FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, January 16, 2019
Drew Elizarde-Miller | ICHRP-US Secretariat | 503-476-2179 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Narissa Lee | ICHRP-US Media | 415-613-1432 | ICHRPUS@gmail.com
U.S. Congress approved more military aid to the Asia Pacific Region, while the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines-U.S. chapter (ICHRP-US) launched a campaign to urge Congress to cut aid to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP)
Despite the U.S. government shutdown, President Trump signed into law the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act, S.2736 and the House version H.B. 6888, which authorizes $1.5 billion in annual funding to the region, including the Philippines, from 2019 to 2023. As U.S. tax-funded aid to the AFP and PNP has been heavily associated with rampant human rights violations and killings in Philippines, human rights groups are calling for a congressional hearing to ensure that the additional funding under this bill does not contribute to increased killings and other violations of human rights of Filipinos.
While the bill states that no support will be provided to the PNP for counternarcotics assistance unless international human rights standards are met, human rights advocates are concerned about further aid to the AFP and weapons procurement for the PNP. Last month, the Ecumenical Advocacy Network of the Philippines, a network of faith-based organizations, released a public statement urging the House and Senate to reject any version of S.2736 and H.B. 6888 that does not specifically state that none of the additional proposed funds can be appropriated to the PNP and AFP.
“US foreign policy towards China should not infringe upon the sovereignty and rights of people in the Asia Pacific,” said Pam Tau Lee, Chairperson of ICHRP US. “The $1.5 billion in military aid approved by members of Congress is being mistakenly lauded as a step to protect human rights in the Philippines by some media. In reality, if allocated to the AFP, it will directly fund the crimes they perpetrate, including extrajudicial killings of peasants and peasant leaders, illegal arrests and detentions, and ceaseless harassment and intimidation of civilians, including arbitrary shootings of schools in Mindanao.”
Since Duterte took office in July 2016, over 23,000 people — estimated by the PNP itself — are suspected to have been murdered; at least 540 people are being detained as political prisoners; and more than 430,000 people have been displaced by the AFP.
In 2018 alone, U.S. Congress approved $184.5 million in military aid to the Duterte administration. In response to the worsening human rights crisis in Philippines, ICHRP-US launched a nationwide campaign to call for an end to all U.S. support for the Duterte Administration, beginning with calling on Congress to cut funding to the AFP and PNP.
Joy Prim, the ICHRP-US Regional Coordinator in Southern California which is home to the largest number of Filipinos in the country, urged human rights advocates in the United States to participate in the campaign: “Human rights defenders in the U.S. have a responsibility to grow the movement against fascism in the Philippines and end the United States’ role in aiding and abetting Duterte’s murderous regime. We are calling on all human rights supporters in the United States to demand a congressional hearing and help expose and halt the use of tax dollars that’s funding the Duterte administration’s murder spree, which is now in the tens of thousands.”
In 2007, Senator Barbara Boxer hosted a congressional hearing on extrajudicial killings in the Philippines under then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Later that year, Congress restricted U.S. aid to the Philippines until certain human rights conditions were met.