ICHRP Statement on the 126th Anniversary of Philippine Independence Day

June 12, 2024

The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) salutes the valiant Filipino people who fought for Philippine Independence 126 years ago. On this day in 1898, the Philippine Revolution, launched in 1896 by the revolutionary organization Katipunan led by Andres Bonifacio, successfully defeated the Spaniards. The Filipino people’s valiant struggle ended more than three centuries of Spanish colonial rule and gained the country’s independence.

We honor the countless heroes and martyrs who gave their lives for the Filipino people’s freedom from the shackles of colonialism. Not long after gaining independence in 1898, the Spanish sold the Philippines to the United States of America for $20 million under the Treaty of Paris. The subsequent American rule proved to be as brutal as its colonial predecessor, exemplified by the Filipino-American war from 1899 – 1902 which killed ten percent of the country’s population at that time. Since then, the United States has continued to wield its power and dominance over the political, social, economic and even military affairs of the Philippine state.

As the Second World War raged across the globe, Japanese imperialism invaded the Philippines and colonized it from 1941 to 1945. The short period of Japanese colonial rule is notorious for the massive atrocities it committed against the Filipino people — from the widespread massacres of civilians in villages, the systematic rape of women (victims of which were dubbed “comfort women”), to the infamous Bataan Death March — all which of constitute war crimes. Up to this day, justice remains elusive for the victims. 

While the Philippines nominally gained independence from the US in 1946, US neocolonialism still holds a tight grip on the country’s political, economic and military affairs. This is laid bare by the massive Balikatan joint exercises recently conducted by the Philippines, US, Australia, France, and other US allies. About 16,000 US and Filipino troops reportedly participated in the war games – one of the largest in the history of these military exercises.

The Philippines also remains the biggest recipient of US military aid in Southeast Asia, receiving more than US $1 billion from 2016-2023. Meanwhile, around 16 “EDCA sites” or US military bases are planned to be built in the country through the Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), essentially making the Philippines a huge military base for the US as it ramps up its preparations for possible military confrontation against China. 

Likewise, tensions in the West Philippine Sea are ever increasing as China continues to violate Philippine sovereignty by constantly harassing Philippine Coast Guard vessels who conduct supply missions to the BP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal. More importantly, Chinese Coast Guard vessels are deliberately preventing small Filipino fisherfolk from conducting their livelihood in Philippine maritime territory, which is well within the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). 

The recent pronouncements of President Bongbong Marcos about China being a threat to the country’s freedom, along with high-ranking government officials threatening to invoke the US-RP Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) in case of military confrontation with China, will surely drag the Filipino people into the heightening conflict and increasingly imminent war between the two global superpowers.

ICHRP is alarmed by and condemns US warmongering in the Asia-Pacific and China’s continued encroachment on Philippine territory. As the US-China geopolitical conflict intensifies and the Marcos Jr. government continues to kowtow to US interests, ICHRP will continue to strengthen and widen its solidarity work for the Filipino people. ICHRP supports the fundamental right of the Filipino people to assert their right to self-determination and to expose the grave human rights and international humanitarian law violations of the current US-backed Marcos Jr. administration.

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