MANILA — A group of religious organizations on Tuesday urged US President Joe Biden to stop sending military assistance to the Philippines amid lingering allegations of human rights violations.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Biden held talks at the White House early Tuesday (Manila time) as both leaders sought to further strengthen the alliance of their two countries.
According to Rev. Sadie Stone, deputy secretary of the Global Council of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines, human rights violations are continuing in the Philippines under the Marcos Jr. administration.
Since Marcos assumed office last year, there were some 227 drug war-related killings recorded in the Philippines, she said.
"Because we are hearing these stories firsthand, we have concerns anytime that our government in the United States, [under] President Biden, is wanting to enter into more military agreements. Our concern is really for those who are on the margins, those who are being directly impacted by military operations," Stone told ANC's "Rundown".
"Our call to President Biden is to not send further military aids, to not setup new US military bases in the Philippines."
Both Washington and Manila have emphasized the former is not establishing bases in the latter, in accordance with the Philippine constitution. The US military, though, has been granted access to facilities of the armed forces under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.
Stone also noted her group had been closely watching the anti-narcotics campaign of Marcos' predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte.
Some 6,000 people died in Duterte's drug war, according to official figures. But rights groups have estimated the true figure was more than 30,000, she added.
The Philippines remains the biggest recipient of US military assistance in the Indo-Pacific region, getting a total of $1.14 billion or P57 billion since 2015, according to a 2015 report from the US Embassy.
In April, the Philippines named 4 additional EDCA sites in the Philippines.
The Philippines is the United States’ oldest treaty ally in the Indo-Pacific region.
The two countries signed the Mutual Defense Treaty in 1951, which guarantees that both nations would come to the defense of the other in the event of an attack.
The EDCA, signed in 2014, complements the MDT by allowing US troops to “access and to use agreed locations” in the Philippines for “security cooperation exercises, joint and combined training activities, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief activities, and other activities as may be agreed upon by the parties.”
Dozens of Filipino activists on Tuesday staged a protest at Lafayette Park in Washington D.C. to express their disapproval of Marcos' visit, saying he was "not welcome" in the US.
The protesters also said they feared the US-Philippine military alliance might lead to the Philippines getting involved in the tensions between the US and China, which could blow up into a war that might involve Taiwan.
Eric Lachica of the US Filipinos For Good Governance, said Biden could use his meeting to pressure Marcos to improve the human rights situation in the Philippines.
Lachica said he also hoped Biden could push for the release of Sen. Leila de Lima during the talks, and that Marcos would create legislation that would recognize Amerasians in the Philippines and bring these children to the US.
— With a report from Don Tagala, ABS-CBN News