On the 10th of December 1948, the United Nations’ General Assembly approved the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which we now commemorate as International Human Rights day. Human rights refer to the universal, intrinsic, and inalienable rights granted to all individuals regardless of nationality, sex, ethnicity, race, or social status.[1] Yet, history has witnessed how it has been hallowed out and violated by governments  and corporations.

File Photo

The United States (US), in particular, has consistently professed their longstanding support and compliance to the UDHR. They also insist on having a “tradition of respecting and protecting human rights, both at home and abroad.”[2] According to the US Department of State, the incumbent Biden-Harris administration is “committed to putting human rights and democratic principles at the center of [their] foreign policy.”[2]

But this runs in stark contrast to several of US’ running policies such as  their financial support of Saudi Arabia’s air raids against Yemen which has injured and killed civilians in tens of thousands.[3][4] Their benevolent neglect of Saudi’s fuel embargo against Yemen add evidence to the irony of their foreign policy given the health and hunger crisis this blockade has aggravated.[5]

Additionally, the US military, around a month ago, finally claimed that they were behind the 2019 airstrike in Baghuz, Syria which killed over 70 people. Evidence shows that the casualties were mostly women and children. US Central Command spokesperson Capt. Bill Urban finds this justified due to the presence of several armed combatants in the area but says that “the exact mixture of armed and unarmed personnel could not be conclusively determined.”[6]

Make no mistake, these are not isolated cases. The existence of hundreds of overseas military bases, thousands of troops deployed abroad, regular joint-military exercises, increased military funding for their allies, and the militarization of development aid almost guarantee their involvement in countless war crimes and human rights violations across the globe.[7][8][9] As a country that reaps gross benefits  from the military-industrial complex, the US has developed a taste for war and aggression as it generates profits, solidifies power, and amplifies global influence.[10]

The increasingly aggressive military posturing and concentration of first world armed forces in Asia has compromised the ability of countries within the region to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to growing internal and external tensions, nations in the Global South are allocating a significant portion of their national budget to their defense capabilities. Meanwhile, the health sector has been left to struggle against the pandemic with inadequate State funding. India, for example, allocated around 4.8 trillion Rupees ($63.7 B) in 2020-2021 for their defense budget, while their healthcare expenditure during the same time was only at 1.1 trillion Rupees ($14.6 B).[11][12] The same story can be seen with the Philippines’ 2020 defense budget being billions of pesos higher than the budget of its  Department of Health.[13] Indonesia’s 2022 state budget also features 96 trillion Rupiahs ($6.7 B) for their Ministry of Health, while the Ministry of Defense and the National Police received a combined 245 trillion Rupiahs ($16.9 B).[14]

The United States’ expansionist agenda also hurts their own people. The US Department of State released a document which calls out other governments for their skewed COVID-19 response. However, they fail to mention how President Biden’s COVID stimulus package’s projected cost sits at $1.9 Trillion which pales in comparison to the Pentagon’s  $8.31 Trillion over the next 10 years.[15][16] There are hundreds of thousands of Americans affected by the pandemic but Biden prioritizes military and defense over the people’s welfare.[17] The same document goes on to say “[s]ome governments have abused or enacted laws to silence, target, and harass members of civil society under the guise of public health needs.”[2] This statement is indeed correct, but the US government should be reminded that they are one of the primary suspects in using and promoting these corrosive tactics. In fact, the playbook against counterinsurgency in other countries comes from the US in the forms of military and police funding and training.[18] One cannot claim to promote peace while actively investing and benefiting from warfare.

The US Department of State mentions that “human rights respecting democracies are more peaceful, prosperous, stable.”[2] But, for this to come from a nation that has amassed wealth and power through wars of aggression, military invasions, and proxy wars, it is very hypocritical. 

Many in the Global South are more than aware of this. These wars and unpeace have been their reality for generations. Movements from these poor countries continue to advocate and promote genuine human rights based on just and lasting peace.

As we commemorate the International Human Rights Day this coming December 10, let us support and link arms with movements advancing people’s rights.

People’s rights not only encompass rights of the individual but recognize the collective rights of communities and peoples. It captures the rights held by the people in common, including civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights. These rights must be asserted and defended in order to be fully realized. Moreso, peoples’ rights cannot be realised as long as there are nations and people under direct and indirect colonial subjugation. People’s rights recognizes the liberation of nations from foreign economic and political intervention and military occupation.

Progressive organizations, such as Karapatan from the Philippines, recognize that their movement for human rights will only be genuine and truly pro-people if it goes hand-in-hand with an uncompromising anti-imperialist campaign.

Let us be clear that it is not the US and its imperialist allies that stand as beacons of human rights. Instead, it is the people united in struggle that carry that mantle. It is the militant protests against US bases and troops in Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, Hawai’i and many other countries. It is the organized rejection of US-led military agreements in the region such as the Quadrilateral Alliance (QUAD) and Australia-United Kingdom-US Pact (AUKUS). It is the indigenous people fighting for sovereignty against militarized land grabs in India, the Philippines, West Papua, Australia, New Zealand, Hawai’i, the Marshall Islands, Guam and all across the Pacific. These are the movements for genuine human rights that should be celebrated on International Human Rights Day.

We must dismantle the deceptive facade of imperialists as protectors of human rights and expose them as war criminals and supporters of the global war economy. There is no better way to honor the people than to join their struggle to hold the US accountable for their crimes.

REFERENCES:

