Philippine human rights bill reintroduced in US Congress

Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau

Posted at Jun 15 2021 06:52 AM

Philippine human rights bill reintroduced in US Congress 1
Women's rights advocates picket in front of Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City on October 28, 2020 calling against red-tagging of activists and human rights defenders. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News/file

WASHINGTON, DC—Pennsylvania Representative Susan Wild on Monday reintroduced a bill in the US Congress that, if passed, could stop taxpayer-funded arms sales and other US security assistance to the Duterte government.

Wild reintroduced the Philippine Human Rights Act on Monday, a bill that would block security assistance to the Philippines until the Duterte administration has made certain reforms to its military and police forces and until certain human rights conditions are met.

"What this bill says is very simple: US taxpayer funds should not be used to supply weapons to a regime that violently targets its political opponents including U.S. citizens like Brandon Lee a human rights activist who was shot by state security forces in 2019 and remains paralyzed from the chest down today as a result of that attack Brandon deserves to know that his government stands with him not with his attackers," Wild said.

If passed, this act could stop a pair of arms sales to the Philippine government totaling $2 billion, for items including hellfire missiles and attack helicopters, as well as an additional sale of $126 million worth of assault boats and armaments.

According to the bill, no federal funds are to be appropriated to provide assistance for the police or military of the Philippines, including assistance in the form of equipment or training until all the human rights conditions are met.

Wild said standing up for human rights requires action, more than rhetoric. That is why blocking security assistance to the Philippines until human rights standards are met is about standing up for one another and that protecting labor rights all all human rights at home requires supporting those same rights abroad.

"To the government of the Philippines mI want to make clear we respect the sovereign country, this is about our sovereignty, it's about US taxpayers having a say over where our tax dollars go and for many of us it is imperative that funding not go to a government that brutally represses those who oppose it so as I reintroduced this bill I look forward to working alongside all the organization organizations and activists who are champion this cause," Wild said.

As the human rights situation in the Philippines continue to deteriorate, Yves Nibungco of Malaya Movement is urging members of the US Congress to pass the Philippine Human Rights Act.

Nibungco said that, as the democratic space continues to shrink in the Philippines, he believes that inaction and the lack of decisiveness to pass the Philippine Human Rights Act comes at a very high cost for human rights and democracy.

"The introduction of the Philippine Human Rights Act comes a few hours after the International Criminal Court moved to request an authorization to investigate the Duterte regime for crimes against humanities... That is why we call on the US government to end the quiet diplomacy now we need concrete action we urge our legislators both in the house and the Senate to put human rights first front and center above US geopolitical interests," he said.

The PHRA bill is initially co-sponsored by 11 other members of the US Congress and counting.

Human rights groups who backed the bill include Communications Workers of America, Malaya Movement and Global Ministries.

Brenda Roberts of CWA said human rights include labor rights and that workers must be free to practice it.

Derek Duncan of Global Ministries also slammed government persecution of the clergy critical to it.

In a video, Rep. Neri Colmenares thanked Wild for pushing the bill in support of human rights in the Philippines. — With a report by Lady Vicencio, ABS-CBN News


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