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Pinoys in US protest activist 'crackdown' in Philippines

Progressive group BAYAN USA led the protest in commemoration of the International Human Rights Day at the Philippine Center in New York. BAYAN USA

MANILA, Philippines — A group of Filipinos gathered at the Philippine Center in New York to protest activist killings in the Philippines and oppose the supposed threat of dictatorship under the Duterte administration.

Around 40 activists with the US chapter of progressive group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, or Bayan, joined the protest on December 10, International Human Rights Day, to decry what they called the intensifying repression that has seen the deaths of 10 activists within two days.

They were referring to the deaths of Catholic priest Marcelito Paez in Nueva Ecija, pastor Lovelito Quiñones in Oriental Mindoro  and eight Lumad leaders in South Cotabato province earlier this month.

Groups in the Philippines also marked International Human Rights Day with rallies at the Bonifacio Shrine in Manila and in other venues in the provinces.

"As overseas Filipinos and the international community, we must call for the end of [President Rodrigo] Duterte's crackdown against community leaders, activists and critics of his fascist regime," the New York City-based activists said. 

They said that "as residents of the United States, we must also call out the role of the US in enabling the human rights abuses" in the Philippines.

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President Duterte and his policies enjoy wide support, including among overseas Filipinos.

'US militarization in Philippines'

The protesters said the recent crackdown on activists and human rights advocates pave the way for an increased US military presence in the country.

US President Donald Trump, who considers the Philippines 'strategic real estate', has hinted at better military ties between the two countries and is open to a free trade agreement with the Philippines.

Bayan USA, however, considers the FTA "one-sided and only beneficial to US neo-colonial rule over the Philippines."

Bayan, like other national democratic activist groups blame imperialism, particularly by the US, for poverty and inequality in the Philippines. They believe the US dictates policies on the Philippine government and that those policies favor American interests.

The group also said officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Department of National Defense officials met with their US counterparts to discuss collaboration on maritime security, humanitarian assistance, cybersecurity, counter-terrorism, drug prevention and other issues.

"What this translates to is increased US militarization in times of disaster, continuing the US war on terror on Philippine soil, intensifying attacks on activists and people’s organizations through US-designed counter-insurgency programs,  and more funding for Duterte’s deadly drug war," Bayan USA vice chair Rhonda Ramiro said in a statement.

PNP Director General Ronald Bato dela Rosa's visit recent to the US would most likely solidify an arms deal with the US State Department, according to Bayan USA. This deal would include about 27,000 assault rifles for the police, the group also said.

“The trampling of Philippine sovereignty and increase of US military and economic aid goes hand in hand with an increase in human rights violations,” Ramiro said.

Duterte recently brought the police back into the war on drugs after barring them for almost two months following deaths of teenagers. The police will provide support to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, which remains the lead agency in the conduct of anti-narcotics operations.

RELATED: Pinoys in Netherlands to picket vs killings, rights violations under Duterte

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