An open letter to the Australian Government from the Philippine community and supporters in Australia

A range of Philippine community and other organisations in Australia, concerned about the growing violation of human rights in the Philippines and the role of Australia in aiding the militarisation of this country, have endorsed the following letter. It has been sent to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Marise Pine, to bring public awareness to what is going on, and in the hope that this will lead to a change.

Dear Minister,

Senator the Hon Marise Payne

Minister for Foreign Affairs

Email: [email protected]

We, the representatives and members of various organisations and residents of Australia express our opposition to Australia’s increasing military and police cooperation with the Philippines.

As Australians, we have always prided ourselves to be great human rights and social justice advocates. It is thus our responsibility – be it here or overseas – to promote, uphold and exercise these principles.

Within this context, we raise grave concern over Australia’s increasing military and police cooperation vis a vis the worsening human rights and social justice situation in the Philippines.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) – both regular beneficiaries of Australia’s financial and other forms of support to the Philippine government – are notorious for the loss of lives and livelihood in the Philippines. According to KARAPATAN, an independent human rights organisation in the Philippines, the AFP and PNP have used “counter-terrorism” and the “war on drugs” as an excuse as well as justification of their attacks on ordinary people, curtail the democratic rights and the right to organise of the Filipino people. What is happening today in the Philippines is very alarming:

–          The “war on drugs” has already killed over 20,000 and imprisoned many more.

–          At least one human rights advocate is murdered every week.  

–          Martial Law continues to be imposed in Mindanao despite unjustified reason.

–          Militarisation of the countryside, which is creating thousands of internal refugees, attacks on indigenous communities including occupation of their schools by the military robbing children of their right to education.

–          Attacks on civil society organisations and media.

Australia – as one of two countries with a Visiting Forces Agreement with the Philippines – should exercise its influence to prevent the killings and injustices happening in the Philippines, if indeed it supports human rights and social justice. But this seems to be not the case for Australia is either turning a blind eye on all these or it is genuinely convinced that by having an “extensive Defence Cooperation Program with the Philippines, which includes counter-terrorism cooperation”, it is improving the human rights situation in the Philippines.

The Australian Defence Forces (ADF) is said to be providing “capacity-building” assistance to the AFP and PNP. By capacity building, do we mean building their capacity to kill, sow fear and commit more injustices? Operation Augury claims to be providing training to counter so-called complex urban terrorist tactics. Two Orion spy planes were supplied to aid Duterte’s war on Marawi and Australia has added insult to injury with its attempts to intervene in the heavily criticised reconstruction efforts.

Clearly, Australia’s military assistance to the Philippines – especially its support to the AFP and the PNP – play a significant role in perpetrating human rights violations.

It is for this reason that we respectfully ask the Australian Government:

1.      To cease all funding and support for the Duterte government, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police.

2.      To undertake a rigorous human rights audit of all Australian aid programs in the Philippines and make the Philippine Government accountable and compliant of human rights and social justice principles.


 Action for Peace & Development in the Philippines (APDP)

Advanced League of Peoples’ Artists (ALPA)

Anakbayan Melbourne

Anakbayan Sydney

Australia Asia Worker Links (AAWL)

Campaign for International Cooperation & Disarmament (CICD)

Communist Party of Australia, Western Australia

Gabriela Australia, Victoria

Gabriela Greater Sydney

Gabriela Western Australia

International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP)

International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS), Australia

IPAN – South Australia

IPAN – Victoria

Lingap Migrante

May Day Committee

Melbourne Unitarian Peace Memorial Church (MUPMC)

Migrante Australia

Migrante Melbourne, East

Migrante Melbourne, North

Migrante Melbourne, West Chapter

Migrante North, NSW

Migrante Perth

North East Border Trades and Labour Council

Pax Christi Australia

Philippine Australia Union Link (PAUL)

Philippine Australia Women Association (PAWA)

Philippine Caucus for Peace (PCP)

Philippine Studies Network in Australia (PINAS)

Philippines Australia Solidarity Association (PASA)

Philippines Australia Solidarity Association (PASA) – Albury Wodonga

Samahang Tatak Pinoy (STP)

Spirit of Eureka – NSW

Spirit of Eureka – South Australia

Spirit of Eureka – Victoria                                     

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