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Family, friends and San Francisco officials celebrated the long-awaited return of a San Francisco native, human rights activist and environmentalist who was shot four times in the Philippines. He was finally flown home Saturday by medical air transport.

Brandon Lee, 37, was shot outside his Ifugao home in August. Lee’s family and friends believe the attack was carried out by the Philippine Army under President Rodrigo Duterte.

Aaron Levy-Wolins/SFBay Demonstrators rally in solidarity with Brandon Lee, a journalist and human rights activist who was shot in the Philippines, at City Hall in San Francisco, Calif., on Friday, Aug. 9, 2019. Lee, a Chinese American and SF native, works for the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance in the Ifugao Province.

Lee moved to the Philippines in 2010 to work as an advocate and volunteer paralegal. According to the Human Rights Watch organization, more than 7,000 people have been killed in the three years since the Duterte launched his brutal “war on drugs,” which has targeted activists alongside people accused of being drug dealers and users. 

Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital CEO Susan Ehrlich told a crowd of family, friends and supporters gathered at City Hall Monday that Lee is resting comfortably at the hospital despite everything he has been through.

Erlich said:

“He is comfortable and doing well, especially after a long and incredibly arduous journey that he had to endure.”

Supervisors Gordon Mar and Matt Haney have supported efforts to ensure Lee’s safe return to The City. Haney recently traveled to the Philippines to visit Lee and his family.

Aaron Levy-Wolins/SFBay District 4 Supervisor Gordon Mar condemns the attacks against Brandon Lee, a journalist and human rights activist who was shot in the Philippines, during a rally at City Hall in San Francisco, Calif., on Friday, Aug. 9, 2019. Lee, a Chinese American and SF native, works for the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance in the Ifugao Province.

Haney said:

“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.”

Mar, who represents the Sunset District where Lee had lived before moving to the Philippines, said Lee is an inspiration to his friends and family.

Mar said:

“While this attempted assassination and (silencing of) Brandon is shocking and tragic, his story is inspiring and hopeful to all of us.”

Mar added that local leaders have shown incredible support for Lee and his family, specifically naming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Kamala Harris and Congresswoman Jackie Speier,.

Lee’s mother, Louise Lee, spoke out Monday about what she went through upon learning of her son’s attack. As she rushed to the Philippines with Lee’s brother, she wondered if she would see her son alive again.

Jerold Chinn/SFBay Louise Lee, center, speaks on behalf of her son Brandon Lee, at a rally in San Francsico, Calif., on Monday, October 28, 2019.

Louise said:

“Will we make it in time? Will he still be alive when we get there?”

Louise said her son suffered eight cardiac arrests but was stable as the air transport flew him back to The City.

She said she wants her son’s shooting to remind the public of the rampant killings that continue in the Philippines under Duterte’s rule.

Louise said:

“Let’s not permit this failed assassination attempt on my son’s life be in vain. 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.”

Lee’s friend Faye Lacanlinao described him as one of “The Avengers,” a movie they last saw together in 2012.

Aaron Levy-Wolins/SFBay (From center, left to right) Tina Shaun-Bajar, 38, Alexis David, 34, Valerie Francisco-Menchavez and Faye Lacanilao raise their fists during a rally in solidarity with Brandon Lee, a journalist and human rights activist who was shot in the Philippines, at City Hall in San Francisco, Calif., on Friday, Aug. 9, 2019. Lee, a Chinese American and SF native, works for the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance in the Ifugao Province. The group of demonstrators held their fists to symbolize that their lives were touched by Lee.

Lacanlinao said:

“He has the optimism of Spider Man, the fortitude of Black Panther. His love for the environment and his fearlessness is more than Groot.”

A Go Fund Me page has been established to help pay back the loan taken out for Lee’s air lift.

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