Please note that this article is intended for educational purposes for any foreigner living, working, retiring or studying in the Philippines. In particular, this incident underscores the dangers of involving oneself with environmental activism or being perceived as a political agitator within the Philippines.
Disturbing news coming out of Ifugao (ee-foo-GOW) province of Luzon with the August 6 shooting of a Chinese-American citizen working as a paralegal for the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance. The 37-year-old American, Brandon Lee, who is of Chinese descent, had reportedly been living in the Philippines since 2010 and was a permanent resident through marriage to a Filipina citizen. The couple has a young daughter. Brandon was shot four times in the backand spine ando face from unidentified assailants. He suffered multiple cardiac episodes during surgery and continues to be in critical condition. He is believed to be the first US citizen targeted for an extrajudicial assassination attempt in the Philippines.
According to sources, Brandon was working with the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance and also supported the Ifaugao Peasant Movement. (The Ifugao are an indigenous people native to the Philippines.) He had allegedly been ‘red-tagged’ by the military for having sympathies with the Philippine rebel group, the New People’s Army. He had also been labeled as an “enemy of the state” on social media and on posters placed around the province.
Both the Cordillera Alliance and the IPM work to protect land rights of the native people who have lived in the Cordilleras for thousands of years. They have been notably active in their opposition to a number of massive hydroelectric projects that would displace numerous Ifugoa from their native lands.
The shooting of Lee follows the assassination of another IPM member last year, Ricardo Muyami, a Filipino who was a leader of the IPM. Four years earlier, William Bugatti, also a paralegal with the Cordillera Alliance, was shot and killed. Lee was reportedly friends with both of these men.
A Go Fund Me has been set up by his friends to help allay the costs of his multiple surgeries. You can find that site by clicking HERE. As of this date, $25,000 USD of the $30,000 goal has been raised.
The US government has been petitioned to provide security protection to Brandon through the US embassy.
Global Watch, an international human rights organization, noted that the Philippines is considered the most dangerous place in the world to be an environmental activist, with 30 people having been murdered in there in 2018 (out of 164 reported world-wide).
Involving oneself in human rights or environmental activism in the Philippines entails a good amount of risk. Especially when it comes to being perceived as a communist “sympathizer,” opposing mega-billion peso construction programs or simply getting between a man’s family and the dinner table.
Speedy recovery and best to Brandon and his family.
Until next time, puppies and rainbows, y’all.