US bill seeks to cut security aid to Philippines due to Duterte's anti-terror law
Gaea Katreena Cabico ( - September 24, 2020 - 10:26am

MANILA, Philippines — A proposed legislation has been introduced in the US Congress to block funding for security forces in the Philippines until the government puts an end to human rights violations.

Rep. Susan Wild (Pennsylvania) formally introduced Thursday (Manila time) HR 8131 or the Philippine Human Rights Act, which seeks to block US security assistance to the Philippines until the government makes certain reforms to the military and police forces.

In a speech at the US Congress, Wild, a Democrat lawmaker, said the “brutal” regime of President Rodrigo Duterte is using the pretext of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 to “ramp up efforts targeting labor organizers, workers and political opponents.”

“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 which would have to be met in order to resume such funding,” Wild said.

“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.

From 2016 to 2019, the United States provided the Philippines with military assistance amounting to US$554 million. This included $267 million in foreign military financing for the procurement of defense articles.

In a forum, the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines enumerated the following criteria for the lifting of suspension on security assistance:

  • Investigate and prosecute members of security forces found to have violated human rights
  • Withdraw military from domestic policy and policing
  • Establish protection of the rights of trade unionists, indigenous peoples, farmers, journalists and government critics
  • Guarantee the judicial system is capable of investigating and prosecuting erring members of the police and military
  • Fully comply with audits and investigation of proper use of security aids

Brandon Lee, a human rights worker who was shot in Ifugao in August 2019, said blocking security assistance to the Philippines “will pressure the military and police to do their jobs responsibility and to act according to human rights.”

Lee was a paralegal volunteer of the Ifugao Peasant Movement and a contributor to online paper Northern Dispatch. Prior to being shot in front of his house last year, he was among the activists tagged by the military as alleged supporters of the New People’s Army in 2015.

The attack left Lee paralyzed from the chest down.

The organizers of the forum said they have yet to secure support for the bill from Republicans but stressed that human rights is a bipartisan issue. Among the 24 cosponsors of the bill is Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (New York).

Duterte, in his maiden speech before the United Nations General Assembly, said the government will continue to protect the human rights of Filipinos, especially from the scourge of illegal drugs, criminality and terrorism. He then accused his critics of “weaponizing” human rights. 

Duterte and his men often lash out at what they deem as meddling in Philippines’ domestic affairs when countries and international organizations express concerns on the president’s policies and statements.

Human rights organizations are hoping that the UN Human Rights Council, which began its session last week, will act on the situation in the Philippines, noting that failure to do so means more people will die and a climate of impunity will continue to persist.

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