  1. UN OHCHR. “OHCHR | What Are Human Rights.” Ohchr.org, 2013, ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Pages/WhatareHumanRights.aspx.
  2. US Department of State. Guidelines for U.S. Diplomatic Mission Support to Civil Society and Human Rights Defenders. 29 Nov. 2021.
  3. Yemen Data Project. “Methodology.” Yemendataproject.org, yemendataproject.org/methodology-1.html.
  4. Sheline, Annelle, and Bruce Riedel. “Biden’s Broken Promise on Yemen.” Brookings, 16 Sept. 2021, www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2021/09/16/bidens-broken-promise-on-yemen/.
  5. CNN, Nima Elbagir, Barbara Arvanitidis, Angela Dewan, Nada Bashir and Yousef Mawry, CNN Video by Alex Platt and Mark Baron. “Famine Has Arrived in Pockets of Yemen. Saudi Ships Blocking Fuel Aren’t Helping.” CNN, edition.cnn.com/2021/03/10/middleeast/yemen-famine-saudi-fuel-intl/index.html.
  6. Borger, Julian. “US Claims 2019 Airstrike That Hit Syrian Women and Children Was Justified.” The Guardian, 14 Nov. 2021, www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/nov/14/us-confirms-2019-airstrike-hit-crowd-of-syrian-women-and-children. 
  7. Vine, David. “Where in the World Is the U.S. Military?” POLITICO Magazine, Aug. 2015, www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/06/us-military-bases-around-the-world-119321/\.
  8. Cronk, Terri. “U.S. Forces Work with Partners in Numerous Military Exercises.” U.S. Department of Defense, 17 July 2017, www.defense.gov/News/News-Stories/Article/Article/1250003/us-forces-work-with-partners-in-numerous-military-exercises/.
  9. Reality of Aid – Asia Pacific. RealityCheck | Aid & Militarism: Unpacking Peacekeeping & Security Efforts in Asia. 2017.
  10. Weber, Rachel. “Military-Industrial Complex.” Encyclopædia Britannica, 2019, www.britannica.com/topic/military-industrial-complex.
  11. Rajagopalan, Rajeswari. “Asian Military Spending: A Sign of Worsening Security Environment.” Thediplomat.com, 4 Mar. 2021, thediplomat.com/2021/03/asian-military-spending-a-sign-of-worsening-security-environment/.
  12. Choudhury, Saheli Roy. “India to Double Health-Care Spending to $30 Billion in New Budget Aimed at Reviving Growth.” CNBC, 1 Feb. 2021, www.cnbc.com/2021/02/01/india-budget-health-care-infrastructure-and-fiscal-deficit.html.
  13. Department of Budget and Management. “President Duterte Signs P4.1 Trillion 2020 National Budget.” Dbm.gov.ph, 6 Jan. 2020, www.dbm.gov.ph/index.php/secretary-s-corner/press-releases/list-of-press-releases/1589-president-duterte-signs-p4-1-trillion-2020-national-budget.
  14. Guild, James. “Breaking down Indonesia’s 2022 State Budget.” Thediplomat.com, 19 Oct. 2021, thediplomat.com/2021/10/breaking-down-indonesias-2022-state-budget/. Accessed 5 Dec. 2021.
  15. Swagel, Phillip. Potential Statutory Pay-As-You-Go Effects of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. 25 Feb. 2021.
  16. US 117th Congress. HEN21B52 93N. 2021.
  17. USA Facts. “Coronavirus Live Map | US Coronavirus Cases by County.” USAFacts, usafacts.org/visualizations/coronavirus-covid-19-spread-map/.
  18. US Department of State. UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT INTERAGENCY COUNTERINSURGENCY INITIATIVE COUNTERINSURGENCY GUIDE. 2009.

“We are not surprised but still appalled with the participation of repressive governments in this so-called summit for democracy by the US government. It only shows how the Biden administration’s promise of democracy and human rights is a sham,” says Asia Pacific Research Network (APRN) in a statement, Friday. 

This December 9-10, the United States (US) invited over a hundred countries and representatives from non-government organizations and the private sector for the virtual ‘Summit for Democracy.’ According to the US Department of State, this convention aims to “set forth an affirmative agenda for democratic renewal and to tackle the greatest threats faced by democracies today through collective action.” The Summit will focus on themes of democracy, fighting corruption, and promoting respect for human rights.

Despite claims of “democratic renewal” and coinciding with the International Human Rights Day, the Summit drew flak from a research and advocacy network. “The mere invitation of leaders of the Philippines, India, Israel, and other regimes involved in crimes against humanity, gross human rights violations and anti-people policies just goes to show that the summit is not about democracy nor peace,” says APRN secretary general Mara Medrano. 

With this, Medrano asserts that the Summit’s true motive is for “the US to consolidate its declining sphere of influence in the face of an emerging Chinese imperialism.”

Back in May, the UN Human Rights Council announced that they will be investigating Israel for possible war crimes in the Gaza strip. On the other hand, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is currently being investigated by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity by virtue of his punitive War on Drugs which led to thousands of extrajudicial killings. The investigation was recently interrupted by a request from the Philippine government weeks before the Summit. 

Similarly, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been implementing policies that condone state sponsored abuses such as the Armed Forces Act. The controversial law provided  soldiers in Kashmir immunity from the legal consequences of their human rights abuses. Under PM Modi’s leadership, the rights of farmers, children, women, PWDs, and even CSOs are also compromised. 

According to APRN, the invitation of these notorious human rights violators to Biden’s summit goes to show that the US is not only willing to welcome tyrants and throw away it’s pro-human rights veneer but is consolidating what is left of its hegemony in strategic regions.  

China is one of the few countries uninvited to the Summit of which Medrano commented–“by excluding China, it confirms that the summit is all part of it’s aggressive shift to the Indo-Pacific region.”

The current Biden administration has been focusing on the region as a US foreign policy response to China’s growing influence. Notably, the tripartite deal AUKUS (Australia, UK and US) intends to modernize military assets to address growing security challenges in the Indo-Pacific region.

APRN asserts that the Biden’s Summit is a continued outreach to countries amid China’s expanding economic and military influence. The research network also noted that 60 percent of maritime trade passes through Asia, with the disputed West Philippine Sea carrying an estimated one-third of global shipping.

The claims of China over maritime territories that are disputed by Taiwan, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei keep the situation volatile. According to APRN, China’s construction of military bases in the region has been a “continuing existential threat to the US-led military dominance of the Indo-Pacific. The Biden Summit is a step towards containing China’s territorial expansion.”

APRN highlights that the US’ economic and military interest is apparent in the ongoing summit.   The network of research and advocacy groups also cast doubt on the Biden administration’s declaration of “democratic renewal.”  

“When the US talks of ‘peace and democracy’ they only mean their manifest destiny,” says Medrano. The Network also added that historically, these superpowers have been using their “military might to influence world affairs in their favor.”

Finally, the research network argued that Summit is a desperate attempt to consolidate power and would mean “siphoning the Global South’s natural resources, flooding of domestic markets of surplus goods, further militarization and violations of people’s rights.” #

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US President Joe Biden

Research network, peace advocates warn of a catalyzed nuclear arms race amid AUKUS, US shift to Indo-Pacific

The Asia Pacific Research Network (APRN) together with the alliance of peace advocates RESIST US-led War Movement (RESIST) are sounding the alarm over US President Joe Biden’s AUKUS which could further aggravate geopolitical tensions in Asia and the Pacific. Following the tripartite deal is the last minute decision to join the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit last Tuesday. 

“Biden’s attempt to engage with the ASEAN bloc together with the destructive AUKUS deal are all part of the Indo-Pacific shift of a superpower desperate to secure its military and economic might in the region,” says APRN secretary-general Mara Medrano.  

Biden took part in a virtual summit with the leaders of  Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.  This was the first time in four years that the White House has shown interest in the regional bloc in what seems to be a push back against China.

Last September, the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia governments announced their trilateral military alliance AUKUS. According to the agreement it intends to modernize military assets to address growing “security challenges in the Indo-Pacific region.” 

