REDWOOD CITY, Calif. – It was at San Francisco State University where Chinese American Brandon Lee joined the League of Filipino Students.
Through this student organization he learned of the poor people of the Philippines, especially in the Cordillera region, and wanted to help.
Lee became even more rooted to the Philippines after he married a Filipina and raised a daughter in the Cordillera region.
Now Lee has been included among alleged members of the rebel group New People’s Army, as shown from a poster reportedly circulated by the Philippine military.
“These allegations are false,” said Lee in a phone interview. “I think it deliberately means to silence the community work we do and at the same time it attempts to condition the minds of the people to legitimize surveillance which leads to human rights violations.”
Some Filipino American activists say the Philippine military’s Oplan Bayanihan intentionally associates human rights workers like Lee with the rebel group to justify illegal arrests.
Lee says he fears for his life and the life of his family.
“These attacks are also threats to my family and to my life,” said Lee. “We also have a policeman in my wife’s family who constantly tells my family that I am in the military target list and that I should get out of the organization or the Ifugao Peasant Movement.”
Recently Lee’s family and friends met with the Philippine Consulate in San Francisco to express their concerns regarding his safety from any harassment or threats to his life or any of his colleagues.
“I have friends and relatives from all over the world standing up for me but I think to myself what about these indigenous people or activists in the Philippines,” asked Lee. “Who will protect them when the military does the same thing they did to my friend, William Bugatti, and the other 200 plus civilians or 500 political detainees under the current president.”
Lee has also been made aware of Deputy Consul General Jaime Ascalon’s reassurance to his family and friends saying that he will contact the proper agencies in the Philippines about Lee’s alleged targeting.
“I hope he can request the Philippine Congress, especially our congressman here in the district of Ifugao, Teddy Baguilat Jr., to also launch an independent investigation of surveillance, threats, and harassment against us human rights workers, indigenous people activists here in the Cordilerra region,” said Lee.
Lee also wanted to express that while he and his colleagues are concerned for their safety, they do not plan to leave the Cordilerra and will continue to push for the protection of heritage and land of the indigenous people.
Follow Rommel Conclara on Twitter @rommelconclara for more information.