WASHINGTON, D.C. — Religious, human rights and labor activists placed thousands of pairs of “tsinelas,” Filipino for “flip-flops,” on the lawn outside the U.S. Capitol in calling on Congress to pass the Philippines Human Rights Act.
The bill would impose limits on funding for police and the military in the Philippines.
The Nov. 18 action involved laying out 3,000 pairs of tsinelas to mark more than 30,000 killings in the Philippines that have occurred under what President Rodrigo Duterte has described as a crackdown on illicit drug dealing and crime since 2016.
The activists said in a statement that the crackdown is targeting Duterte’s political opponents and human rights and labor activists, however. They also decried the country’s Anti-Terrorism Act, which Duterte signed into law in 2020.
Provisions of that law allow the police or military to detain suspects without charges for up to 24 days and place them under surveillance for up to 90 days. The law also allows for the criminalization of constitutionally protected political speech, the activists said.
Among Catholic organizations joining the action were the Washington-based Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, the Franciscan Network on Migration and Pax Christi New Jersey. Other organizations taking part included the AFL-CIO, Ecumenical Advocacy Network on the Philippines and National Alliance for Filipino Concerns.
Shane Larson, senior director for government affairs for the Communications Workers of America, said in a statement that labor’s involvement stems from the Philippine government targeting labor activists.
“We cannot turn our backs on them,” he said. “The Philippine Human Rights Act will save lives.”
Introduced by Rep. Susan Wild, D-Pa., the bill has gained 24 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives. It would block funds for police or military assistance, including equipment and training, to the Philippines until specified human rights conditions are met.
The Center for International Policy has reported that the United States has provided more than $2.4 billion in weaponry since Duterte began his presidency five years ago.
The bill pending in Congress includes several measures that must be met for security funding to occur including investigating and successfully prosecuting members of the country’s military and police forces who have violated human rights; withdrawing the military from domestic policing activities; and establishing that the rights of journalists and civil society activists are protected.