, a member of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines Seattle, called on the U.S. Congress to pass restrictions on aid to the Marcos government.
“We will continue to call for the passage of the Philippine Human Rights Act, which calls for accountability and justice for victims of human rights violations at the hands of our U.S. taxpayer dollars,” Valdez said.
Read more of the Dec. 28, 2022-Jan. 3, 2023 issue.