An administration senator said Friday it would be wise for United States legislators to do their research first before they act on the new measure filed in the US House of Representatives which seeks to stop American help to the Philippine military and police until reforms are made to address alleged human rights violations.
Sen. Christopher Go said while he respected the legislative processes of the US, being another sovereign country, he cited the need for a thorough study on measures that would affect lives not only of their citizens but the rest of the world.
“If they want to know the real situation, they are welcome to visit and talk to an ordinary Filipino,” said Go.
In this way, he said the US legislators could feel the genuine democracy the Philippines had, adding they would also learn what the government had been doing to protect the interest, welfare and lives of the Filipinos.
Go said he believed President Rodrigo Duterte and President Donald Trump, apart from their friendship, both recognized the importance of close and strong cooperation in combatting cross-border crimes and threats to both Filipinos and Americans, like terrorism.
“We continue to uphold our independent foreign policy — being a friend to all and enemy to none,” Go said.
Democratic Pennsylvania Rep. Susan Wild introduced a bill in the US Congress seeking to suspend American security assistance to the Philippines until the administration of President Duterte instituted reforms in the military and police to end human rights abuses.
This was supported by 23 other Democrat legislators.
In her sponsorship speech Sept. 17, Wild sought the enactment of her proposed Philippine Human Rights Act, which seeks to halt US assistance for the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, which she says are responsible for committing human rights abuses against labor organizers, workers and political opposition.
For his part, Sen. Panfilo Lacson, former chief of the Philippine National Police, if Wild’s proposed measure would be adopted and approved, it would not only be the loss of the Philippines but the United States as well.
According to Lacson, this is because a major part of the security assistance extended to the Philippines is used to combat terrorism, which knows no borders and timing.
“And since the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement is still existing, they may have to resolve that as a legal issue in their deliberations,” Lacson said.
The official US Congress website has yet to post a copy of the bill but according to the website of Filipino-Americans advocating for its passage, the bill seeks to withhold assistance “until such time as human rights violations by Philippine security forces cease and the responsible state forces are held accountable.”
Introducing the bill on the floor of the US House of Representatives, Wild referred to the recent passage of an anti-terrorism measure in the Philippines as one of the bases for pushing for the US bill.
In Malacanang, Presidential spokesman Harry Roque downplayed the bill, expressing confidence that PH-US security ties remained strong.
Roque likewise poked fun at the lawmaker’s surname, describing the bill as a “very wild suggestion.”
Wild cited widespread human rights violations in the country perpetrated by what she described as President Duterte’s “brutal regime.”
“Across the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal regime is targeting labor organizers, workers, and political opponents – which is why I introduced the Philippine Human Rights Act, which would block US funding until they prove these assaults on human rights have ended,” Wild posted on her Twitter account.
Wild’s bill outlines the basic criteria that the Philippine government would have to meet to lift the ban or resume US funding to the military and the police.
“I am proud to stand alongside so many faith and civil society organizations in advocating for this legislation,” Wild said.
If passed into law, the government must meet the following conditions to lift the suspension of funding: investigate and prosecute members of the military and police forces who are credibly found to have violated human rights; withdraw the military from domestic policy; establish protection of the rights of trade unionists, journalists, human right defenders, indigenous persons, small-farmers, LGBTI activists, and critics of the government.
It also mandates that the Philippines should take 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; and fully comply with any and all audits or investigations regarding the improper use of US security aid.
The bill, co-sponsored by 24 other US lawmakers, has been referred to the committee on foreign affairs and committee on financial services of the US Congress.
“Let us make clear that the US will not participate in the repression. Let us stand with the people of the Philippines,” the US congresswoman said.
“We cannot allow these abhorrent abuses, nor allow our foreign assistance to be used for the repression of basic rights and dignity,” she said.