US lawmakers file bill suspending security aid to the Philippines over human rights violations

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A US congresswoman has filed a bill that would suspend security aid to the Philippines until the country’s military and police forces will be held accountable for human rights violations.

Democratic Rep. Susan Wild of Pennsylvania and 23 other representatives, mostly Democrats, filed House Bill No. 8313, the proposed Philippine Human Rights Act, in the House of Representatives on Sept. 17. The proposed bill had drawn support from several faith and civic groups in the United States.

Philippine human rights groups welcomed what they called international pressure on President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration for its “tyrannical” policies.

The presidential palace meanwhile called the proposal a “very wild” suggestion that had a “very slim” chance of becoming law.

A copy of the bill has yet to be uploaded to the United States House of Representatives’ website, but a summary says the bill would “suspend the provision of security assistance to the Philippines until the government of the Philippines has made certain reforms to the military and police forces, and for other purposes.”

In her sponsorship speech, a video of which was played back during a news briefing on Thursday, Wild slammed President Duterte’s “brutal regime” for using the new Anti-Terrorism Act “to ramp up efforts targeting [dissidents and political opponents].”

Wild called the terror law “legislation that legitimizes [Mr. Duterte’s] regime’s practice of terror, tagging and killing activists.”

“Let us make clear that the [United States] will not participate in the repression. Let us stand with the people of the Philippines,” Wild said.

“I am proud to stand alongside with so many faith and civil society organizations in advocating for this legislation,” she said.

“That’s a very wild suggestion” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said, with a play on words using Wild’s name.

“Just like in the Philippines, any congressman can file a proposed measure. But the chances of that proposed measure becoming a law is very slim. So we will let that be. That is the personal opinion of Congresswoman Susan Wild,” Roque said.

He said the Palace was confident that the Trump administration “sees the importance of continued cooperation between the [United States] and the Philippines.”

The military said it would be unfair for the United States to suspend security aid to the Philippines based on allegations of human rights violations.

Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo vehemently denied the military’s involvement in human rights abuses.

“In many instances in the past, we have been solid, we have been emphatic about our position against human rights violation—that the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) has no record of any human rights violations then and now,” Arevalo told reporters.

This is not the first time that US lawmakers are attempting to pass legislation that would go after the so-called enablers of the Duterte administration’s brutal policies, including the war on drugs.

Earlier this year, the United States Senate passed a resolution calling for the release of Sen. Leila de Lima and for the US government to impose sanctions outlined in the Global Magnitsky Act on individuals that had a hand on her arrest and detention for opening an investigation into the alleged extrajudicial killings in Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs.

In March 2019, a bipartisan bill was introduced in the US House of Representatives condemning the Duterte administration’s targeting of its political opponents. (Source: INQUIRER.net)

 

 

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