Ferdinand Marcos Jr. Should Be Fully Investigated, Not Congratulated

It is truly disappointing that President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken congratulated Ferdinand Marcos Jr. as the winner of the presidential election of the Philippines. Really? Despite the fact the election remains in question due to massive reports of violence, cheating, fraud, disinformation, massive vote-buying and disenfranchisement, these congratulatory messages are not only premature, but inappropriate.

They are dismissive of widespread concerns about irregularities and voter disenfranchisement. As just one of the many serious, documented, troubling examples, election observers have documented that more than 1,800 voting machines malfunctioned or failed affecting at least 1.1 million voters.

The U.S. government’s acceptance of these fraudulent Philippine election results is a slap in the face of the many victims of the numerous human rights violations, murders and massive corruption under the prior Marcos dictatorship and the current Rodrigo Duterte regime. Rather than acknowledge the impacts of such an election on the many who have suffered human rights abuses in the Philippines, the Biden administration rushed to congratulate Marcos Jr.

The first congratulatory calls to Marcos Jr. came from the U.S. and China. The U.S. is vying to position itself to maintain military and economic influence in the Philippines over China. This is another instance in which foreign powers place the Philippines in the crosshairs of a new cold war.

The Biden administration’s response to this election aligns with its previous responses to the Duterte regime. While Biden has said he would make human rights the center of his foreign policy, he has unabashedly continued substantial military support to the Duterte government and has not reacted against or even commented about the numerous well-documented human rights atrocities in the Philippines.

While the U.S. State Department created a report on the Philippines with damning evidence of the crimes of Duterte, the U.S. government’s congratulatory message to Marcos Jr. and vice president candidate Sara Duterte shows the administration is kow-towing to the protests of the Philippine government against the U.S. State Department report.

We should not forget that Marcos Jr. is being held in contempt of court in the United States for “contumacious conduct causing direct harm to [a class of human rights victims].” Marcos Jr. has so far evaded paying the amount, more than $353 million, ordered by the U.S. federal court.

As in the case of Duterte, the U.S. is overlooking legality and justice for human rights violations in order to position itself militarily and economically in the Asia Pacific region. While Marcos Jr. may seek immunity as a sitting head of state, his case from 1992 should not be ignored or dismissed.

The members of the Hawaii Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines say “NO” to the Marcos- Duterte administration and “never again to martial law.” We call on our congressional representatives to co-sponsor the Philippine Human Rights Act (PHRA). This act would prohibit our U.S. tax dollars from being used to support the operations and equipment of the Philippine military and police until the deplorable human rights violations and killings in the Philippines cease.

We call on Hawaii’s people to support the call for an independent investigation of the recent Philippine elections and to urge our Hawaii congressional representatives to sponsor and vote for the PHRA.

This oped originally appeared in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Yoko Liriano and Mary Ochs co-chair the Hawaii Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (HICHRP);  John Witeck is an HICHRP member.