US lawmakers want to block PNP aid for human rights violations

·2 min read
Philippine National Police (PNP) investigators inspect the scene where Jonathan Sevilla was shot dead by unknown attackers in Navotas, Metro Manila, Philippines, March 23, 2018. (Photo by Ezra Acayan/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Philippine National Police (PNP) investigators inspect the scene where Jonathan Sevilla was shot dead by unknown attackers in Navotas, Metro Manila, Philippines, March 23, 2018. (Photo by Ezra Acayan/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The United States House of Representatives passed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to put a stop to “uncritical and unconditional assistance” to the Philippine National Police (PNP) in light of human rights violations committed by police forces to Filipinos.

Approved on Thursday (July 14), the NDAA is an annual law passed by the US Congress which determines the budget of the US Department of Defense.

Rep. Susan Wild of Pennsylvania, the proponent of the said amendment, stressed that “time is long overdue to begin putting some basic human rights guardrails in place.”

“After an estimated 30,000 extrajudicial killings in the Philippines between 2016 and today, after the assassinations, arbitrary arrests, torture, and red-tagging of labor organizers and oppositions leaders, after former President Duterte’s calls for assassinating politically engaged bishops, and after the Philippines has been named year after year by the International Trade Union Confederation as one of the world’s 10 most repressive countries for the labor movement and workers, the time is long overdue to begin putting some basic human rights guardrails in place in the United States-Philippines relationship,” she said.

Aid for the police will be blocked until the governments of the US and the Philippines have certified that they “investigated and successfully prosecuted members of the PNP who have violated human rights” and “established that the PNP effectively protect the rights of trade unionists, journalists, human rights defenders, critics of the government, faith and religious leaders and other civil society activists.”

Last March 2021, a series of coordinated raids conducted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and PNP led to the deaths of nine activists in the Southern Tagalog region. One of the individuals, Ka Manny Asuncion, was a labor leader based in Cavite province.

The lower house’s decision to amend the NDAA was welcomed by the Coalition for the Philippine Human Rights Act. For them, the amendment “will ensure that the Philippine National Police face accountability for human rights violations while reducing U.S. complicity in state terror in the Philippines.”

One of the Coalition’s member organizations, Kabataan Alliance, mentioned that the amendment “is a huge step in recognizing and upholding human rights in the Philippines.”

“It brings to justice PNP, who are responsible for taking the lives of fellow Filipino youth and children, like Kian Delos Santos, by ensuring an investigation and prosecution for their crimes,” Kabataan Alliance external vice president Chrissi Fabro added.

Mark Ernest Famatigan is a news writer who focuses on Philippine politics. He is an advocate for press freedom and regularly follows developments in the Philippine economy. The views expressed are his own.

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