In a comprehensive response, research and advocacy groups with a global network for peace warned that AUKUS is a “threat to genuine security in the region” and called for its scrapping.

APRN and RESIST remarked on the motives of the deal saying that “when these countries talk about ‘peace and stability’ they only mean their manifest destiny.” They also added that historically these superpowers have been using their “military might to influence world affairs to their favor.”

The security pact intends to develop cyber capabilities, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, and other arms technologies. The statement cites one of the controversial initiatives under AUKUS wherein Australia will be acquiring at least eight nuclear-powered submarines through BAE Systems PLc.

nationalinterest.org

“In effect, this has officially transitioned Australia from being a military launchpad to an active major actor in the geopolitical disputes of the region,” says Medrano of the network APRN which co-signed the statement. 

On top of the nuclear vessels, Australian Defence Force’s will also start developing their sovereign guided weapons manufacturing enterprise. Sophisticated missile systems is part of the deal where Australia will be receiving Tomahawk Cruise Missiles, Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles, Long-Range Anti-Ship Missiles (Extended Range), hypersonic missiles, precision strike guided missiles. 

Despite signatories of the UN Treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, the members of AUKUS are openly declaring its use and proliferation of nuclear-powered submarines in military operations.  

“[This] runs the risk of leaking nuclear materials in the Pacific that would thoroughly damage ecosystems and biodiversity,” says APRN and RESIST adding that “[t]he mere existence of these submarines could invite other countries to explore nuclear capabilities in modern warfare, catalyzing a nuclear arms race.”

In the event of a war and nuclear catastrophe those “further at risk are communities hard hit by the climate crisis” according to Medrano. It was underscored that more than half of those in the top 15 most at risk countries are from Asia and the Pacific. Countries like Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Brunei, Papua New Guinea, Bangladesh and Philippines are already facing extreme natural disasters resulting in massive forced migration and displacement. 

The security pact intends to develop cyber capabilities, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, and other arms technologies. The statement cites one of the controversial initiatives under AUKUS wherein Australia will be acquiring at least eight nuclear-powered submarines through BAE Systems PLc.

A deal to secure key supply lines

APRN and RESIST made it clear that these are but enhancements of US, UK and Australia’s hundreds of already existing military bases and systems in the region. The groups underlined that what fuels the tripartite alliance is precisely their interest in securing economic dominance and trade route control over Asia and the Pacific. 

“The AUKUS countries would greatly benefit from securing the key supply lines away from global competitors like China,” says Medrano. According to the joint statement, this meant “siphoning the Global South’s natural resources, and further penetrating domestic markets of weak democracies where they can dump their surplus goods.” 

The Straits of Malacca was cited as one of the essential waterways in global trade wherein a quarter of the world’s trade and half of the oil supply pass through. In particular, 70 percent of Japan’s oil and 80 percent of China’s trade traverses the Malacca Straits. 

“And, anyone who can monopolize control over the waterway could dictate the flow of global commerce and use it to leverage further influence over rival countries,” says APRN and RESIST. 

The claims of China over maritime territories in the ASEAN bloc such as Taiwan, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei keep the situation volatile. According to the statement, China’s construction of military bases in the region has been a “continuing existential threat to the US-led military dominance of the Indo-Pacific” with AUKUS aimed at “containing China’s territorial expansion.” 

ABO LIMOS

Lastly, research NGOs, peace advocates and movements are demanding that China, US, and other superpowers respect national sovereignty and patrimony of all nation-states. “If they are truly sincere in ensuring regional peace and stability, then they must withdraw their military troops, nuclear arms, and bases from the Global South,” APRN and RESIST end.#

We, the Asia Pacific Research Network, representing 56 organisations from 18 countries, are one with the fight against IMF-WBG and its anti-people agenda.

For 76 years, the International Monetary Fund – World Bank has forwarded a corrupt and decaying brand of development which excludes the great majority of the world’s peoples. 

Now, its touted “recovery plan” is callousely focused on generating more profit for corporations while poor peoples of the world barely survive from a health and environmental crisis. 

People are dying from the absence of robust public health care systems and lack of people-centered adaptation measures in a climate crisis. All of which are born from and aggravated by the decisions made by IMF-WBG and its executives– decisions they make and continue to make for the poorest and most exploited people of the world. 

The Green, Resilient and Inclusive Development (GRID) framework which claims to be a recovery plan for the pandemic and climate crisis is but a destructive and profit-oriented agenda serving the interest of big businesses. 

Deceitful “green recovery” 

Despite bringing decades of unprecedented inequality and suffering for billions of people, IMF-WBG remains to operate under a neoliberal framework. The latest in its advancement of neoliberalism is a recovery plan that postures as “green” and “inclusive.”

In its Spring Meetings it introduced the deceitful GRID framework even though it remains as one of the biggest enablers and funders of destructive projects. According to a report by People Over Profit, the Bank’s policy lending continues to introduce tax cuts for coal power plants and coal export infrastructure. It was revealed in 2017 that seven World Bank policy operations worth $5 billion intended to boost low-carbon growth were instead channeled to investment incentives for projects that put the environment and people at risk. 

The disastrous impacts of their operations have been most felt by the poorest peoples – the peasants, fisherfolk, migrants, indigenous peoples, workers, urban poor, women, children and the youth, and other marginalized sectors. 

Climate-induced migrants and displaced peoples have been growing in millions while IMF-WBG feigns ignorance for its culpability. Worse, it has promoted migration as the most effective way to reduce poverty glorifying it as “Moving for Prosperity.” It has glossed over the fact that the extreme poverty and the climate crisis it has perpetuated are forcing millions of people to leave their families and homes in the hopes of finding better employment and refuge. 

Amid a “code red” alarm on the climate crisis, IMF-WBG continues to promote the exporting and over extraction of natural resources. With majority of gold, copper and high-value mineral production taking place on indigenous peoples territories, the World Bank alone continues to finance these extractive industries. This meant generations of massive displacement, deprivation of living spaces, resources, and livelihoods for peasants and indigenous peoples. 

The decades of neoliberal doctrine espoused by IMF-WBG has destroyed local ecosystems and made communities more and more vulnerable to impacts of the climate crisis.    

People’s lives in exchange of corporate recovery

Even in a public health crisis, IMF-WBG remains unfazed in its charge towards the privatization of public services and adoption of austerity measures. Neoliberal policies imposed by the Bank and Fund have destroyed what remains of the healthcare systems of the developing nations. 

The privatization of health and public services continue to be incentivized and presented as a means to boost economic growth. Recently, almost all of the COVID loans from IMF encourage, if not, force poor countries hard hit by the economic recession from the pandemic to implement aggressive austerity measures. 

