Currently, U.S. taxpayer funds are bankrolling grave and worsening human rights violations in the Philippines. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody and repressive regime is the largest recipient of U.S. military aid in East and Southeast Asia. In July 2018, the United States announced an additional $26.5 million in U.S. tax dollars to beef up support for the Philippine National Police (PNP). U.S. military aid to the Philippine military and police was at least $193.5 million last year not including arms sales, and donated equipment of unreported worth. Another $145.6 million is already pledged for 2019.
The U.S. government is complicit in — and actively supporting — a worsening human rights crisis in the Philippines:
- Duterte’s bloody “War on Drugs,” spearheaded by the police, has claimed as many as 27,000 lives — mostly poor and indigent people. Police pay monetary rewards to both police officers and vigilantes who perpetrate summary executions. Police corruption abounds. Besides tagging the unarmed people they have murdered as “fighting back,” police have planted evidence; sexually assaulted women and children, in exchange for release or dropping drug charges; detained people without charges and tortured them to extract bribes, including through the use of secret holding cells.
- Hundreds of human rights workers, priests, journalists, lawyers, trade unionists, environmentalists, teachers, peasant organizers, and indigenous leaders have been murdered, tortured, or sexually abused since 2016. 12 journalists were killed in the first two years under Duterte – the highest number of murdered journalists in the first two years in office of any Philippine president. At least 48 environmental campaigners were murdered in 2017 alone, making the Philippines the second most dangerous country for environmentalists, after Brazil. Over 134 human rights defenders have been killed under Duterte. In just one case, in 2017, Elisa Badayos and Eleuterio Moises were murdered while serving on a fact-finding team investigating human rights violations due to militarization in Negros Oriental.
- Labor leaders are being murdered using tactics similar to those in the drug war. Edilberto Miralles, president of R&E Taxi Transport union, was shot in broad daylight in front of the National Labor Relations Commission in 2016; Linus Cubol, chair of Kilusang Mayo Uno in Caraga, was murdered in November by vigilantes riding in tandem.
- U.S. military aid is enabling the Philippine military to carry out attacks on indigenous communities and schools, in partnership with paramilitary groups it arms and guides. The use of paramilitaries mirrors genocidal tactics carried out against indigenous people in Central and South America under U.S. direction, using “counter-insurgency” as an excuse.
- Since 2017, Duterte has imposed Martial Law in Mindanao. The siege of Marawi left over 1,200 dead, and displaced 230,000 residents, many of whom have still not been allowed to return.
- U.S. military aid is escalating internal conflict and worsening its impact on civilians. As of December 2018, over 368,000 people have been impacted by aerial bombing under Duterte. Militarization has caused the mass displacement of nearly 450,000 thousand civilians under Duterte.
When the Philippine Senate tried to restrict funding for Duterte’s Drug War in late 2017, the U.S.stepped in to provide funds that filled the shortfall. To evade accountability, Duterte has shifted Drug War operations from under the PNP to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and back to the PNP’s general operation funds. The Philippine Congress has not been able to provide effective oversight. The continuing Drug War killings and rampant human rights abuses only underscore that there is no way to ensure U.S. military aid to the Duterte regime does not enable human rights violations.
U.S. equipment provides the backbone of Duterte’s military modernization program. In 2018, Duterte pledged to double the salaries of military and police personnel. Duterte has massively increased funding to “modernize” the Philippine military, pouring more funds towards this than spent in the last 15 years. He could not do so without U.S. aid and arms.
We demand that the U.S. cut military aid to the Duterte regime. We demand the U.S. end all arms gifts and sales to the Philippines. We call on Congress to hold a hearing on the human rights crisis in the Philippines, where witnesses can give testimony.
1) For the House of Foreign Affairs committee to hold Congressional hearings on the human rights situation in the Philippines, and the need to cut U.S. military aid to the Philippine military and police.
2) For the U.S. Congress to restrict Foreign Military Financing and counter-narcotics and law enforcement aid to the Philippines in FY2020. Uphold the Leahy Law which stipulates no funding shall be furnished to foreign security forces that have committed human rights abuses.
3) For Congresspeople to support House Resolution 233 calling on the Philippine government to release Senator Leila DeLima, a drug war critic held on trumped up charges, and respect the rights of other human rights defenders; and Senate Resolution 142, calling for DeLima’s release and for charges against journalist Maria Ressa to be dropped.