This Hindipendence Day, Filipino youth in BC rise up to demand true liberation and independence for the Philippines. Only when our country is no longer a semi-colony of the US, when our resources enrich our people and not foreign interests, and when our people are no longer killed, disappeared, and detained for fighting for their rights — only then can we truly be free.
The US-Duterte regime has inflicted militarized terror upon the Filipino people, just as its predecessors have. This violence is done to preserve the interests of US imperialism and other foreign powers in the Philippines. While the Filipino people starve and die under a state of bureaucrat-capitalist and feudal exploitation, the comprador bourgeoisie and big landlord classes profit through their traitorous alliance with US imperialism.
Alongside maintaining ties to the US, Duterte has expanded the influence of countries like China, cementing his role as a local middleman working to facilitate foreign interests through political power. Duterte has done nothing to resolve the dispute over Chinese incursions into the West Philippine Sea, not only capitulating to the plunder of oil, mineral, and fishery resources and ignoring the militarization and environmental destruction brought by China’s reclamation sites, but also entering into exploitative funding agreements for development projects like the Kaliwa Dam, which threatens to displace Indigenous communities along the Cordillera’s Chico River.
Resistance against these acts of imperialist exploitation are met with armed oppression by the state. Instead of defending Philippine sovereignty and providing for the Filipino people, the Duterte regime has escalated the age-old tactics of redtagging to incite harassment against activists, human rights defenders, and all critics and dissenters. Well before the passage of the 2020 Anti-Terrorism Act, Duterte’s crackdown on dissent included martial law in Mindanao and the threatening of Lumad (Indigenous) communities and schools with bombing, destruction and closure on the grounds of breeding “rebellion” against the Philippine government. The US-Duterte regime’s mass crackdown on human rights defenders and environmentalists has earned for the Philippines the titles of most dangerous country in the world for land defenders in 2019, and one of the most dangerous for journalists and lawyers.
The 2020 Anti-Terrorism Act has only served to legalize the redtagging of activists and human rights defenders, with brutal and often lethal consequences. Accompanying the escalation in extrajudicial killings and state-sanctioned murders is the unjust imprisonment of dissenters. There are 694 political prisoners currently jailed in overcrowded prisons in the Philippines, where the risk of COVID-19 is greatly exacerbated. Activists are arrested without warrant and jailed for months and even years without being able to defend themselves in court. One such example is Karina Dela Cerna, an activist with the National Network for Agrarian Reform Advocates-Youth who was arrested in the series of raids on national-democratic organizations in Negros at the end of 2019. She has spent two birthdays in prison, and only saw a judge to plead her case at the end of 2020.
Reina Mae Nasino, a human rights worker and member of the urban poor organization Kadamay, was arrested in November 2019 and remains in prison. Her infant child, River, was separated from her one month after her birth in July, 2020. Despite pleas from the international community to keep Reina and River together, baby River was separated from her mother. She died at the age of three months old.
Duterte’s hands are stained with the blood of baby River and the blood of human rights activists like Attorney Ben Ramos, Zara Alvarez, Randy Echanis, Randy Malayao, Bae Merlin Ansabo Celis, and Ricardo Mayumi, all of whom were killed within the last three years. Even as legal avenues for civil dissent are narrowing, the situation for peasants and workers in the Philippines worsens by the day. The root cause of the ongoing civil war in the Philippines is the mass poverty which directly benefits foreign corporate interests. Because the US-backed government has chosen to target land defenders, human rights defenders, and other activists, there are those who have taken up arms against their oppression with the New People’s Army, and have organized self-government through the Communist Party of the Philippines and other revolutionary organizations. All of these organizations together are represented by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
Yet Duterte has chosen to unilaterally cancel peace talks between the GRP and the NDFP. Instead, under Duterte, NDFP consultants have been targeted and killed by unidentified gunmen, a method characteristic of state-sanctioned political killings in the Philippines, or overtly by state forces such as the PNP and AFP. These include Rustico L. Tan, Reynaldo Bocala, and Willy Epago, who were all murdered at the end of May of this year. Tan, Bocala, and Epago should have been protected by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) signed in 1995, but instead have been the victims of extrajudicial killings and harassment.
Under these conditions, it is no surprise that the Philippines continues to be one of the world’s largest source countries for migrant labour. We trace our mass labour migration to the Labor Export Policy formalized by Ferdinand Marcos in 1974. This policy commodified Filipinos as labour sources for foreign powers and acted as a pressure valve on the simmering political tensions and socioeconomic frustrations of Filipinos within the country, encouraging Filipinos to seek opportunity elsewhere and diverting energy away from organizing for change in their homeland. Today, migration serves the same purpose at an ever-growing scale. In 2019, approximately 6,000 Filipinos left the country each day.
Filipino migrants are caught in a double bind. International migration has been stifled by the COVID-19 pandemic. Recognizing the impacts of “brain drain” (the mass migration of trained professionals out of the Philippines), Duterte put a cap on the number of nurses allowed to leave the country during the pandemic — yet this does little to address the root causes of migration, and instead puts increasing pressure on individual workers who continue to compete for the same number of positions. Despite the clear need for nurses and other medical workers in the country, they remain underpaid, overworked, and unsupported with PPE, benefits, and hazard pay. Many prefer to leave the country or the profession rather than burn themselves out and open themselves to the possibility of contracting COVID-19. Duterte also revealed his true colours behind the healthcare worker migration ban when he offered to lift the cap on Filipino nurses for Germany and Britain in exchange for vaccine shipments, treating Filipino migrant workers as pawns for political maneuvering.
In their new countries, Filipino migrants continue to face oppression. Migrant workers are underpaid and hyperexploited. Carlo Escario is a frontline healthcare worker who has tirelessly served the Canadian public during the COVID-19 pandemic — yet the Government of Canada threatened to deport him due to a mistake on his permanent residency application. His deportation was originally scheduled for May 13th, 2021, but through mass action and concerted organization, his deportation was stayed for long enough for him to get his second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Since his vaccination, however, Carlo is once again under threat of deportation. We see that the Canadian government is willing to treat Filipino migrant workers as expendable, even and especially during a global health crisis.
The realities of migration also mean that Filipino migrants in receiving countries face the trauma of family separation and systemic racism. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, anti-Asian violence is on the rise, escalating the isolation and loneliness Filipino migrants feel being so far away from their families in the Philippines. These issues are deeply tied to the mass exploitation ongoing in our homeland. We cannot understand our conditions in the diaspora without understanding the forces that pushed us to migrate in the first place. Our economic and human rights, our health and well-being, and our dignity as a people are fundamentally threatened by US imperialism, bureaucrat capitalism, and feudalism in our homeland.
Yet our victories — historical and ongoing — also show us that organizing works. Collective action and focused study work. We call on the Filipino diaspora in Vancouver to join us in calling for national liberation from US imperialism, freedom from all foreign control, and a genuine, representative democracy in the Philippines.
Oust Duterte Now!
Free All Political Prisoners!
Ang Tao Ang Bayan Ngayon Ay Lumalaban!
Makibaka Wag Matakot!
Burukratang Kapitalismo Ibagsak!
Duterte Mismo Babagsak!