These enforcement of further cuts to social services will only lead to greater inaccessibility to healthcare, exclusion of the marginalized and worse, more deaths. While people die, the priority has been the private sector as the financial institutions choose to allocate $8 billion USD of its $14 billion Emergency Response fund to capitalist enterprises. This is what “recovery” means to IMF-WBG– bailing out the corporations at the expense of people’s lives. 

Push back to reclaim our future

Since the establishment of IMF-WBG, its loan conditionalities and policies have been dragging poorer countries into deeper poverty and greater inequalities. In a pandemic, it has not only proven its allegiance to the corporate interests but now hides behind a “recovery” plan pretending to solve the very problems it has created. 

Our task now as a Network of advocacy and research is that we must continue to expose the IMF-World Bank, as we did year after year, for what is– an anti-people and corrupt global financial institution that continues to corporatize development at the cost of peoples lives. 

APRN commits to continue working with peoples movements rallying against IMF-WBG be it in the streets or in parliamentary engagements at the local, national and global levels. 

As we join this Global Day of Action, our Network is in solidarity with movements and civil society calling for the abolition of the IMF and World Bank. We believe in an alternative multilateral financial cooperation based on peoples’ rights and sovereignty, equality, development justice, and the peoples’ collective power over the economy. 
Again, we reject its hypocritical recovery framework while one with the peasants, workers, indigenous peoples, migrants and marginalized groups in reclaiming our future from the IMF-WBG’s greed!#

On September 15, the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia announced their newly forged trilateral military alliance– AUKUS. A stated aspect of the agreement is the modernization of military assets to address growing “security challenges in the Indo-Pacific region.”[1] The Asia Pacific Research Network (APRN) and the RESIST US-led War Movement (RESIST) consider the AUKUS as a threat to genuine security in the region. We stand in solidarity with the peoples of the Asia Pacific demanding that AUKUS be immediately scrapped.

Handout

The security pact sets its eyes on improving cyber capabilities, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, and other technologies. But, the most contentious initiative under AUKUS is Australia’s acquisition of, at minimum, eight nuclear-powered submarines through BAE Systems PLc.[2] The Australian Defence Force’s arsenal will also be augmented with Tomahawk Cruise Missiles, Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles (Extended Range), Long-Range Anti-Ship Missiles (Extended Range), hypersonic missiles, precision strike guided missiles, and developing a sovereign guided weapons manufacturing enterprise. These enhancements are integrated into the existing military systems of the three countries in the region. These bolster the hundreds of military bases in the Asia Pacific region; the US-Australia Pine Gap base used for intelligence and drone strikes; the USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group recently sailing into the South China Sea; and Britain’s recent announcement that they will permanently station two warships in contested waters.[3][4][5]

the deal was made with “international rules-based order” in mind. They also claimed that AUKUS would contribute to the “peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.”

According to the joint statement by the leaders of the three AUKUS countries, the deal was made with “international rules-based order” in mind. They also claimed that AUKUS would contribute to the “peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.”[6] History, however, has taught us that these countries think “peace and stability” means manifest destiny; using their military might to influence world affairs to their favor.   

China, more than anyone, is aware that this new military alliance between and among its rivals is surely aimed at limiting China’s influence and economic control and directed towards neutralizing their military dominance over the region. China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson condemned the alliance’s “outdated Cold War zero-sum mentality and narrow minded geopolitical perception”.[7] Global Times, the Chinese Communist Party-owned international media outfit, called Australia a “running dog of the US” for its involvement in the “US-led strategic siege of China.” The Global Times’ editorial went on to assert that “if Australia dares to provoke China more blatantly because of that, or even find fault militarily, China will certainly punish it with no mercy.”[8] Both Washington and Beijing have given their continued fidelity to keeping the peace and avoiding war, but the advent of the AUKUS pact clearly aggravates tensions.

http://thelondonpost.net

What is so important in Asia that key global players would risk compromising relations with allied countries and war with rivals? The answer is economic dominance and trade route control. The AUKUS countries would benefit from securing key supply lines away from global competitors. It would mean, siphoning the Global South’s natural resources, and further penetrating domestic markets of weak democracies where they can dump their surplus goods. In particular, the Straits of Malacca and the global superconductor shortage seem to be primary considerations for key global players’ deepened interest in the region.

China, more than anyone, is aware that this new military alliance between and among its rivals is surely aimed at limiting China’s influence and economic control and directed towards neutralizing their military dominance over the region.

The Straits of Malacca is a major waterway where “[a] quarter of the world’s trade, half the world’s oil, and two-thirds of its natural gas trade pass through”.[9] Specifically, “70 percent of Japan’s oil” and “80 percent of China’s trade” traverses the Malacca Straits. Anyone who can monopolize control over the waterway could dictate the flow of global commerce and use it to leverage further influence over rival countries.[10][11][12]

Moreover, the worldwide microchip shortage is causing major plunges across several industries such as automobile, smartphone, and computer component production. The automobile manufacturing industry anticipates a total loss of at least USD 60.6 billion for this year alone.[13] The shortage-induced economic downturns compounded with the alarming competitiveness of China in microchip production during the past couple of years are prompting Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) member countries (US, Australia, Japan, India) to improve their production processes. They recently expressed their intention to establish “a safe supply chain for semiconductors.” [14] For instance, Australia, as one of the leading sources of essential minerals for microchip production, is advised to further integrate with the supply chain. Meanwhile, the R&D-focused US receives the manufactured chips from East Asia and prepares them for distribution.[15] Certainly, the multi-billion electronics supply chain involving Australia and the US will benefit from the AUKUS military pact.

diplomatist.com

The economic objectives of the QUAD are buttressed by its military objectives, and here is where the AUKUS pact comes into full force.  China’s claim to maritime territory of five different countries and territories (Taiwan, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei) threatens the traditional economic corridors of the QUAD members. While China’s construction of military bases in the region is an existential threat to the US-led military dominance of the Indo-Pacific. AUKUS arrives as a technological upgrade to the military capabilities of the QUAD countries in containing China’s territorial expansion.

The AUKUS pact has far-reaching implications that would introduce added friction in a region that is already tense from territorial disputes. 

