Hannah Brem is JURIST’s News Managing Editor, and a 3L at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. She files this dispatch from New York City.
Human rights activists gathered Monday in front of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) to protest the visit of Philippines president Ferdinand “Bongbong” Romualdez Marcos Jr.’s to New York for the 77th United Nations General Assembly. The demonstrators represented Anakbayan Manhattan and the International League of People’s Struggles (ILPS), the Northeast Coalition to Advance Genuine Democracy in the Philippines (NECAGDP) and the Katabaan Alliance. Inside the NYSE, Marcos Jr. spoke to industry leaders. The Filipino flag hung alongside the American flag on the NYSE facade in expectation of his visit.
Marcos Jr. is the son of former Philippines president Ferdinand Marcos. The demonstrators said that Marcos Jr. carries his father’s legacy and has no place in the international human rights community. Protestors passed out leaflets reading as follows:
It is a travesty and a slap in the face to both the courageous Filipinos who survived torture and economic ruin, and the families of those who were disappeared and murdered at the hands of the Marcos family – and many of whom live in the United States. The Marcos dictatorship was responsible for an estimated 3,200 extra-judicial killings; the physical and sexual torture of 35,000 victims; the imprisonment of over 70,000 political prisoners, journalists, and activists; the and the plundering of billions from the national treasury – much of which the Marcos family refuses to repay to this day. Likewise, the administration of Rodrigo Duterte enforced a drug war that claimed the lives of an estimated 30,000 Filipino people. His regime passed the Anti-Terror Law (ATL) which baselessly tags political opponents and activists as enemies of the state. He committed violations of International Humanitarian Law by indiscriminately bombing civilian communities in the countryside.
After the International Criminal Court (ICC) opened an investigation into Duterte’s purported crimes against humanity, Duterte announced that the Philippines would withdraw from the ICC. Protestors say Marcos Jr. has “opposed” the ICC investigation rather “than holding the Duterte administration to account.” The current government of the Philippines claims it “fully respects internationally protected human rights in the conduct of its legitimate operations,” but today’s protestors and organizations like Amnesty International disagree.
One protestor who did not provide his affiliation told me: “He [Marcos Jr.] may be the child of the Philippines’ worst dictator, but we are the children of those who fought for our people!” Chrissi Fabro said that by allowing Marcos to enter the country US demonstrates “no regard for the victims of human rights violations”. “What is he qualified to speak on?” she asked. Speakers at the protest also called for solidarity for the international community, mentioning Hurricane Fiona’s drastic effects on Puerto Rico.
I observed more than 50 protestors for several hours. They handed out hundreds of flyers to passing tourists who were generally very attentive and receptive, although it was incredibly ironic to see a few tourists ignore the protestors and then take photos in front of the Fearless Girl statue, also outside the Stock Exchange.