Bill in US Congress ties PH aid to prosecution of rights violators
MANILA, Philippines — The lawyers of the families of drug war victims say “lives will be saved” if a bill filed in the US Congress involving military aid and the Philippines’ response to human rights cases is passed.
House of Representatives No. 1433 or the proposed Philippine Human Rights Act seeks to block any assistance to the Philippine military and police until the government ensures that perpetrators of human rights abuses are held accountable.
The bill was introduced by Democratic Rep. Susan Wild of Pennsylvania’s seventh district on March 7, the second anniversary of the Bloody Sunday massacre of 2021 which left nine activists killed by authorities. Wild cited that incident as one of many cases of human rights violations in the Philippines.
De Lima, red-tagging
The bill also cited “significant human rights issues” such as the nonrenewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise, the continued detention of former Sen. Leila de Lima, and the harassment and red-tagging of activists.
Neri Colmenares, a lawyer for relatives of the drug war victims, said the bill “will be a warning [to] the perpetrators that the [international] community is watching. We ask the US Congress to pass the bill soonest and contribute to the battle against impunity in the Philippines and the world over.”
Kristina Conti, another lawyer for those families, said outright blocking of US aid is all the more necessary now, “when there is clear indication of inaction, skewed priorities, and cold-heartedness on the part of the Marcos administration.”
‘Threat from China’
Wild’s measure comes on the heels of renewed US-Philippine ties on the watch of President Marcos and his US counterpart, Joe Biden.
If the bill is passed, military aid restrictions will only be lifted if the government “investigated and successfully prosecuted members of military and police forces who have violated human rights, ensured that the military and police cooperated in such cases, and affirmed that such violations have ceased.”
The bill also directs any US president to instruct US representatives in multilateral development banks, like the World Bank, to vote against any loans for the Philippine armed forces.
Wild’s measure is a refiling of the same proposal she made in 2020 and 2021. Her bill was not approved both times, when US-Philippine relations were tested by the Duterte administration’s animosity toward Washington.
But she had argued then: “From a national security perspective, the [notion] that propping up the Philippine government helps us address the threat from China should be turned on its head.”
“With every new victim of the brutal government in Manila, we are in fact undermining our greatest asset vis-à-vis Beijing: Our own case as a credible, consistent defender of democracy and human rights,” she added.
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