  1. It sets a dangerous precedent for Russia and China to follow suit and form their own military alliance that involves situating/producing similar levels of military assets in the region.[16] 
  2. The trilateral alliance actualizes US President Biden’s pronouncements to increase military presence in the Indo-Pacific region in accordance with the National Security Plan. The 21-page plan names China and Russia as threats that should be handled aggressively. This confirms that the US is invested in the struggle for dominance over Asia.[17] 
  3. Australia has officially transitioned from military launchpad to an active major actor in the geopolitical disputes of the region. 
  4. Despite AUKUS member countries ensuring their adherence to nuclear non-proliferation, the use of nuclear-powered submarines in military operations runs the risk of leaking nuclear materials in the Pacific that would thoroughly damage ecosystems and biodiversity. Australia would also have the enriched uranium needed to power nuclear submarines, contributing to the country’s capacity to build nuclear weapons. The mere existence of these submarines could invite other countries to explore nuclear capabilities in modern warfare, catalyzing a nuclear arms race. 
  5. “While AUKUS might help deter Chinese military action and reduce the likelihood of conflict, it also ensures that such a conflict would be much more devastating if it did break out.”[18] 
  6. Last and most importantly, the Global South would find itself dead center of an increasingly destructive hypothetical war. Underdeveloped nations are once again robbed of any agency in determining the region’s peace, security, and stability for the masses of people, not only the elite who stand to gain in such a conflict. In anticipation of probable war, these countries are forced to prioritize spending on defense over health services in the middle of a pandemic– leaving their constituents further vulnerable and exposed.[19] The AUKUS deal’s regional impact is undeniable and has consequently bolstered resistance from various countries.

While some heads of state have spoken out against AUKUS, emphasis should be placed on the resistance of the people. Australia’s own anti-nuclear movement has registered their worries and anger over the sudden introduction of nuclear entities in their country, which they have repelled since the 70s. Citizens of countries in the Pacific have strongly condemned the use of nuclear systems in their territories due to apprehensions surrounding nuclear power’s intrinsic risks– one mistake can lead to extraordinary damage to the environment and the loss of countless lives.[20]        

The APRN and RESIST! stand in solidarity with the people of Asia Pacific not just in abolishing the AUKUS pact, but in dismantling all manifestations of imperialism in the region– may it be from the US, China, or any other country. We are uncompromising in our commitment to end all imperialist conflicts across the globe– putting an end to their insatiable hunger for Third world resources. In addition to opposing armed conflict, we are also devoted to establishing pro-people national economies in underdeveloped countries replacing existing neoliberal policies. 

The freedom and liberation of the Global South comes not just from the absence of war, but also from the presence of a sustainable, independent, and mass-oriented system of governance. Ultimately, we demand that China and the US and their allies respect and observe national sovereignty and patrimony of all nation-states. If they are truly sincere in ensuring regional “peace and stability,” then they must withdraw their military troops, assets, and bases from the Global South.

REFERENCES:

  1. Morrison, S. (2021). Australia to pursue nuclear-powered submarines through new trilateral enhanced security partnership | Prime Minister of Australia. Www.pm.gov.au. https://www.pm.gov.au/media/australia-pursue-nuclear-powered-submarines-through-new-trilateral-enhanced-security
  2. Young, S. (2021, September 16). BAE Systems says ready to support new U.S., UK, Australia defence partnership. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/world/uk/bae-systems-says-ready-support-new-us-uk-australia-defence-partnership-2021-09-16/
  3. ‌Miller, P. (2020, November 24). Declassified UK: REVEALED: The UK military’s overseas base network involves 145 sites in 42 countries. Daily Maverick. https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2020-11-24-revealed-the-uk-militarys-overseas-base-network-involves-145-sites-in-42-countries/
  4. ‌Wilson, A. (2021, September 24). USS Ronald Reagan steams into South China Sea after summer deployment to Middle East. Stars and Stripes. https://www.stripes.com/branches/navy/2021-09-24/uss-ronald-reagan-south-china-sea-us-navy-3001798.html
  5. ‌Stashwick, S. (2021, July 21). Britain to Keep 2 Warships Permanently in East Asia. Thediplomat.com. https://thediplomat.com/2021/07/britain-to-keep-2-warships-permanently-in-east-asia/
  6. ‌Morrison, S., Johnson, B., & Biden, J. (2021, September 16). Joint Leaders Statement on AUKUS | Prime Minister of Australia. Www.pm.gov.au. https://www.pm.gov.au/media/joint-leaders-statement-aukus
  7. ‌‌Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China. (2021, September 16). Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian’s Regular Press Conference on September 16, 2021. Www.fmprc.gov.cn. https://www.fmprc.gov.cn/mfa_eng/xwfw_665399/s2510_665401/2511_665403/t1907498.shtml
  8. The Global Times. (2021, September 16). AUKUS to bring “nuclear-powered submarine fever” across globe: Global Times editorial – Global Times. Www.globaltimes.cn. https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202109/1234459.shtml
  9. ‌United Nations Security Council. (2001). United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373. http://unscr.com/en/resolutions/doc/1373
  10. ‌Gershman, J. (2002). Is Southeast Asia the Second Front. Www.foreignaffairs.com. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/asia/2002-07-01/southeast-asia-second-front
  11. ‌BBC News. (2002, April 20). BBC News | ASIA-PACIFIC | US troops arrive on hostage island. Newsimg.bbc.co.uk. https://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/1940708.stm
  12. The Whitehouse. (2007, November 4). The National Security Strategy 2002. Archives.gov. https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/nsc/nss/2002/
  13. ‌Mohanty, K. (2021, September 20). EXPLAINED: Why Quad Focus On Semiconductor Chips Is All About Breaking Concentration. News18. https://www.news18.com/news/explainers/explained-why-quad-focus-on-semiconductor-chips-is-all-about-breaking-concentration-4223723.html
  14. ‌Nikkei Asia. (2021, September 18). Quad leaders to call for securing chip supply chain. Nikkei Asia. https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/International-relations/Indo-Pacific/Quad-leaders-to-call-for-securing-chip-supply-chain
  15. ‌Kotasthane, P. (2021, April 26). Siliconpolitik: The Case for a Quad Superconductor Partnership. Nus.edu.sg. https://www.isas.nus.edu.sg/papers/siliconpolitik-the-case-for-a-quad-semiconductor-partnership/
  16. ‌Muraviev, A. (2021, September 25). How Russia will likely respond to AUKUS. Asia Times. https://asiatimes.com/2021/09/how-russia-will-likely-respond-to-aukus/
  17. ‌Sud, K. (2021, March 4). Joe Biden Pledges Deeper Ties In Indo-Pacific In National Security Plan. DefenceXP – Indian Defence Network. https://www.defencexp.com/joe-biden-pledges-deeper-ties-in-indo-pacific-in-national-security-plan/
  18. ‌Strangio, S. (2021, September 17). What Does the New AUKUS Alliance Mean for Southeast Asia? Thediplomat.com. https://thediplomat.com/2021/09/what-does-the-new-aukus-alliance-mean-for-southeast-asia/
  19. ‌Asia Pacific Research Network. (2020). Weaponized Response of States to CoVID-19: Militarist trends in South Asia and Southeast Asia. http://dev.aprnet.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/weaponized-response-24-09-2020.pdf?fbclid=IwAR2APIGgwRi4PGrkJShMxN0n7mBnLz7AJeCSf2uDpyK47UeIt1IHIwuGjo0
  20. Jani-Friend, I. (2021, September 20). Explainer: Australia’s nuclear-powered submarine deal is fueling anger in the country. Here’s why. CNN. https://edition.cnn.com/2021/09/18/australia/nuclear-energy-climate-aukus-submarines-intl-cmd/index.html

We, the Asia Pacific Research Network, stand with the Filipino people in remembering the martial law and atrocities committed by the late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos. The Network expresses its strong support for the Filipinos fighting for truth and democracy against tyrants. 

