“We must withdraw U.S. military support from this growing dictatorship.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Several organizations welcomed a bill filed in the U.S. Congress seeking to stop US funding to the Philippines amid reports of state-perpetrated rights abuses.
Pennsylvania Rep. Susan Wild filed on Sept. 23 the Philippine Human Rights Act (PHRA), which seeks to suspend US government funding for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) until the Philippine government has made “certain reforms to the military and police forces.”
In her speech on the House floor, Wild said, “Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal regime is using the pretext of a so-called Anti-Terrorism Law to ramp up efforts targeting labor organizers, workers, and political opponents.”
The law, Wild said, allows suspects to be detained by the police or military without charges for as long as 24 days and placed under surveillance for up to 90 days.
“Let us make clear that the United States will not participate in the repression. Let us stand with the people of the Philippines,” Wild said.
Human rights alliance Karapatan welcomes the filing of PHRA.
For decades, Karapatan said the “US has funded State violence and State-perpetrated human rights violations in the Philippines through aid to the AFP and PNP under the guise of counterinsurgency, counterterrorism and crime prevention.”
Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said that from 2016 to 2019, the US has provided the Philippine military aid amounting to $554 million — making the Philippines the largest recipient of US military aid in Southeast Asia.
The $554 million-military aid included $267 million worth of bombs, arms, bullets, and other war matériel that AFP has used in its counterinsurgency campaigns. Palabay said this has also resulted in bombings and forced displacements of communities along with widespread killings, abductions, tortures, and other grave human rights abuses “which have particularly targeted activists and human rights defenders especially in far-flung countryside communities.”
In the U.S., Filipino-Americans and advocates also lauded the bill.
Rev. Michael Yoshii, secretary general of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) said, “We must withdraw U.S. military support from this growing dictatorship.”
Yoshii added, “While Duterte has recently made comments to the United Nations calling for objectivity and non-interference on human rights issues in the Philippines, what is objectively clear to the world is the Duterte regime is tyrannical and laden with abuse and atrocities.”
According to Malaya Movement, the bill “is the result of years of organizing by the Filipino-American community, as well as our allies, who refuse to be complicit in the oppression of the Filipino people.”
“Activists and organizers have worked hard to gain the support of our legislators, even as the Duterte government attacks us for speaking the truth. And we will continue to organize until we stop this tyranny and achieve genuine democracy for our people,” Nicanora Montenegro from the Malaya Movement said.
The Communication Workers of America (CWA) also expressed support to the bill. “We cannot stand idly by while Duterte kills labor activists one by one,” said CWA’s Senior Director for Government Affairs and Policy Shane Larson. “We must condemn it, and do every single thing within our power to stop it.”
Other organizations supporting the bill include: the AFL-CIO, SEIU, Teamsters, American Federation of Teachers, Ecumenical Advocacy Network on the Philippines, United Church of Christ – Global Ministries, United Methodist Church – General Board of Church & Society, Migrante USA, Gabriela USA, Anakbayan USA, Bayan-USA, Franciscan Network on Migration, Pax Christi New Jersey, Kabataan Alliance, and National Alliance for Filipino Concerns.
If passed into law, the suspension of support would only be lifted based on the following conditions:
- Investigate and prosecute members of the military and police forces who are credibly found to have violated human rights
- Withdraw the military from domestic policy
- Establish protection of the rights of trade unionists, journalists, human right defenders, indigenous persons, small-farmers, LGBTI activists, and critics of the government
- Take steps to guarantee a judicial system that is 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 was co-sponsored by 19 other US lawmakers and has been referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Committee on Financial Services of the US Congress.
Aside from supporting the Philippine Human Rights Act Palabay said that the “the international community must continue to help pursue efforts to hold Duterte accountable for his human rights violations and attacks against the Filipino people by supporting the call to junk Duterte’s terror law, to abolish the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, and for the United Nations Human Rights Council to conduct an independent investigation into these cases of human rights violations in country.”