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Conditions may be set on US aid to Philippines

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said the Philippines would remain an ally of the US despite the differences. PPD/Toto Lozano

MANILA, Philippines – Deeply troubled by the extraordinarily high number of individuals killed in the administration’s war against illegal drugs, two American senators said yesterday the United States might have to impose conditions on assistance to the Philippines, given President Duterte’s supposed refusal to address concerns on human rights violations and other abuses.

Sought for reaction, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said, “We respect the opinion of others but we also give ourselves the permission to chart our own course and fulfill our destiny in our own terms.”

Abella said the Philippines would remain an ally of the US despite the differences. “The fundamental relationship between the US and the Philippines remains unchanged by aberrations due to political perspectives and opinions. We continue to forge forward even as we attempt a deeper understanding of each other’s methods,” Abella said.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, who wrote the Leahy Law to ensure that the US would not be complicit in human rights violations committed by forces that might receive US assistance, said he asked the State Department to discuss the matter with them and help in their deliberations on current assistance for the Philippines as well as “on decisions we will make for appropriations in fiscal year 2017.”

The Leahy Law also encourages foreign governments to hold accountable perpetrators of such abuses.

“While there are ways we can find out which units were involved in these abuses, if President Duterte’s government is unwilling to work with us, including by refusing to investigate allegations of abuses, then we are faced with a broader issue that cannot be remedied simply by withholding assistance from specific units or individuals,” Leahy said.

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As the Leahy Law should also be used to push for reform and accountability and to address systemic challenges, Leahy said it might be necessary to consider further conditions on assistance to the Duterte government to ensure that “US taxpayer funds are properly spent and until that government demonstrates a commitment to the rule of law.”

Sen. Benjamin Cardin said he too was “greatly concerned that unless we are able to see a more constructive approach” on these issues from the Duterte government, “we may need to consider taking these steps.”

Cardin is a ranking member of the US Senate foreign relations committee while Leahy was chairman or ranking member for more than 25 years of the appropriations subcommittee funding US foreign assistance programs.

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