SAN FRANCISCO — On Monday morning in downtown San Francisco, the chants of Filipino Americans calling for the ouster of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte could be heard loud and clear.
The demonstration, which took place in front of the Philippine Consulate, marks the fourth anniversary of the inauguration of Duterte in Malacanang.
Duterte, who began his presidency on June 30, 2016, still has two years left in his term.
These Fil-Am activists admitted that they were hopeful at the start of Duterte’s presidency — but then, they said it turned into a nightmare.
“We can look at the pause in peace talks, you look at the poor response to COVID-19. All of this, the mandatory Phil-health contributions. So it’s a lot of things that put a lot of pressure on the Filipino people, especially in the time of pandemic. That really encourages more silencing rather than listening to the needs of the people,” said Justher Gutierrez.
These activists said the targets for the Duterte administration’s controversial policies have been the poor and those who advocate for them.
“When you look at the targeting of activists, of farmers, of lawyers, of judges, of journalists. It’s crazy to think like in the span of four years there have been estimates of what some folks are saying is 30,000 have been killed in the drug war alone.”
The latest issue these Fil-Am activists have with the Duterte administration is the passage of the Philippines’ anti-terror bill in Congress — which Duterte is inclined to sign into law.
Critics have slammed the bill as the government’s way to further silence voices of dissent.
“We’re really concerned that if the anti-terror bill becomes law that Duterte will continue the escalation of state terror. And with that, really, the most oppressed, exploited classes who will bear the brunt and this includes LGBTQ communities, urban poor, as well as housing farmers.”
The Duterte administration has also received international condemnation over the libel conviction of Fil-Am veteran journalist Maria Ressa, and the shutdown of the biggest Philippine media network, ABS-CBN.
Congressman Bobby Scott, along with representative Adam Schiff, Democratic co-chair of the congressional freedom of the press caucus issued a statement Monday, saying they are deeply concerned with the conviction of Filipino journalists like Ressa, and are urging authorities to drop these politically-motivated charges, and allow journalists to continue their work without intimidation.