US lawmaker seeks to remove aid for PH police, military over human rights record

Congresswoman Susan Wild and President Rodrigo Duterte. Photos: Wild/FB; PCOO/FB
Congresswoman Susan Wild and President Rodrigo Duterte. Photos: Wild/FB; PCOO/FB

A United States congresswoman announced today that she has filed a bill seeking to withhold American aid for the Philippine military and police due to President Rodrigo Duterte’s allegedly abysmal human rights record.

Pennsylvania Rep. Susan Wild said before the U.S. Congress that the Philippine Human Rights Act, dated Sept. 17, was filed in response to the passage of the controversial Ant-Terrorism Act of 2020 in Manila. The law, which has been contested by several groups before the Philippine Supreme Court, will allow the Duterte administration to detain a suspect for almost a month based on mere suspicions.

Human rights activists have said that the law is unconstitutional because of its broad provisions, but Duterte supporters have said that other countries’ terrorism laws are far more draconian.

Read: Duterte should ‘refrain’ from signing anti-terrorism bill, says UN human rights chief

Wild said in her speech that Duterte’s “brutal regime” is using the anti-terror law to “ramp up efforts targeting labor organizers, workers, and political opponents.”

“This law allows suspects to be detained by the police and military without charges for as long as 24 days and placed under surveillance for up to 90 days. In response to these abuses, I introduced the Philippine Humans Rights Act, which would block U.S. funding for police and military assistance to the Philippines,” she said of the bill, which has garnered the support of at least 20 other lawmakers.

The Philippine police and military will receive funding from the U.S. government only if it does the following:

  • investigate and prosecute police and soldiers who allegedly violated Filipinos’ human rights
  • remove the military from its involvement in the country’s domestic policies
  • protect the rights of trade unionists, journalists, human right defenders, indigenous persons, small-time farmers, LGBTQ+ activists, and government critics
  • create a judiciary that is capable of investigating and prosecuting members of the police force and military who have committed human rights abuses
  • comply with audits which seek to investigate questionable use of U.S. security aid

Read: EU Parliament urges gov’t to drop charges against Maria Ressa, grant ABS-CBN franchise

Wild’s announcement comes a few days after the European Parliament announced that it is pushing for the removal of the Philippines’ export tariff exemption due to the “seriousness of the human rights violations” allegedly committed by the Duterte government. Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque responded by actually encouraging the Parliament to follow through on its threat.

In December last year, several U.S. senators filed a resolution expressing support for jailed opposition Senator Leila De Lima and Rappler founder Maria Ressa, who is currently facing a slew of charges from the Duterte government. Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro “Teddy” Locsin Jr. called the resolution “idiotic.”

 

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