SAN FRANCISCO – A group of Filipino American activists in San Francisco came to the defense of a Chinese American who they say is being wrongly accused by the Philippine military as a rebel and enemy of the state.
Brandon Lee is a Chinese American who married a Filipina and raised a family in Ifugao province after an exposure trip as a student at San Francisco State University.
His family and friends say Lee is now a human rights worker for the Ifugao Peasant Movement. But posters found throughout the Ifugao province and on online social media sites claim he is a member of the New People's Army and should be regarded as an enemy of the state.
Through contact with family and friends in the U.S., Lee said he is currently safe but now fears for his well-being.
''I'm very concerned about that because it's placing my son's life in danger along with his colleagues,'' said Louise Lee, Brandon's mother.
Lee's family, his former teacher at San Francisco State University and current Supervisor Eric Mar, and Filipino American activists met with Deputy Consul General Jaime Ascalon and other members of the Philippine Consulate to demand an investigation into the alleged political vilification and harassment of Brandon and other human rights workers.
They say the Philippine government’s counter-insurgency policy called Oplan Bayanihan intentionally associates human rights workers like Lee with the rebel group to justify illegal arrests.
''We're really trying to put pressure on what is happening in the Philippines with the vilification campaigns on not only human rights defenders but indigenous people activists. We don't want the same thing to happen to Brandon what happened with Melissa Roxas,'' said Pyxie Castillo of the League of Filipino Students at San Francisco State University.
In 2009, Roxas, a Filipino-American activist, was allegedly abducted and held prisoner by whom she believes were members of the Philippine military.
Deputy Consul General Ascalon listened to Lee's supporters and reassured them that the Philippine government upholds human rights laws and will pass along this information to proper agencies in the Philippines to ensure the Chinese-American's safety.
Lee's mother will be flying out to the Philippines by the end of the month to visit him and his family.
''During the meeting, we in fact suggested a meeting between the mother of Brandon and the regional police office based in Benguet just to introduce and for her to personally convey her concerns to authorities in the Philippines,'' said Ascalon.
Lee's mother added,''They acknowledge what I said and they did state they will be contacting Philippine officials in Washington DC and in the Philippines so I think this is all a good beginning.''
The activists said they will continue to pressure the consulate in following through with an investigation to end the harassment and threats of human rights workers in the Cordillera region.
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