Anakbayan Long Beach lobbies CSULB ASI to endorse Philippine Human Rights Act

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Courtesy of Anakbayan Long Beach

A demonstration by Anakbayan Long Beach in front of the Philippine consulate in Koreatown.

Students and activists have urged Cal State Long Beach’s student government, Associated Students Incorporated (ASI), to endorse the Philippine Human Rights Act (PHRA) during the student body’s last three weekly meetings.

The PHRA would stop US funding of Phillipine military and police until human rights conditions improve in the country.

Human Rights Watch found that President Rodrigo Duterte’s War on Drugs has caused the deaths of over 12,000 Filipinos, and his new Anti-Terror Act puts an extremely broad definition of terrorism in place that allows government dissenters to be denied due process. Activists and members of the media are often “red-tagged,” accused of being communists and singled out for violence and harassment.

Among the organizations that asked their members and social media followers to make public comments in support of the PHRA at ASI’s virtual meetings on Oct. 7, Oct. 14 and Oct. 21 were Anakbayan Long Beach, the Pilipino American Coalition, Malaya SoCal and Kabataan Alliance.

“As a first year student in the Cal State system who feels empowered enough to speak out about the current political conditions of the Philippines, not only within my organization Anakbayan Long Beach, but within school as well, I am fearful for the fact that I may be targeted by the Philippine government for openly advocating against the administration’s treatment of activists such as myself due to the anti-terror law,” Hal Saga, a Cal State Fullerton student, said during their public comment Wednesday, Oct. 21. “I’ve heard firsthand stories of how my fellow organizers of various national organizations here in the United States have been doxxed by the undersecretary of President Duterte due to their outspoken critique. The Filipino people here and abroad are under a dangerous form of leadership, with not only the people here being doxxed, but with people in the Philippines being killed for their political beliefs as well. We ask that Cal State Long Beach pass a resolution in support of the Philippine Human Rights Act, cutting all US tax dollars towards militarization in the Philippines that harms the urban poor, the working class and activists until the Duterte administration is held accountable.”

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?? Calling all students, workers, staffers and professors at CSULB ?? Join @kabataanalliance, @malaya.socal, @lb_pac and Anakbayan LB in mobilizing to ASI Senate’s public comment on Wed 10/7, 10/14, and 10/21 at 3:30pm in support of the Philippine Human Rights Act! The PHRA will “suspend US security assistance to the Philippines until such time as human rights violations by Philippine security forces cease and the responsible state forces are held accountable.” In response to the Duterte government’s state sanctioned killings, mass displacement of indigenous people, repression of press freedom and the harassment of human rights defenders through the passing of the Anti-Terror Law, join the movement to cut US aid to the Philippines! To RSVP, check out our new carrd link : anakbayanlb.carrd.co and visit the “call to action” section ?? #csulb4phra #students4phra #junkterrorlaw #stopthekillingsph #oustduterte #monthofrage

A post shared by Anakbayan Long Beach (@anakbayanlb) on

The resolution to endorse the PHRA was passed by the ASI Senate, with all 19 senate members voting in favor of the resolution. The resolution will now be sent to the ASI President, Omar Prudencio Gonzalez. If accepted, an endorsement of the PHRA will be posted on the university’s website, according to Paula Abad of Anakbayan Long Beach.

The PHRA would stop the US from providing “security assistance,” to the Philippines, a program that provides funding, training and equipment to the military and police forces of allied nations.

“We recognize the role that our US tax dollars play in being sent to the Philippine military and police in creating these conditions to terrorize and impact people’s lives negatively there– everything from the drug war, to the exercises that they use to train Philippine military, to the arrests and red tagging of multiple activists,” Abad said. “And so we really want everyone on every level, starting from the schools, to really take that into consideration and help us gather momentum for this bill. And so, for our end, we’ve been lobbying ASI.”

A similar effort to get Cal State Dominguez Hills and the California State Student Association (CSSA) to endorse the act is also ongoing.

The first representative to champion the bill was Representative Susan Wild of Pennsylvania, according to Abad. The bill quickly found other supporters in Congress, including Congressman Alan Lowenthal who represents Long Beach. Although Lowenthal is already co-sponsoring the bill, activists are asking him “to go above and beyond,” and call for special hearings on the human rights abuses that have occured in the Philippines due to his positions on both the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission and the Foreign Relations Commission, according to Abad.

If the PHRA were to pass through Congress, the Philippine government would have to meet the following standards before their US funding is reinstated:

(1) Investigate and successfully prosecute members of military and police forces who have violated human rights, ensuring that the military and police cooperated in such cases, and affirm that such violations have ceased;
(2) Withdraw the military from involvement in domestic policing activities, in accordance with the Philippine Constitution and ensure that all domestic police functions are separated from the military chain of command and are instead directly responsible to civilian authorities;
(3) Establish that it effectively protects the rights of trade unionists, journalists, human rights defenders, critics of the government, and other civil society activists to operate without interference;
(4) Take effective steps to guarantee a judicial system that is capable of investigating, prosecuting, and bringing to justice members of the police and military who have committed human rights abuses; and
(5) Fully complied with domestic and United States audits and investigations regarding the improper use of prior security assistance.

Anakbayan Long Beach is the local chapter of the progressive youth and student organization, Anakbayan, which began in the Philippines over two decades ago. The Long Beach chapter was started in 2014, and is frequently involved in organizing on CSULB’s campus, with many of its members being students and alums of the university.

A summer 2020 protest by Anakbayan Long Beach outside the Philippine consulate in Koreatown. (Courtesy of Anakbayan Long Beach)