Forty-nine years ago, Marcos issued Proclamation No. 1081, a declaration of martial rule in the country. This led to the suspension of the Philippine Constitution giving the president full control of the legislative and executive bodies. 

The Marcos regime lasted for 21 years resulting in gross human rights violations, economic crisis and destitution for Filipinos. The global rights watchdog Amnesty International (AI) alone documented rights violations and reported an estimate of 70,000 incarcerated individuals, 34,000 torture victims and 3240 murdered Filipinos by state forces. According to local rights group Karapatan, at least 759 individuals have been abducted whose bodies have never been found. 

Truth-seeking and journalism have also become dangerous jobs under the late ousted dictator. One of Marcos’ first directive is to authorize the military takeover of the assets of major media outlets including the leading television network ABS-CBN. 

According to accounts of Filipino academic-activist Epifanio San Juan Jr., the military arrested journalists, editors, media workers. It did not stop there. Direct blanket censorship was ordered by the regime prohibiting any public release of material critical of the military or law enforcement agencies including the martial law declaration—a tyrannical ploy to cover up truth with State-sponsored terror.

On top of the horrifying rights abuses and attack on civil liberties are the immense losses for the Philippine economy under Marcos. According to APRN member Ibon Foundation, the Philippines was the 4th worst performing economy in Asia in the period of 1965-1986. Those that took the brunt of this economic crisis are the majority of the country’s population wherein by 1985 two-thirds to three-fourths of some 54 million Filipinos were poor. Worse, at least 27 million people or almost half (49%) of the population were living in extreme poverty. 

All the while, the regime squandered an estimated $5 billion from government coffers as cited from Transparency International. This does not include financial wealth accumulated by Marcos cronies who remain part of the ruling elite to this day.

Return of the Marcoses and peddling of lies

Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Despite massive literature and verifiable sources on the Marcos atrocities, a different version of history has permeated the general public contributing to their return to power. 

Even after 35 years since the people ousted Marcos, his family remains influential if not, thriving in Philippine politics. 

The Marcoses have never acknowledged nor apologized for their crimes against Filipinos. Instead, they have callously asked the public to “move on” from martial law and went as far as petitioning that facts about the dictatorship be removed from history books.

Claims of the “golden days” of the Marcos; denials of human rights abuses and systemic corruption; and manufactured stories of heroism of the dictator are circulating both online and in printed books. 

In a study by scholars from the University of the Philippines, it was found that Marcos loyalists, and allies have been manufacturing and distributing propaganda with the intention to portray a “well-researched scholarship to Marcos lies.” 

Focusing on the new forms of disinformation, content that aims to memorialize Marcos are proliferating in social media platforms. One of the tactics identified in the study is not to build on an existing lie but to saturate the audience with all sorts of information to the point that it appears organic and untraceable to the Marcoses themselves. 

With no surprise it was revealed in 2020 that Bongbong Marcos, son of the late dictator, commissioned Cambridge Analytica to “rebrand” their family’s image on social media. The now-defunct British political consulting firm has been involved in the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal that led to the use of personal profiles to influence foreign elections.

Rise of another dictatorship

Manila Today

Ruling President Rodrigo Duterte who has been a notorious human rights violator himself has repeatedly expressed support for the Marcos family. 

We, in the advocacy research community, underline the direct hand of Duterte in the rose-tinted depiction of the Marcoses. It was Duterte in 2016 who allowed the body of the late dictator Marcos to be buried in the national “Heroes’ Cemetery.” It was also Duterte who signed into law a holiday memorializing Ferdinand Marcos. 

Today, we not only remember the 1972 martial law declaration but we support the Filipino people in their fight against another dictatorship. The ruling Duterte regime swept the country with thousands of killings under the drug war campaign together with brutal crackdowns against critics, silencing of truth-seekers, gross negligence in the pandemic response and an administration marred with corruption allegations. 

Akin to Marcos, Duterte has kept cronyism and patronage politics alive under his administration. Despite corruption allegations versus Duterte’s health minister and other cabinet members, they remain in power and sacred cows of the regime. The Philippine Health Minister was recently involved in the mishandling of  $3.34 billion worth of funds intended for COVID-19 response.

Cut from the same cloth as that of the late dictator, Duterte has made a name for himself as a tyrant responsible for the deaths and suffering of millions of people. 

APRN asserts that democracy is built on truths and that State sponsored attacks on the press, academe and activists are affronts to people’s rights. Moreover, the peddling of outright lies and disinformation by the Marcoses or any regime only serves their political agenda and violates State obligations to transparency and accountability. 

This offensive against the truth and history goes against our network’s core principles. The Network highlights the importance of evidence-based research by the people and for the people. It is essential that research and information serves the needs of citizens while underscoring their role in defending their rights, democracy and effecting social development. 

Therefore, we stand by the historians, journalists, academics, survivors of the dictatorship and advocacy groups who continue to remind tyrants that the Filipino people and peace loving peoples of the world never forget.

As a Network that advances people’s research, we align ourselves to those steadfast in protecting and promoting the truth. We believe that history should raise our commitment to people’s democracy, if not, our readiness to defend it. And, the only way to do that is if our collective memory is based on the truth.# 

Why honoring them as Herculean figures in the global fight against the coronavirus is not enough

Despite their heroic efforts to save lives amidst the pandemic, health workers in Asia  remain grappling with lower wages, inhumane working conditions, and lack of material support from their governments.

The year 2021 was designated by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the “Year of Health and Care Workers” to call attention to the under-invested and fragile healthcare systems globally. WHO estimates that an additional 18 million health workers are needed by the end of 2030, primarily in the Global South. The dire shortage of healthcare workers is one of many consequences of the decades-long implementation of neoliberal policies, reflected in widespread public disinvestment and privatization of public health services.

Rather, 2021 is becoming more and more the year of health workers fighting back.   Building on widespread public sympathy and support, health workers defied state restrictions and repression, and staged protest actions to fight for higher wages and incentives, decent working conditions, and social protection.

In India, about 6,000 Asha (accredited social health activist) workers marched to demand wage increase and job regularization. Asha workers are also community health workers in rural areas that bring health care to the most in need. 

