Anti-China Bullying Advocates and Human Rights Defenders

Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO far right), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on East Asia and the Pacific is thanked by (L to R): chaplain Georgette Beltran of US Filipinos for Good Governance DC and Genie Nguyen, Voice of Vietnamese American coalition leader, for championing the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act (ARIA) bill after a committee hearing in July 2018 in Washington. (uspgg.org photo)
Senator Ed Markey (D-MA center), ranking member of the Foreign Relations subcommittee on East Asia and the Pacific, is thanked by human rights advocates (L to R): DC coordinator Eric Lachica, chaplain Georgette Beltran of US Fillipinos for Good Governance DC, spokeswoman Genie Nguyen of Voice of Vietnamese Americans and journalist AngelynTugado-Marzan for championing the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act (ARIA) after a Senate hearing in July 2018 in Washington. (uspgg.org photo)

Applaud Passage of Asia Reassurance Bill

WASHINGTON DC – Filipino American advocates for good governance cheered the passage of the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act (S. 2736) in the U.S. Senate last week and was unanimously approved by the House of Representatives on December 12, 2018.

The comprehensive and strategic national security legislation counters Chinese government’s economic bullying and military aggression with her Asian neighbors and the Philippines. It provides $1.5 billion annually in security assistance to America’s allies to promote the values of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law in the Indo-Pacific region.

“This new law will be morale boost and a Christmas gift to our courageous human rights defenders, journalists and civil society friends in the Philippines, China and in Asia who are persecuted by their governments,” said RodelRodis, president of the national advocacy group, US Pinoys for Good Governance, and a prominent immigration attorney based in San Francisco, California.

“Geo-politically, this law when signed by President Trump will send a stern warning to Xi Jinping to end his imperial dreams in Asia and will directly sanction Duterte and his murderous underlings,” Rodis added.

Specifically, the legislation found “unacceptable human rights developments” in the Philippines with “continued disturbing reports of extra-judicial killings” there – along side Burma’s (Myanmar) ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people and Chinese government’s massive forced disappearances, “omnipresent surveillance” and lack of judicial due process there. (Sec. 401)

The powerful legislation calls on the American president to “impose targeted financial penalties and visa bans sanctions” on human rights violators and persons who “engages in censorship activities” of the news media in the region. It further urges President Trump to “terminate, suspend, otherwise alter… economic assistance to any country that has engaged in serious violations of human rights or religious freedoms.”  (Sec. 408)

The Philippine National Police was identified for no counternarcotics funding assistance unless the Duterte Administration implemented a counternarcotics approach “that is consistent with international human rights standards including investigating and prosecuting individuals who are credibly alleged to have ordered, committed, or covered up extrajudicial killings.” (Sec. 201e)

More than 25,000 Filipinos, mostly poor suspected drug dealers and addicts, are estimated to have been killed over the past two years under Duterte’s bloody declarations.

The new law offers $210 million annually in financial assistance to civil society groups, universities, multilateral institutions and nongovernmental organizations to promote human rights and the rule of law in the Indo-Pacific nations.

The Senate bill, S. 2736, was introduced in April by Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on Asia and its ranking member Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA). Several hearings on China’s aggression and protecting human rights and American democratic values were held. Community advocates had met with the two senators and their staff several times over the past two years on their concerns.

Gardner and Markey won full bi-partisan support in both houses with leadership of the late Senator John McCain (R-AZ) along with Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ).  House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield CA) championed the bill.

“We thank the leaders of USPGG, Filipino American Human Rights Alliance, SamahangMagdalo U.S., Movement for a Free Philippines, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, religious ecumenical groups, community organizations and our American friends for their successful lobbying efforts in Washington over the past two years,” Rodis said.

“In these dangerous and difficult times in our motherland, we, as concerned Filipino Americans, will pray and tirelessly fight for a just, peaceful and free Pilipinas in the new year,” he added.

For the full details about the ARIA bill, S. 2736, visit www.congress.gov and https://www.gardner.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/gardner-markey-comprehensive-asia-policy-measure-passes-senate