37-year-old San Francisco native Brandon Lee was airlifted back to SF this week from the Philippines after being shot and gravely wounded in August in what many have characterized as an extrajudicial assassination attempt by the government of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.
Lee was flown back to his hometown via medical airlift — at great expense — and friends, family, and local politicians who helped bring him home held a rally Monday on the steps of City Hall. As Bay City News reports, via Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital CEO Susan Ehrlich, Lee is resting comfortably at the hospital, "especially after a long and incredibly arduous journey that he had to endure."
Born in the Sunset District and an alum of both Lincoln High School and San Francisco State University, Lee moved to the Philippines in 2010 to work as an activist and volunteer paralegal. A longtime activist, Lee caught the attention of the Philippine government in 2015 due to his work on behalf of the indigenous people of the Cordilleras, on the island of Luzon, whose land and rights have been infringed upon by development forces going back several decades. (The rice terraces of the Cordilleras are a UNESCO World Heritage site.) Lee lived in the region for the past decade, in the Ifugao region, and he reportedly had received threats and been surveilled by Duterte's government over the past four years. On August 6, Lee was walking outside his home with his seven-year-old daughter when he was shot multiple times in the spine, shoulder, face, and arm.
Lee's mother, Louise Lee, said her son had suffered eight cardiac arrests following the shooting, but he was stable enough to make the trip back to San Francisco this week. Lee and her other son Aaron flew to the Philippines following the shooting, and she says they worried they would not get to see him before he died.
"Let’s not permit this failed assassination attempt on my son’s life be in vain," Louise Lee said at Monday's rally, per Bay City News. "Unlike Brandon, there are tens of thousands of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines who remain unknown because they don’t receive the same international attention as Brandon."
The New York Times reported in July that the United Nations’ Human Rights Council had voted to investigate what it said were "wide-ranging abuses, including killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests, and persecution of rights activists, journalists, lawyers and members of the political opposition" in the Philippines. And human rights groups believe the number of people killed in the last six years of Duterte's presidency may be as high as 27,000 — with Duterte frequently touting his police forces' killing of drug dealers and drug users.
Supervisors Matt Haney and Gordon Mar worked with Lee's family and congresswomen Jackie Speier, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris to arrange the airlift for Lee, which apparently cost $200,000 — and there's a GoFundMe set up to help cover the cost.
As Mar said in a statement at the rally, "We look forward to the next steps to make sure Brandon’s perpetrators are brought to justice, to make sure the human rights crisis and the targeted assassinations in the Philippines come to an end, to make sure we address to U.S. military aid that is facilitating that human rights crisis."