Philippines-US relations

US lawmakers want PH security aid suspended over rights abuses

Sofia Tomacruz
US lawmakers want PH security aid suspended over rights abuses

JUSTICE. Human rights groups condemn the killings under President Rodrigo Duterte's admininstration.

Jire Carreon/Rappler

'Let us make clear that the United States will not participate in the repression. Let us stand with the people of the Philippines,' says US lawmaker Susan Wild

US lawmakers are taking action to halt funding of Philippine security forces over humans rights abuses and the recent passage of the Southeast Asian country’s controversial anti-terror law. 

In a speech at the US Congress, Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional District Representative Susan Wild introduced House Resolution No. 8313 or the proposed Philippine Human Rights Act. The resolution seeks “to suspend the provision of security assistance to the Philippines” until it has made “certain reforms to the military and police forces, and for other purposes.”

Wild said the Duterte administration’s highly-divisive anti-terror law was being used to target labor organizers, workers, and political opponents, among others as a reason for introducing the proposed measure. 

“In response to these abuses, I introduced the Philippine Human Rights Act which would block US funding for police or military assistance to the Philippines outlining a series of basic criteria that would have to be met in order to resume such funding,” Wild said on Thursday, September 24. 

“Let us make clear that the United States will not participate in the repression. Let us stand with the people of the Philippines,” she added. 

https://twitter.com/RepSusanWild/status/1308900860936826880

During a separate forum hosted by the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines, criteria for lifting the suspension of security assistance under the proposed bill were the following: 

  • Investigate and prosecute members of the military and police forces credibly found to have violated human rights
  • Withdraw the military from domestic policy and policing 
  • Establish protection of the rights of trade unionists, journalists, human right defenders, indigenous persons, small farmers, and LGBTQ+ activists, among others
  • Guarantee a judicial system… capable of investigating, prosecuting, and bringing to justice members of the police and military who have committed human rights abuses
  • Fully comply with any and all audits or investigations regarding the improper use of US security aid

The bill has been referred to the US House committees on foreign affairs, and financial services for further discussions. 

If adopted into law, the proposed Philippine Human Rights Act would hurt funding to the one of the US’ oldest allies and a major defense partner in the region. 

Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gilbert Gapay had told Philippine lawmakers during his confirmation hearing that the Philippine military still very much depends on its US partners to maintain the bulk of the AFP’s equipment.

Gapay said the Philippine military “received roughly $50 million a year for the maintenance of our aircraft, naval vessels, and ground equipment like tanks.”

From 2016 to 2019, Washington also provided Manila with about $554 million worth of military assistance, including $267 million in foreign military financing for the acquisition of defense assets. 

Several US lawmakers earlier called on the Duterte government to repeal the anti-terror law, echoing concerns that it endangers human rights and democracy in the Philippines. Last July, some 50 lawmakers had sent a letter to Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez, expressing their concerns over the measure.

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President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-terror law has been met with fierce opposition in the Philippines with at least 30 petitions against it filed at the Philippines’ Supreme Court. 

Speaking before world leaders at the 75th UN General Assembly, Duterte took time to promote the measure as the Philippines’ legal framework that would ramp up the country’s efforts against terrorism “and the usual reckless response to it.” – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.