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It’s been three years since the assassination attempt on my life

Activist Brandon Lee shares his story at the PSONA on July 25, 2022. Photo: Jen Rocha

August marks three years since I was targeted for assassination by military agents in the Philippines under the Duterte administration. I was shot in front of my home in the presence of my daughter and family. The attack has left me scarred, nearly dying from eight cardiac arrests, and now permanently paralyzed without the use of my legs or my hands.

After being medically evacuated back to the U.S., it horrifies me to think that the bullet fragments still lodged in my body have been funded through American tax dollars. Until now, there has been no investigation or accountability for this brazen attack, sanctioned by the Philippine government in an atmosphere of total disregard for human rights and the lives of its people.

Under Duterte, the de facto policy has been to kill the poor by the thousands in the guise of a war on drugs. Official numbers report over 6,000 Filipinos were killed in police operations, not including victims of vigilante- style killings estimated at around 30,000 by human rights groups. This brutal record has led to the international watchdog Global Witness declaring the Philippines under Duterte the deadliest in the world for defenders of human rights, the environment, and natural resources.

And although the Philippines has a new president, early signs point to continuing impunity. President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. did not address human rights and accountability during his first State of the Nation Address and does not intend to rejoin the International Criminal Court (ICC) after Duterte withdrew the country in 2019.

In addition, Marcos has yet to announce new appointees for the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) en banc, critically important to an independent investigation of the thousands killed under Duterte’s flagship program. Ironically, the CHR was originally established under the 1987 Philippine Constitution in response to the crimes and atrocities committed during his father’s Martial Law.

Far from uninvolved, the U.S. government has enabled the brutality and injustices in the Philippines by offering over $2.4 billion American tax dollars in military aid, including weapons and firearms, during Duterte’s regime.

The U.S. government can change this through the Philippine Human Rights Act introduced by Rep. Susan Wild, which would cut support for the military and police until the government investigates and prosecutes police and military forces who engaged in human rights violations, as well as establish much-needed protections for basic human rights in the country.

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