PTI Photo

In Malaysia, about 20,000 junior doctors in Covid-19 treatment facilities and hospitals staged a sit-down strike to protest government inefficiency and lack of support. According to Hartal Doktor Kontrak (HDK) or Contract Doctors’ Strike, the group leading  the action are health workers who are overworked and underpaid. They are working beyond eight (8) hours everyday without overtime pay. Labor groups also claimed that during the strike, dozens of junior doctors have resigned, citing exhaustion from work and dissatisfaction with the government’s pandemic response.

@avenfauzi

In South Korea, the Korean Health and Medical Worker’s Union (KHMWU), issued a notice of strike, demanding that the government address their need for higher wages and incentives and additional medical workforce. The KHMWU has 80,000 union members that include nurses, medical engineers, and pharmacists across the country.

AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon

While health workers in the Philippines slammed the Rodrigo Duterte government for its negligence towards the health sector and failure to pay risk allowances to health workers. They are also calling for the resignation of Duterte and his health secretary Francisco Duque III for the latter’s bumbling response to the pandemic. State auditors have recently flagged deficiencies in the government’s USD 1.3 billion health budget which was marred with irregularities and dubious transactions.

REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez

The pandemic has exposed the fragility of healthcare systems under the reign of neoliberalism. For the past decades since the end of World War II, liberalization, privatization, deregulation and denationalization have only worsened the state of economies of the less-developed and developing countries., even as they have created more opportunities for transnational corporations. The pandemic proves that these policies are intended to uphold the interest of monopoly capital and not of the people, their economy or their welfare. 

The crises in healthcare and the growing discontent among health workers manifest no less than the need for a total system change. The ones in the forefronts of this global pandemic are standing up for their rights everyday. In the process, they underline the need for a system that ensures the basic needs in healthcare and effective pandemic response–a system that centers on the people.

On August 22-26, 2021, Vice President Kamala Harris visited Singapore and Vietnam with the so-called aim of strengthening economic cooperation between nations.¹ These state appointments are  nothing but doubletalk hiding behind diplomacy. Testament to this is the fact that lopsided trade deals, aid conditionalities, and military interventions are usually preceded by these visits. After former President Trump’s withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), incumbent President Joe Biden makes it clear with his pronouncements that America now intends to strengthen its ties with Asian countries.² These proclamations and these visits can only mean one thing: the region will once again serve as the stage for the unfolding rivalries between and among hegemons.

Why Southeast Asia?
The region is composed of weak democracies rich in natural resources and cheap labor. But more than the economies, markets, and governments which the U.S. has already penetrated, it also seeks to secure one of the major points of interest – the Straits of Malacca.³ This waterway attracts the attention of hegemons due to the fact that “a quarter of the world’s trade, half the world’s oil, and two-thirds of its natural gas trade pass through its waters.”⁴ Japan and China share this desire to secure the said waterway since 70% of Japan’s oil and 80% of China’s trade passes through the Straits. Certainly, any country that controls the Malacca Straits, controls not just their rivals’ economy, but also the world’s.³  

Kamala Harris visited Singapore and Vietnam. Two Southeast Asian countries that provide strategic access points to the world’s most important waterway. The U.S., for the past three decades, enjoys access to Singapore’s military bases due to a longstanding defense partnership.⁵ President Biden is also looking to close-out the digital trade deal with Indo-Pacific countries. This agreement proves significant since it could dictate the possibility of a Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) that could compete with China’s Belt and Road Initiative.⁶ Moreover, there is a budding trade relationship between the U.S. and Vietnam, a country which has been proactive in its anti-Chinese intervention stance. Last month, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin also visited the two Southeast Asian countries with the addition of the Philippines wherein he secured key military deals and ensured the longevity of the unconstitutional Visiting Forces Agreement.⁷ In any case, it is clear that the United States is reinstating its claim in its interests in Asia by establishing rapport with countries that offer strategic gains. It seeks to disarm China and other rivals of their trade routes while securing access for their own. 

What does this mean for the people?

Given the strategic importance of Southeast Asia as a region of growing economies, adjacency to supply routes, and a possible launchpad to access greater Asia, it will prove to be a highly contested arena. No hegemony will purposely give up the region. Hence, increased military deployment in the region underlines the economic ties and trade deals pursued between key global governments and underdeveloped nations. 

The United Kingdom used China’s aggressive position in the South China Sea to justify the deployment of  the British Royal Navy in Asia.⁸ The same excuse can be used by the United States to send their military forces to the region. Their gimmick to use “peace and security” as pretense for their intervention is played out – the people can see right through it. This is nothing but a ruse to maintain their geopolitical interest and reposition their military might in the region; especially after the US’ failure and subsequent withdrawal from Afghanistan.

With the increase in military deployment, joint-military exercises, and naval fleets in the region, tensions undeniably heighten. Just this July 1, during the centennial anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party, Chinese President Xi Jinping said, “[a]anyone who dares to try [to bully China], will find their heads bashed bloody against a great wall of steel forged by over 1.4 billion Chinese people.” ⁹

Due to growing pressures from within and without, people across Asia are experiencing great amounts of uncertainty and unrest. Even Southeast Asian countries themselves are steadily increasing their military expenditures in anticipation of seemingly inevitable hostility. Funding that could have gone to public health systems and cash aid to their constituents are being funneled into their country’s respective defense budget; further hampering the ability of the Global South to respond to the pandemic. But the more ostensible multipolarity-induced nightmare can be seen in the free trade policies and the neoliberal structural adjustments that are imposed on underdeveloped countries by the Global North. Under these lopsided programs, social services are privatized, natural resources are siphoned, domestic markets are deregulated, complete foreign ownership of assets is allowed, and any semblance of democracy crumbles to dust. Governments lose all leverage to refuse these one-sided policies since it would forfeit them from receiving loans and cash assistance from International Financial Institutions like the WTO.

What should be done? First and foremost, we must remain committed to our anti-war stance. Any aggression, posturing, encroachment, or hostility between military forces of Imperialists must be met with uncompromising condemnation from the people. This entails strict opposition against joint-military exercises within our region and the relentless struggle to expel all military bases in the underdeveloped world. The mere presence of foreign bases on our countries attracts unwanted attention should the situation escalate. In addition to militant collective action, we must also campaign for the respect and recognition of our national patrimony and sovereignty as autonomous nation-states. In the face of such organized repression, our hope lies in our ability to get organized as well.  The underdeveloped world must build and maintain solidarity amongst ourselves to defend what little liberties we have left.

