Bill requires State Dept. to report human rights situation in PH, use of US aid to PNP
MANILA- Two American senators filed a bill Thursday seeking to restrict the export of arms from the United States to Philippine police amid growing international concern over President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody narcotics crackdown.
Senators Ben Cardin and Marco Rubio cited the alarming number of deaths under Duterte’s drug war in filing the bill, as they instead called for a public health approach to the problem.
“Mr. Duterte must handle criminal issues through the rule of law and allow drug addicts access to the public health services and treatment they deserve," Cardin said in a press release posted on the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations website.
Cardin had last year expressed opposition to America's planned sale of some 26,000 assault rifles to the Philippine National Police (PNP), prompting the US State Department to stop the transaction.
"In the absence of such actions, this legislation is clear in its support for the Filipino people and the importance of our alliance, but also the consequences if Mr. Duterte's actions continue,” he said.
More than 7,000 people have been killed since Duterte assumed the presidency. But the government has maintained that less than half were killed in police operations, contending that the rest were vigilante slays and other murders unrelated to the anti-drug campaign.
Several local and international human rights advocates have criticized Manila’s drug war, citing blatant human rights violations.
A Filipino lawyer had even taken up the case to the International Criminal Court, making Duterte the first Philippine President to face a complaint before the international tribunal.
In moving to restrict America's weapons exports to Philippine law enforcers, Cardin said Washington is “committed to the health and well-being of this relationship, and the fundamental human rights of the Filipino people.”
Rubio, chair of the US Senate's Foreign Relations subcommittee on human rights and civilian security, meanwhile cited the long-standing alliance between the US and the Philippines as reason for America's concern for the human rights situation in the country.
“America and the Philippines have an important and enduring alliance, which is why the growing number of extrajudicial killings as part of the Philippine National Police’s ‘war on drugs’ is deeply alarming,” Rubio, who said.
The PNP last March retook leadership of Duterte's drug war after a monthlong break and vigorous internal cleansing due to a series of allegations of corruption and wrongdoing, among them the murder of a South Korean national.
Several police officials were tagged in the abduction and slay of Jee, who was taken from his home in Angeles City on Oct. 18 last year in the guise of a drug raid. Jee was killed right inside the PNP headquarters.
“This is not the right way to conduct an anti-drug campaign, and our legislation reflects our sincere desire to work with the Philippines to support human rights, expose narcotics networks emanating from mainland China and other countries, and use a public health approach to responsibly counter the dangers that drugs pose to our societies,” Rubio added.
If passed into law, the measure would require the US Secretary of State to submit a report to the US Congress on human rights cases related to the PNP and how foreign assistance to the PNP is used.
Also among requisites would be a report on sources of narcotics and raw materials used to produce illegal substances in Manila.
American lawmakers would also undertake a review on whether or not arms exported to the PNP are being used to commit “gross violations of human rights.
In the same bill, however, Cardin and Rubio reiterated US commitment for defense and counter-terrorism efforts in the Philippines, as well as an enhanced ability to provide humanitarian assistance to the disaster-prone country.
The bill would also authorize a $50-million funding for the US Department of State and the US Agency for International Development to promote a public health approach to substance abuse, support Filipino human rights advocates, help victims of human rights violations, and promote the rule of law through support for Philippine non-government organizations.
The full bill can be accessed here.