Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Washington, D.C. – Today, Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley – a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – issued the following statement on the visit of Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to the United States:

“The Philippines is the United States’ oldest ally in the Indo-Pacific. We stand with the Philippines against any intimidation or coercion, including in the South China Sea, and to preserve a region that’s governed by the rule of law.

“While our two nations have worked together to promote peace and stability – including under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement – I hear regularly from organizations and individuals that those who defend human rights, including labor, environment, and Indigenous rights, continue to be targeted and silenced despite the change in leadership from President Duterte to President Marcos Jr. last year. This includes the case of Alex Dolorosa, an organizer and paralegal who was recently found dead after years of surveillance, and the lingering case of environmental defender Brandon Lee, who was shot and paralyzed by state forces in 2019. The Marcos Administration has yet to bring the perpetrators to justice. This repression even extends to other elected leaders: Philippines Senator Leila De Lima, remains wrongfully imprisoned after six years on politically motivated charges.

“I call on President Biden and President Marcos to use their time together in Washington to ensure that democracy and human rights are strengthened alongside other aspects of the U.S.-Philippines relationship. In particular, working together to reform the judicial system will be critical to ensure that those who have committed egregious human rights abuses are held accountable.”

After President Marcos’ election, Merkley joined his colleagues in urging the Biden Administration to reset the U.S.-Philippines relationship with a strong focus on protecting human rights and democracy.