By Tara Yap
Filipino-American activists have slammed the choice of the Philippine Embassy to hold the 120th Philippine Independence Day celebration at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.
“In solidarity with the American people who are struggling against President Donald Trump, the Philippine Embassy should have chosen another venue,” said Yves Nibungco, one of the coordinators for Malaya, a U.S.-based group against dictatorship and political killings in the Philippines.
Since Trump took office last year, organizers have backed out from holding their events at several of his hotel chains across the United States due to his controversial statements and policies.
But the Philippine government, represented by Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez, is reportedly the fourth country to use Trump International Hotel as an official venue. Other countries include Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Kuwait.
“This event the Philippine Embassy is organizing is a clear indication that the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte wants to get more support from the Trump administration,” Nibungco told Manila Bulletin.
Malaya has repeatedly decried the thousands of killings in the name of Duterte’s drug war and even called on American legislators to cut off U.S. military aid to Duterte’s administration.
There is also a conflicting stand within the US government in terms of Duterte’s presidency.
In its Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2017 released last April, the U.S. State Department found that extrajudicial killings (EJKs) “have been the chief human rights concern in the country for many years and, after a sharp rise with the onset of the anti-drug campaign in 2016, they continued in 2017.”
But Trump has applauded Duterte’s drug war. In a phone call, Trump reportedly told Duterte that he was doing a “great job” on the country’s drug problem.”
“I think the event at the Trump International Hotel is just a show of puppetry,” Nibungo added.
The Philippine Embassy maintains that no government money will be used for about 300 Filipino and American guests.
Vice Consul for Public Diplomacy Darell Ann Artates explained that friends of Ambassador Romualdez are paying for the celebration at the controversial Trump hotel.
In a newspaper column, Ambassador Romualdez earlier said that he wanted to hold it at an “elegant and historic venue” as other countries have chosen the Trump International Hotel as the venue for their national day celebrations.
Located along Pennsylvania Avenue, the Trump International Hotel is a few blocks from the White House.