Citations:

  1. Lee, Yen Nee. “Kamala Harris Is Set to Visit Southeast Asia as U.S.-China Tensions Rise. Here’s What to Expect.” CNBC, 20 Aug. 2021, www.cnbc.com/2021/08/20/vp-kamala-harris-to-visit-singapore-vietnam-amid-us-china-tensions.html. Accessed 28 Aug. 2021. 
  2. “Trump Pulls US out of Pacific Trade Deal, Loosening Asia Ties.” CNBC, 23 Jan. 2017, www.cnbc.com/2017/01/23/trump-pulls-us-out-of-pacific-trade-deal-loosening-asia-ties.html. Accessed 28 Aug. 2021.
  3. Tan, Andrew T H. Security Strategies in the Asia-Pacific : The United States’ “Second Front” in Southeast Asia. New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.
  4. Institute for the Analysis of Global Security. “Chilly Response to U.S. Plan to Deploy Forces in the Strait of Malacca.” Www.iags.org, 24 May 2004, www.iags.org/n0524042.htm. Accessed 28 Aug. 2021.
  5. Sim, Dewey. “Singapore Renews US Military Base Pact as Defence Ties with China Deepen.” South China Morning Post, 24 Sept. 2019, www.scmp.com/week-asia/politics/article/3030111/china-will-be-wary-us-singapore-deal-military-bases.
  6. Bloomberg. “Biden’s Digital Trade Deal Could See US Rejoin Asia-Pacific Pact Trump Ditched.” South China Morning Post, 23 July 2021, www.scmp.com/economy/china-economy/article/3142176/joe-bidens-digital-trade-deal-could-see-us-rejoin-asia. Accessed 28 Aug. 2021.
  7. U.S. Embassy in the Philippines. “U.S. Secretary of Defense Welcomes Recall of VFA Abrogation, Reinforces Strong U.S.-Philippine Alliance during Manila Visit.” U.S. Embassy in the Philippines, 31 July 2021, ph.usembassy.gov/us-secretary-of-defense-welcomes-recall-of-vfa-abrogation-reinforces-strong-us-philippine-alliance-during-manila-visit/. Accessed 28 Aug. 2021.
  8. Lendon, Brad. “UK’s HMS Queen Elizabeth Aircraft Carrier Pictured in South China Sea.” CNN, 30 July 2021, edition.cnn.com/2021/07/30/asia/south-china-sea-military-activity-hms-queen-elizabeth-intl-hnk-ml/index.html. Accessed 28 Aug. 2021.
  9. Crawshaw, David. “‘Heads Bashed Bloody’: China’s Xi Marks Communist Party Centenary with Strong Words for Adversaries.” Washington Post, 1 July 2021, www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/china-party-heads-bashed-xi/2021/07/01/277c8f0c-da3f-11eb-8c87-ad6f27918c78_story.html.


On July 26, Philippine President Duterte held his final State of the Nation Address (SONA). This annual event features a nationwide public broadcast of the President discussing the challenges, priorities, and aspirations of the national government for the following year. On paper, the SONA serves to inform the public of the country’s progress. However, in practice, it is used to highlight superficial achievements while conveniently leaving out the growing inequalities experienced everyday by the Filipino people. Due to the sheer distortion of facts and realities during the SONA, Filipinos from marginalized sectors have taken it upon themselves to expose and oppose the President’s double-talk. They have come together to hold a grand demonstration called the People’s SONA wherein they articulate the genuine state of the nation through their chants, slogans, and placards. As the many different sectors expressed their various aspirations, some common themes became apparent.

HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS

Since he assumed office, Duterte has openly promoted the culture of impunity, militarism, and human rights abuses during his press conference and public pronouncements. This bloody rhetoric emboldens armed state forces to conduct their operations with brazen disregard for due process and human rights. Quotas and results are artificially reached at the expense of the poor and powerless. These killings and enforced disappearances are also used to silence critics and political opponents. Even the ongoing pandemic was not enough to stop the War on Drugs – drawing the attention of the International Criminal Court (ICC).[1][2] 

FAILED COVID-19 RESPONSE

Speaking of the pandemic, the Duterte regime is guilty of culpable negligence regarding its mandate to protect the Filipino people. Even though the Philippines is under the longest lockdown in the world, there are still approximately 1.5 million CoVID cases in the country as of writing. The alarming growth of infected people is due to the Duterte administration’s  constant downplaying of the public health crisis; it also relies heavily on military solutions to address this medical problem.[3] Moreover, the government’s immense borrowing coupled with their minimal spending further weakens the Philippine economy and hamstrings our national capacity to respond to the needs of the people. In fact, just this July 6, the Philippines’ national debt stock reached a record-high 11 trillion pesos. The problems introduced are transgenerational since the burden of remuneration falls on the shoulders of the next generation. 

ABANDONED NATIONAL PATRIMONY AND SOVEREIGNTY

While the Filipino people are preoccupied with surviving the pandemic and Duterte’s blind War on Drugs, the president is busy selling Philippine islands and resources to US and China. Duterte has allowed the continued operation of several US bases in the Philippines as well as the retention of one-sided military agreements with the US.[5] Meanwhile, China enjoys unrestricted access to the West Philippine Sea. President Duterte has failed to uphold the arbitration victories of the previous administration over the Kalayaan Island Groups (KIG). Currently, Chinese fishing and military vessels have total control over the area while Duterte recommends that we surrender our national assets for the sake of “friendship”.[6] 

As an institution, APRN pursues the growth and development of Asia Pacific’s civil society through people’s research and network building. Our organizational experience has informed us of the rich history of the Global South when it comes to overcoming oppressors. The Duterte regime’s low cunning and heavy fascist inclinations are not absolute. The experiences of Asia Pacific countries with despots have taught us that the people must unite not just against figureheads, but also against the imperialist machineries that enable their oppressive policies. As the People’s SONA speaks truth to power, may it inspire others to participate in the process of democratizing the Philippines. Let the people’s struggle spell the end of all tyrannical regimes and break all vestiges of colonial rule over the Global South!

References:

[1]https://news.abs-cbn.com/spotlight/04/10/21/philippine-drug-war-logs-186-killings-in-1st-quarter-of-2021-amid-surge-in-covid-19-cases

[2]https://edition.cnn.com/2021/06/14/asia/icc-probe-philippines-drug-war-intl-hnk/index.html

[3]http://dev.aprnet.org/policy-note-weaponized-response-of-states-to-covid-19-militarist-trends-in-south-asia-and-southeast-asia/

[4]https://www.philstar.com/business/2021/07/06/2110383/philippines-debt-hits-record-p11-trillion

[5]https://edition.cnn.com/2020/06/03/asia/philippines-us-agreement-south-china-sea-intl-hnk/index.html

[6]https://www.manilatimes.net/2021/07/06/news/duterte-ph-counts-on-china-as-friend-partner-for-peace-and-development/1805975