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SF human rights advocate fighting for his life after being shot in the Philippines

Brandon Lee

Views from the Edge

An unidentified attacker shot a San Francisco Chinese American in the Philippines in what friends and family believe was an attempted extrajudicial assassination by the Philippine government.

Brandon Lee, 37, became interested in the Philippines while attending San Francisco State University where he was a member of the League of Filipino Students, according to KTVU. He moved to the Philippines ten years ago to work as a paralegal and became an advocate for the Ifugaos, an indigenous people in the mountains of in northern Luzon. According to media reports, Lee was outside feeding his dog outside his home when the attack occurred. He was shot three times in the back and once in the face. His attackers escaped.

Lee’s friends and family are worried that whoever shot him August 6 will make another attempt on his life. After being shot, he suffered a cardiac arrest and remains in critical condition, they say. His mother and brother are at his bedside. His supporters are blaming Philippine government forces for the assassination attempt, and they want the U.S. government to do whatever it can to protect him.

“Initially, the U.S. embassy in the Philippines said they weren’t going to do anything when the family contacted them directly. That’s why we’re pushing our congressional representatives to intervene,” said Gordon Mar, a San Francisco supervisor. .Local authorities have formed a task force and are seeking two unidentified suspects.

While in the Philippines, Lee married a Filipina . Relatives want protection for Lee’s family, including the couple’s daughter. Because of his work as a human rights advocate and as an environmentalist with the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance and the Ifugao Peasant Movement, his friends say he has been harassed and monitored. Flyers were circulated describing him as “an enemy of the state.” The Philippines’ political situation has changed since Lee moved to that country. In 2010, under then President Benigno Noynoy Aquino, human rights was a priority. Current President Rodrigo Duterte, who is often compared to Donald Trump, has come under harsh criticism for human rights violations. Lee continued doing human rights work as the abuses and the extrajudicial killings by the military and vigilantes became more commonplace under Duterte. Lee is the third peasant movement member to be attacked.

In 2014, William Bugatti, another paralegal officer, was killed after being tagged as a  communist rebel. Lee’s predecessor, Ricardo Mayumi, was killed in March 2018.

“Even though his own life was in danger, it didn’t make a difference,” said Carlo Montemayor, a childhood friend told the San Francisco Chronicle. Lee’s friends, family and supporters have organized several fundraising events and createdgofundme to help Brandon and his family with medical and other expenses.

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