VARIOUS U.S. leaders from religious groups, labor organizations, state legislatures, and the Filipino American community are calling on the government to stop providing military aid to the Philippines due to the “relentless abuse of human rights” under the Duterte administration.
In a statement containing a total of 57 signatories as of Wednesday, June 16, they said, “We appeal to the international community, especially the United States, to help stop the relentless abuse of human rights and escalating assaults on the Philippines’ constitutional democracy by the government of President Rodrigo Duterte.”
The appeal also backs the Philippine Human Rights Act (PHRA), which was reintroduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on Monday, June 14, by Representative Susan Wild of Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional District.
The bill intends to “suspend the provision of security assistance to the Philippines” until it reforms its military and police forces.
“By blocking assistance to Philippine security forces until such time that human rights standards are met, this bill makes a common sense proposition. Standing up for human rights requires more than rhetoric, it requires action. The organizations involved in this fight demonstrate why it is so crucial. They span spectrum from grassroots human rights organizations to faith groups, to labor unions…” Wild said in an online event organized by Malaya Movement.
The reintroduction of the PHRA came on the same day International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda sought judicial authorization from The Hague tribunal to open a full-blown investigation into the drug war killings in the Philippines..
“The worldwide United Methodist Church has long regarded the United Nations, including related bodies like the International Criminal Court as ‘the best instruments now in existence to achieve a world of justice and law,” said Rev. Dr. Liberato Bautista, Assistant General Secretary for United Nations and International Affairs General Board of Church and Society of The United Methodist Church.
“This spotlight on the Philippines by the ICC underscores the accountability of peoples — primarily those exercising power and authority — to international norms and standards that uphold human dignity and human rights,” he added.
Meanwhile, Rebecca Singleton, lawyer and former legal extern for UN Women’s Peace and Security program, stressed that the U.S. has “a moral imperative to ensure that any of its military aid or arms sales are not used in the furtherance of human rights abuses.”
According to her, any further assistance by the U.S. government to the Duterte administration “renders the United States complicit in the atrocities being committed against Filipinos by their government.”
For her part, Loida Nicolas Lewis, National Chairperson, U.S. Filipinos for Good Governance (USFGG) urged U.S. President Joe Biden to act by sending a strong message to human rights violators.
“We call on President Biden to use the power of his office to send a strong message to human rights violators like Duterte that America’s continued support is conditioned on his respect for democratic values,” she said.
The urgent appeal also backed Wild in stating that the U.S. foreign policy should be centered around human rights and dignity.
“As U.S. citizens, we have a long history of pressuring our government to end U.S. aid to authoritarian governments who abuse human rights and destabilize democracy. The reintroduction of the PHRA as well as the ICC’s continued investigation into Duterte’s human rights abuses add urgency to our resolve to speak out loudly, now!” said Cindy Domingo of Akbayan North America and a board member of A Legacy of Equality Leadership and Organizing (LELO), Seattle, WA.