LA Fil-Ams raise money for human rights defender shot in PH

Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 31 2019 10:51 AM

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Activists in Long Beach, California recently held a rally for Chinese-American human rights defender Brandon Lee who is in critical condition after a gun attack in the Philippines earlier this month.

It has been three weeks since Brandon Lee was shot four times outside his home in Ifugao province after he was tagged an "enemy of the state" on social media.

But his friends, loved ones and supporters in the United States continue to hope against hope that the 37-year-old would recover. He remains in critical condition after he suffered cardiac arrest during an operation to remove one of the bullets lodged in his body.

“It’s amazing that he’s alive. It’s important to know he hears all of us. He hears the messages,” said his cousin Lauren Quirarte.

They formed the Justice for Brandon Lee campaign at the Filipino-owned Romeo Chocolates hoping to raise funds to help support Lee's medical expenses.

Lee had moved to the Philippines about a decade ago where he volunteers for the Ifugao Peasant Movement, a community group that protests a hydropower project as well as military presence in the Cordillera region.

Activists believe his shooting was politically motivated. They say they have experienced different types of intimidation in the Philippines during their humanitarian work.

Joyce Primm of the International Coalition of Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHIRP) had just returned from the Philippines where she said stories like Lee’s have become common.

"We dealt with surveillance of our cars and briefly tailed. That is the worst so far that has happened to me but also was a time to witness first hand how so many lawyers, church people, bishops or even the Vice President is really under attack for speaking out for the sanctity of life,” said Primm.

But others have seen worse. Last year, a pair of local activists were attacked by security guards and arrested during a protest at the NutriAsia Plant in Bulacan.

A decade ago, another Fil-Am activist Melissa Roxas claimed the Philippine military kidnapped and tortured her.

But before they sang for his cause, Lee’s family and ICHIRP shared a 2018 video of Lee talking about some of the dangers activists face in Baguio City.

Activists have been calling on US lawmakers to intervene in Lee’s case as well as in other ongoing human rights issues.

“His family are being harassed and surveilled so protection for him and his immediate family as well as calling on the US government to stop sending aid to the Philippine government at this time until the human rights crisis is independently investigated and human rights are expected and upheld throughout the country," said Primm.

Since Lee's shooting, the Philippine Commission on Human Rights has also called for the passage of a bill that seeks to prevent violations and abuses against human rights activists.

Read more on Balitang America.