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.
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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
Jerold serves as a reporter and San Francisco Bureau Chief for SFBay covering transportation, City Hall, and the Mayor's Office in San Francisco. His work on transportation has been recognized by the San Francisco Press Club. Born and raised in San Francisco, he graduated from San Francisco State University with a degree in journalism. Jerold previously wrote for the San Francisco Public Press, a nonprofit, noncommercial news organization. When not reporting, you can find Jerold taking Muni to check out new places to eat in the city.