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Australian senator who protested during Marcos’ speech censured by colleagues

MANILA, Philippines – Australian Senator Janet Rice was censured by the Australian Senate because of her protest stunt while President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. was delivering a speech before the parliament in Canberra.

In a speech before the sanction was handed down on Thursday, February 29, Rice stood by her decision to raise a placard bearing the words “Stop human rights abuses” while Marcos was addressing the plenary.

“The action I took in the House today was deliberate and it is powerful. And I did it on behalf of every Filipino person whose human rights have been abused by the government of President Marcos and the government of [former] president Duterte before him,” Rice said.

“I learned and I heard first hand about what is going on in the Philippines, where I learned about extrajudicial killing, where people on trumped up charges are red tagged, and then they are hunted down, and they are killed,” she added.

Rice belongs to the Australian Greens, one of the minor parties in the Senate. There are 11 of them in the 76-member upper chamber.

Her party mate, senator Jordon Steele-John, decried the sanction issued on Rice.

“The only unparliamentary thing to happen today was that the Albanese government supported by the Coalition allowed the son of a dictator, a human rights abuser and man living off stolen wealth from the Filipino people to use our parliament as a platform of legitimacy,” Steele-John said on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Rice said she mounted that small protest to decry the high number of political prisoners in the Philippines, as well as the enforcement of the anti-terror law.

In 2022, the Philippine Supreme Court upheld most provisions of the anti-terror law, a measure passed during the administration of Marcos’ predecessor Rodrigo Duterte. Critics have feared that the legislation would be weaponized to target the opposition.

According to rights groups, there are over 800 political prisoners in the Philippines – 90 of them arrested during the Marcos administration.

There was no specific mention of human rights during Marcos’ 17-minute speech.

A few dozen Filipino protesters also mounted protests outside the parliament building on Thursday morning. They were joined by other senators from Australian Greens, including Steele-John, David Shoebridge, and Barbara Pocock.

Marcos is the son of the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, whose Martial Law regime was considered among the darkest chapters of Philippine history.

The Marcos patriarch was kicked out of office after the 1986 People Power Revolution, but the Marcos family has since rehabilitated its image through what critics describe as a systematic disinformation campaign–

Originally published in