Hannah Brem is the news editor of JURIST and a 3L from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. She is filing this dispatch from New York.
Human rights activists gathered outside the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on Monday to protest the visit of Philippine President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Romualdez Marcos Jr.’s in New York for the 77th United Nations General Assembly. The protesters 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 with industry leaders. The Philippine flag hangs alongside the American flag on the facade of the NYSE awaiting its visit.
Marcos Jr. is the son of former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos. Protesters said Marcos Jr. carries his father’s legacy and has no place in the international human rights community. The demonstrators distributed leaflets reading as follows:
It is a travesty and a slap in the face both for the brave Filipinos who survived torture and economic ruin, and for the families of those who disappeared and were murdered at the hands of the Marcos family – many of whom live in the United States. The Marcos dictatorship was responsible for around 3,200 extrajudicial executions; the physical and sexual torture of 35,000 victims; the imprisonment of more than 70,000 political prisoners, journalists and activists; and the looting of billions from the national treasury – much of which the Marcos family refuses to repay to this day. Similarly, the administration of Rodrigo Duterte imposed a war on drugs that claimed the lives of approximately 30,000 Filipinos. His regime passed the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATL) which baselessly labels political opponents and activists as enemies of the state. It has 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 alleged crimes against humanity, Duterte announced that the Philippines would withdraw from the ICC. Protesters say Marcos Jr. ‘opposed’ the ICC investigation rather than ‘holding the Duterte administration to account’. The current government of the Philippines says it “fully respects internationally protected human rights in the conduct of its legitimate operations”, but protesters today and organizations like Amnesty International disagree.
A demonstrator who did not give his affiliation told me: “He [Marcos Jr.] maybe the child of the worst dictator in the Philippines, but we are the children of those who fought for our people! Chrissi Fabro said that by allowing Marcos into the country, the United States was showing “no respect for the victims of human rights abuses”. “What is he qualified to talk about?” she asked. Speakers at the protest also called for solidarity with the international community, citing the drastic effects of Hurricane Fiona on Puerto Rico.
I observed over 50 demonstrators 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 protesters and then take photos in front of the Fearless Girl statue, also outside of the stock market.