Malacañang confident Trump won’t cut security aid over anti-terror law
Bella Perez-Rubio ( - September 24, 2020 - 4:22pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Palace on Thursday called a proposal in the US House of Representatives to cut security aid to the Philippines due to the anti-terror law "a very wild suggestion." 

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

"We are confident that the [US] State Department and the administration of President [Donald] Trump, because of our president's close friendship with [him], sees the value of continued cooperation between the United States and the Philippines," presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in FIlipino during a virtual briefing. 

The US is the Philippines' treaty ally and former colonizer. Although President Rodrigo Duterte and US President Trump have expressed admiration for each other, ties between countries do not depend on the personal relationships of their leaders.

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

Wild said she introduced the Philippine Human Rights Act to block American funding for police or military assistance to the Philippines. The bill outlines "a series of basic criteria which would have to be met in order to resume such funding." 

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

RELATED: Duterte cancels rifle sale blocked by US over rights concerns

"We do not interfere in the decisions of sovereign nations. If they want to do it, they will do it but we are confident that the United States recognizes the value of the Philippines," Roque responded in Filipino. 

Lacson: Passage of proposed Philippine Human Rights Act to cost US

Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Thursday, while acknowledging the right of members of US Congress to file legislative measures at their discretion, said that passage of the proposed measure would come at a cost, not only to the Philippines, but to the superpower country as well. 

"If adopted and approved, the said bill — H.R. 8313 — will not only be our loss but theirs as well, considering that a major part of the security assistance being extended to the Philippines is used to combat terrorism, which knows no borders and timing. And they know that for a fact," he said. 

Lacson authored the controversial anti-terror law which is facing a dizzying number of challenges at the Supreme Court. 

He is also chairperson of the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, Peace, Unification and Reconciliation.

Palace: Proposed Philippine Human Rights Act unlikely to become law

For his part, Roque shared that he believes it unlikely that the Wild's bill will become law

"The chances of this proposed measure turning into law are very small. So let's just let it be. That is the personal opinion of Congresswoman Wild," he said in Filipino. 

As it stands, the official website of US Congress shows that the bill has 23 co-sponsors, all from the Democratic party, which currently holds the majority in the House.

Measures to sanction the Philippines over alleged human rights violations have previously passed with bipartisan support in US Congress, the most notable of which involved the reported revocation of Sen. Ronald dela Rosa's visa. 

Dela Rosa, former national police chief, presided over Duterte’s campaign against illegal drugs in its earliest days. The president responded to Bato's claim that the US had revoked his visa by oredring the termination of the Philippines’ Visiting Forces Agreement with the US. 

The VFA, which was signed by the Philippines and the US in 1998, allows and governs the treatment of US soldiers on Philippine territory.

Officials said that the move to suspend the longstanding agreement was also in response to the US Senate resolution condemning the human rights violations in the Philippines and the demand of some American senators to free detained opposition senator Leila de Lima.

In June, Duterte suspended the termination of the VFA. Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. said the coronavirus pandemic and "heightened superpower tensions" prompted the decision.

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