‘Activism is not a Crime’: Confronting Counterinsurgency in the Filipino Diaspora

In: Journal of American-East Asian Relations
Joy SalesAssistant Professor, Department of Asian and Asian American Studies, California State University, Los Angeles, USA,

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This article historicizes the transnational counterinsurgency that the U.S.-Philippine governments have conducted against diasporic Filipino/a/x activists. In examining the period of the Cold War to the early 2020s, it makes a case for recognizing existing continuities of counterinsurgency tactics targeted at Filipinos in the United States, such as extradition, deportation, surveillance, and assassination. The Philippine state’s resort to red-baiting during the Cold War and contemporary “red-tagging” has aimed at the elimination of communism and terrorism at home and beyond its national borders, at the expense of human rights. This long history of counterinsurgency also highlights the acceleration and formalization of diasporic Filipino organizations dedicated to promoting democracy in the Philippines during the period of martial law under President Ferdinand E. Marcos, showing how diasporic Filipinos organized opposition not only to dictatorship, but also U.S. support for violent regimes. The transnational opposition against Marcos and then President Rodrigo R. Duterte has characterized diasporic Filipinos as a primary component of democratic movements in both the United States and the Philippines who have linked domestic racial oppression to U.S. imperialism and state fascism in the Philippines.

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