US House agrees to block aid to PNP until PH meets basic human rights standards

The Philippine National Police said it was able to procure P764.115-million worth of new equipment, which will be given to its units nationwide.
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MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives of the United States has agreed on an amendment to a defense spending measure blocking aid, including equipment and training, to the Philippine National Police until the Philippines is deemed to have met basic human rights standards.

The amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for 2023, introduced by Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pennsylvania) and adopted by the US House through a voice vote, provides that no funding will be made available to the State Department for assistance to the PNP until the Secretary of State certifies that the Philippines has:

  • Investigated and successfully prosecuted police who violated human rights, ensured that they cooperated with judicial authorities in such cases, and affirmed that such violations have ceased
  • Established that the Philippine National Police effectively protects the rights of trade unionists, journalists, human rights defenders, government critics, religious leaders and other civil society activists to operate without interference
  • Taken effective 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 complied with domestic and US audits and investigations regarding the improper use of prior security assistance

“The time is long overdue to begin putting some basic human rights guardrails in place in the United States-Philippines relationship,” Wild said in her remarks on the House floor.

She said that those who oppose her proposal would raise the US’ national security interests against China, but she countered that there is a need to maintain credibility on human rights issues.

“The need to counter the Chinese regime’s authoritarianism on the international stage is precisely why it’s so important that we maintain our credibility on human rights. It is why it is so vital that we do not undermine our own case for democracy and open ourselves up to charges of hypocrisy by supporting brutal regimes out of short term expediency,” she said.

Wild’s amendment, however, included a waiver that would give the US president leeway to provide the PNP with assistance for up to 180 days provided that:

  • The foreign affairs panel of the US House and the foreign relations panel of the US Senate is informed not later than 15 days before the effectivity of the waiver
  • The waiver is vital to the national security interests of the United States or its partners and allies

The amendment to the defense spending bill borrows language from the proposed Philippine Human Rights Act which Wild also introduced in 2020 and refiled the following year.

According to the US Embassy, the Philippines is the largest recipient of military assistance from the US in the Indo-Pacific region, having received more than P57 billion worth of planes, armored vehicles, small arms and other military equipment.

Defense assistance to the Philippines from the US continues despite adverse findings by the State Department in its latest report on the human rights situation in the country, where it flagged extrajudicial killings, forced disappearance, torture, arbitrary detention and harsh prison conditions.

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