November 29, 2023
From November 6-9, over 120 human rights advocates from over 30 organizations across the globe attended ICHRP’s Conference on US Counterinsurgency and its Impacts on Aspirations for Peace in the Philippines and its 4th Global Assembly in Bangkok, Thailand. Labour, Peasant, Faith, Indigenous and Women’s and Human Rights defenders bore witness to the ongoing impacts of US counterinsurgency tactics in the Philippines and planned how to expand and advance the solidarity movement for a just and lasting peace and people’s rights in the Philippines under the new Marcos regime.
Conference on US Counterinsurgency
The conference exposed the ongoing violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, including indiscriminate aerial bombings, hamletting, extra-judicial killings, disappearances, intensifying suppression of civil liberties, slanderous designation of respected leaders as terrorists via the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), and relentless red-tagging of activists, progressive organizations, and solidarity activists via the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).
Edith Burgos of the Karapatan National Council, identified the counterinsurgency programs of the Marcos government as “responsible for the steadily deteriorating human rights situation in the Philippines and escalating violations of International Humanitarian Law directed against the Filipino people.”
Burgos’ criticism of Marcos’ counterinsurgency programs exposed that the human rights atrocities committed by the Philippine military and police are not only aided and abetted by US military aid (over 1 billion US dollars since 2015) and the presence of nine US military bases in the country – but patterned after US counterinsurgency tactics.
Suzanne Adely, President of the US National Lawyers Guild, explained counterinsurgency as “the organized use of subversion and violence to seize, nullify, or challenge political control of a region.” She noted that the US has employed counterinsurgency tactics since its colonial operations in the Philippines began in 1898. She further pointed out how the use of the term “insurgency” attempts to delegitimize people’s resistance, including armed resistance, as “terrorism,” and drew parallels between the Palestinian people’s struggle for liberation and the Filipino people’s fight against the US-backed Marcos Jr. regime.
Edre Olalia, President of the National Union of People’s Lawyers in the Philippines, explained the significance of International Humanitarian Law in the context of the current situation in the Philippines. Olalia expounded that contrary to US counterinsurgency doctrine, armed resistance movements in response to the severe oppression of peoples is legal under the Geneva conventions, and further emphasized the importance of the protection of civilians and non- combatants in the context of civil war.
ICHRP chairperson Peter Murphy emphasized the critical role of solidarity in supporting the Filipino people’s aspirations for a just and lasting peace that is free from the injustice of poverty, landlessness, and state repression. He reflected on ICHRP’s role in investigating and exposing the dire human rights situation as well as coordinating an election observers mission which found massive fraud, vote-buying, red-tagging and intimidation during the 2022 elections.
“The devastating number of attacks that continue under the Marcos Jr. regime in the Philippines – the many disappearances, the forced surrenderees, and the killings of NDFP peace consultants, are all violations of international humanitarian law done in the guise of US-designed counterinsurgency programs. The international community must oppose these.”
4th General Assembly
The Conference also saw ICHRP renew its leadership group with new members elected to the ICHRP Global Council:
- Claire Chastain (Catalonia), representing the Catalan Association for Peace (ACPAU), incoming Deputy Secretary General;
- Sheryl Cadman (New Zealand), representing Aotearoa-Philippine Solidarity;
- Doug Booker (Canada), representing Ontario Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines;
- Drew Miller (USA), incoming General Secretary, representing Katarungan Washington DC; and
- Jessie Braverman (USA), representing Kalikasan Solidarity Organization in Portland, Oregon.
In addition, returning global council members include:
- Peter Murphy (Australia), re-elected ICHRP Chairperson from Philippines-Australia Union Link;
- Rev. Jeong Jin-Woo (Korea) of Diaspora Church, outgoing ICHRP Vice-Chairperson, incoming member-at-large;
- Rev. Patricia Lisson (Canada), newly elected ICHRP Vice Chairperson;
- Jennifer Del Rosario-Malonzo (IBON International); and
- Rev. Sadie Stone (USA) of the United Methodist Church California-Nevada Regional Taskforce.
For their dedicated service to ICHRP and solidarity with the Filipino people against tyranny and in their ongoing struggle for basic democratic, social and economic rights, ICHRP thanks the previous and departing global council members: John Witeck (Hawaii), Archbishop Joris Vercammen (Netherlands), Luciano Sellers (Italy), Ma Jai (Hong Kong), Rev Michael Yoshii (USA).
Thirty-one of ICHRP’s growing number of member organizations were able to attend the conference. The conference saw membership expansion to new regions such as India and Catalonia. Organizations from Canada to India, France to Australia committed to strengthening solidarity support for the Filipino people, continuing to conduct broad education and information dissemination on the situation in the Philippines, lobby their respective government bodies, and oppose foreign support for war crimes in the country.
The Assembly also included a first post-pandemic face-to-face meeting of members of the global interfaith network attended by about 30 members including the General Secretary of the National Council of Churches of the Philippines and a round table on Labour which included representatives from the KMU, the CGT in France and labour activists from New Zealand, Australia, the US and other parts of Europe.
The Global Assembly also revised the by-laws (eliminating the staff position of global coordinator and shifting those responsibilities to the elected position of General Secretary), and approved a three-year program and comprehensive action plan. In light of the intensifying counterinsurgency under the Marcos regime, the general assembly united on resolutions to wage campaigns against the Anti-Terror Act, National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, and to Stop the Bombings in the Philippines. We look forward to working with our global network to build and strengthen solidarity through this plan and around other emerging issues over the next three years.
ICHRP Global Council