July 26, 2021

In Letter to Secretary of State Blinken, Senators Van Hollen, Markey, Colleagues Urge the United States to Press the Philippine Government on Human Rights Violations

Today, Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia and the Pacific, and their colleagues Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Jeffrey A. Merkley (D-Ore.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Richard J Durbin (D-Ill.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken to express their concerns about the human rights situation in the Philippines and seek to better understand the Biden administration’s strategy for addressing the Duterte government’s pattern of human rights violations. The senators urged the Biden administration “to stand with the people of the Philippines as they continue to fight for their universal human rights.”

“Maintaining a bilateral relationship such as this requires upholding shared values— the protection of human rights, including freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and vibrant democratic governance,” wrote the lawmakers in their letter to Secretary Blinken. “Yet Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has waged a multi-year extrajudicial, violent, and inhumane ‘war on drugs’ that has devastated communities, and has been used as justification to target the independent press, political opponents, human rights advocates, and compromise judicial due process. The UN Human Rights Council estimates tens of thousands of people have lost their lives to Duterte’s so-called war on drugs. Allegations of extrajudicial police misconduct — including collaboration with vigilantes, fabricated reports, and planted evidence — are rampant. Opposition figures, journalists, and activists critical of the killing campaign frequently find themselves targeted by the Duterte government.”

Specifically, the lawmakers ask Secretary Blinken to respond to a series of questions related to the administration’s policies towards the Philippines and the Duterte government, including:

·       Whether the State Department has raised the Duterte government’s systemic human rights abuses in discussions with representatives of the Philippine government;

·       Whether the Biden administration is considering any sanctions against Philippine government officials related to the systemic human rights abuses;

·       Whether the Biden administration has pressed the Philippine government to end the unjust detention of Senator Leila De Lima, who has been detained  for four years in a politically motivated case related to her criticisms of the Duterte government;

·       Whether the Biden administration has pressed the Philippine government to drop its politically motivated cases against Journalist Maria Ressa;

·       Whether the Biden administration has communicated its concerns about the Philippine government’s practice of “red-tagging’ opposition figures, journalists, and activists who criticize the government;

·       And, how the Biden administration is taking into consideration the Philippine government’s systemic human rights abuses as it reviews U.S. security assistance and arms sales to the Philippines.

The full text of the letter can be found HERE.