It is highly unusual for the office of President Joe Biden in the White House to speak out directly and offer condolences to a victim of human rights violations in the Philippines with whom it is strengthening military cooperation by occupying nine Philippine military bases.
Alex Dolorosa, a young dedicated and committed Filipino labor rights worker, was brutally murdered in Bacolod, Negros Occidental. It is one of many murders of human rights workers that have continued to shock the international human rights community. Alex was a committed human rights worker, one of the young leaders that this country needs to challenge the evil exploitation and oppression of workers as guaranteed by the constitution.
Many international and Philippine human rights organizations are one in condemning the brutal murder of Alex Dolorosa and of hundreds of others that have happened in recent years. The United States spokesperson at the office of President Joe Biden at the White House issued a message: “We extend our condolences to Dolorosa’s family and friends, as well as the greater international labor union and LGBTQI+ communities who loved him.”
The Philippines, once known as a truly Christian country for its gentle, kind-hearted, and welcoming people, has become known in recent years as a killing field for extra-judicial murders. Once a beacon of hope for the rule of law in a democratic society, it is now a country that has one of the worst records of human rights violations in Asia because of a small group of killers operating with impunity.
Critics are threatened and punished with death by the powerful who heap shame and condemnation on themselves by the international community. Most Filipinos are too scared to protest. Through manipulation of social media, it is a nation ruled by dynastic families that hold the economy in their iron grip.
The evidence of corrupt government deals, well-documented, emerge frequently, like the purchase of laptops for the Department of Education that were never paid for and sold on-line, to the purchase of over-priced vaccines for the nation struck down by Covid-19.
The Philippine National Police has already stated that it is has shot dead as many as 7,000 citizens in “lawful” shoot-outs with suspected drug users and pushers in the on-going war against drugs. They say they were ordered to do so. However, the secret unofficial death squads have, according to civil society organizations and rights campaigners, killed as many as 30,000 victims.
With this record and President Joseph Biden welcoming President Ferdinand Marcos to the White House, the United States has to show concern and support for the victims of the bloody trail of innocent blood across the Philippines and to appease the local and US critics of rights abuses that will not be silenced.
The major issue is how can the United States get into bed with the Philippine government and military while allegations abound that some of the members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police or their hit squads are slaughtering Philippine rights workers, journalists, critics and defenders of justice and human dignity?
President Ferdinand Marcos, his cabinet and the dynasties that support him are alert to the sever downside and negative impact in the world stage, the economy and relations with the US, of the shoot-to-kill policy of his predecessor, branding critics as terrorists and criminals. That legacy is facing an ICC investigation that the present administration would be wise to distance itself from, once and for all.
They are smart enough to know that the United States and the administration of President Biden can’t afford to be seen as coddling a regime that appears to allow such atrocities. Can the Philippines walk proud on the international stage with such a dark cloud of the past overshadowing it?
The huge military deployment by the United States in the Philippines to counter the possible invasion of Taiwan by China has a positive side effect. Besides the obvious dangers of making the Philippines a target, and a US brothel spawning abandoned Filipino- American children in their wake, positive outcomes are possible.
The US engagement and military investment and political encouragement give some hope for a change of course by the Philippine government. If Philippine officials of conscience see benefits of governing a civilized nation with dignity by scaling down the hyped up anti-communist rhetoric, ending human rights abuses, banishing the death squads, freeing political prisoners, ending the killings and arbitrary arrests and giving human rights workers the protection as mandated by the constitution, the benefits to them and the nation will be enormous.
The government and the president will have a standing of greater respect and prestige in the international community and a huge boost to the economy. The EU will drop its planned cancellation of the tax waiver it is presently giving the Philippines.
In return for respect for human rights and no going back on the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) at this time, there will be a huge increase in US spending on the Philippine military and US aid if the Philippine human rights abuses decrease, impunity ends and political prisoners are freed and the rule of law and accountability is implemented.
In a US election year that is 2024, President Joseph Biden cannot be shamed, embarrassed and criticized, by his domestic political opponents for apparently condoning or consenting to gross human rights abuses in the Philippines, a close US ally in Asia.
The US military and navy would have justified its build up in the nine military and naval bases so far if it takes a more robust stance in support of the Philippine Coast Guard that is being bullied and bruised by the Chinese ships that are trying to maintain the false claim to the coastal territorial waters of the West Philippine Sea.
The oil and gas reserve beneath those waters is the bonanza that awaits the future Philippine population (and Western and Philippine oil and gas companies) if and when regional stability is established.
That will happen when the United States has a strong naval deterrence force patrolling with the Philippine Coast Guard in the West Philippine Sea and also when the United States and the Philippine military complete its full deployment of retaliatory missile sites in the nine RP/US bases (perhaps more).
Its plan is to create a powerful missile perimeter as a deterrence to counter the threatened invasion by China who claims all of Taiwan although it has never ruled the island that was then called Formosa.
Philippine cooperation is vital for the United States alliance in the Southeast Asia to protect Taiwan but it must earn that by helping protect the Philippines.
Irish Father Shay Cullen, SSC, established the Preda Foundation in Olongapo City in 1974 to promote human rights and the rights of children, especially victims of sex abuse. The views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of LiCAS.news.