“We shall continue to work in all possible venues to seek justice, make this regime accountable for its crimes, and put a stop to the killings or else, this will go on and on as long as Duterte remains in power and beyond.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – A human rights group in the Philippines expressed its support on the rising call for holding President Rodrigo Duterte accountable for his crimes.
In a statement, Karapatan said that they support the reintroduction of the Philippine Human Rights Act in the US Congress as well as the participation of families whose loved ones were victims by the government’s so-called war on drugs in the International Criminal Court.
They also called for more support and solidarity as they continue to call “for justice and accountability in the last year of this murderous regime.”
Last June 30, different groups marked the last year of Duterte in office; and on June 14, Representative Susan Wild of Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional District reintroduced House Resolution 3884 or “An Act to suspend the provision of security assistance to the Philippines until the Government of the Philippines has made certain reforms to the military and police forces, and for other purposes”.
The group said that if this will be passed into law, it may be “utilized to look into the Philippine government’s adherence to its human rights obligations.”
“The decrease or eventual loss of military and police aid from the US is a strong message of the American people that they will not tolerate the use of their taxes to perpetuate rights violations in the Philippines,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said in a statement.
The Philippine Human Rights Act was first introduced in the US Congress last year.
According to Palabay, for the past five years, the US government’s military and police aid to the Philippines “have been used to beef up funds to weaponize the country’s state forces to implement its counter-insurgency campaign and the war against drugs.”
The International Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines said that the “US has provided $550 million dollars in military aid to Duterte since 2016 and implemented paltry human rights restrictions and oversight.”
‘Block arms sales in the Philippines’
Meanwhile, BAYAN-USA calls for the immediate blocking of the arms sales to the Philippines and the passage of the Philippine Human Rights Act.
The group criticized US President Joe Biden’s administration after the State Department approved a potential $2.5 billion arms sale to the Philippines that includes F-16 fighter aircrafts, missiles, and other equipment.
“This comes on the heels of the Duterte regime’s extension of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) for six more months after State Department officials worked to sweeten the deal for Duterte, and after Biden himself wrote to Duterte hoping for an extension,” the group said.
Duterte unilaterally terminated the VFA last year. If there are no negotiations made between the US and the Philippines, the VFA would have expired in August this year.
“The VFA, signed in 1999, has allowed the presence of US military forces in the country, supposedly in a ‘visiting’ capacity. In reality, the US uses the VFA to intensify its military pivot in the Asia-Pacific, supplementing the billions of dollars’ worth of military funding and arms it provides to the Philippines,” the group said.
They added that this has also resulted in numerous rights violations in the country.
“As Filipinos in the US, we must expose the fact that the Biden administration is sending our tax dollars to help fund atrocities in the Philippines, a far cry from Biden’s campaign promise not to cozy up to dictators,” they said.
‘No reprisals to families of victims of so-called war-on-drugs’
Meanwhile, Karapatan said there should be no reprisals, threats or intimidation against victims and families who will participate in the process of the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor and the Victims Participation and Reparations Section (VPRS).
In its website, the VPRS is now in the process of accepting what they call as “representations” or the victims’ “views, concerns and concerns on the Prosecutor’s request to open an investigation.”
“With the climate of fear and impunity gripping families and communities nationwide and with the statements from the Duterte administration on the findings of ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, there should be no reprisals, threats or intimidation against victims who will participate in the process,” Palabay said.
The group said that the fact remains that there is an international support for justice and accountability on human rights in the Philippines because of the continuous clamor of victims, sectors and rights advocates, and the rest of the Filipino people.
“We shall continue to work in all possible venues to seek justice, make this regime accountable for its crimes, and put a stop to the killings or else, this will go on and on as long as Duterte remains in power and beyond,” said Palabay.
“We hope that more efforts will follow suit [sic], as we raise our voices and protest. We will not endure the last year of the Duterte regime in silence. Let this be a testament that anywhere here and in the world, we will fight back,” Palabay added. (RTS, RVO)