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Brandon Lee, the human rights activist. Photo: Facebook

US human rights volunteer branded an ‘enemy of the state’ shot outside home in Philippines

  • Activist in a critical condition after surgery to remove bullet from his jaw
  • Groups defending land rights and opposing increased military presence increasingly being targeted
An American human rights volunteer tagged an “enemy of the state” on social media in the Philippines has been shot four times outside his home.

Brandon Lee, 37, who is married to a Filipino woman, is in a critical condition after the shooting in Ifugao province in the northern part of the country on August 6.

He suffered cardiac arrest during surgery to remove a bullet from his jaw, according to a local rights group, the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance.

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Lee is a volunteer at the Ifugao Peasant Movement (IPM), a farmers’ group actively opposing a hydropower project and growing military presence in the Cordillera region.

The attack comes a year after one of the IPM’s staff members was killed in a similar attack in 2018.

The Philippines has been listed as the most dangerous country in the world for people defending their land and environment under the hardline presidency of Rodrigo Duterte, according to independent watchdog Global Witness.

Lee and several IPM staff had been tagged “enemy of the state” as early as 2015 in posters placed around the province. They were accused of being members of the communist rebel group New People’s Army (NPA), a claim they denied.

The allegation continues to circulate on social media.

Cordillera Human Rights Alliance, where Lee also volunteers as a paralegal, accused the government of perpetrating Tuesday’s attack.

“We hold accountable the state security forces that the Duterte administration has let loose in the Cordillera region,” the group said in a statement.

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The group said Lee had been receiving threats and was being followed before the attack.

In 2015, Cordillera Human Rights Alliance submitted a position paper to a US Congress committee to report harassment and threats against human rights workers in the province.

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