Fil-Ams urge US to suspend security aid to PH over rights record

Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau

Posted at Jun 12 2021 07:18 AM

Police forensic agents investigate a crime scene where a suspected drug pusher was gunned down for resisting arrest after a buy-bust operation, October 15, 2016 at the Navotas fish port, Manila. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/File

NEW JERSEY - A coalition of Filipino-American human rights advocates is urging the US to suspend its security aid to the Philippines due to the Duterte administration's alleged human rights violations.

The Malaya Movement launched this week its campaign "New Jersey for Philippine Human Rights Act" or NJ4PHRA.

The coalition has engaged in people-centered lobbying efforts to urge the US Congress to do something with alleged human rights violations in the Philippines. 

Organizers said the United States can help defend human rights in the Philippines by passing the proposed Philippine Human Rights Act in the US Congress which would suspend American security assistance to Manila "until such a time that human rights violations by Philippine security forces cease and the responsible state forces are held accountable."

The US is a close defense ally of the Philippines.

Sol Taule, a human rights lawyer, said the Duterte administration has continued to violate Filipinos' basic rights amid the pandemic. 

"We thought that the extrajudicial killings and the drug operations would stop, but no, it continues to operate," she said.

Less than a year from the Philippines' next presidential elections, the Malaya Movement urged overseas Filipinos to get more involved in choosing the country's next leader.

"It is crucially important for us to be involved and connected with various organizations in our own communities so we can effectively voice out our concerns against this nightmare of the Duterte regime," said Lawrence Aquino, member of the Malaya Movement from New Jersey.

"We can no longer afford another round of Duterte administration," he added. 

Bernadette Patino, another member of the Malaya Movement, is not a fan of the possible presidential candidacy of President Rodrigo Duterte's daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio.

"He aims to continue his dynasty as his daughter Sara Duterte wants to run for president so we aim to pass the Philippine Human Rights Act this year in order to ensure Duterte’s regime is held accountable for its injustices against the Filipino people," she said.

NJ4PHRA organizers said they are expecting Pennsylvania 7th District Rep. Susan Wild to re-introduce the proposed Philippine Human Rights Act to the US Congress on Monday, hoping other lawmakers would throw their support behind the bill and finally pass it.

The Philippine Commission on Human Rights (CHR) earlier said the rate and scale of the Duterte administration's human rights violations are "incomparable, higher than other administrations" as it lamented how the police force's non-cooperation hindered most of their investigations. 

The CHR's remark came after a drunk policeman in Quezon City shot dead his elderly neighbor while off-duty. The crime was caught on video and has since gone viral on social media.

The commission is investigating 3,295 cases of alleged extrajudicial killings, and slays of journalists, lawyers, judges, and activists, its spokesperson said.

The Duterte administration, meanwhile, has repeatedly denied involvement in summary executions, saying those slain in police operations had violently resisted arrest, prompting police to defend themselves.

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