US bill seeks halt on security assistance to Philippines until reforms are made

A measure is being proposed in the United States House of Representatives which seeks “to suspend the provision of security assistance to the Philippines until the Government of the Philippines has made certain reforms to the military and police forces, and for other purposes.”

The proposed measure, HR 8313, is being sponsored by Democratic Pennsylvania Representative Susan Wild with 25 co-sponsors.

“Today, across the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal regime is using the pretext of a so-called anti- terrorism law to ramp up efforts targeting labor organizers, workers, and political opponents. This law allows suspects to be detained by the police or military without charges for as long as 24 days and placed under surveillance for up to 90 days,” Wild said in introducing the said bill.

“In response to these abuses, I introduced the Philippine Human Rights Act, which would block U.S. funding for police or military assistance to the Philippines-outlining a series of basic criteria which would have to be met in order to resume such funding,” she said. “Let us make clear that the United States will not participate in the repression. Let us stand with the people of the Philippines.”

Senator Ping Lacson said “members of the US Congress are within their rights to file any legislative measure under any circumstances. As in our case, it will have to go through the mill of first reading and referral, committee hearings and floor debates.”

However, Senator Lacson said “if adopted and approved, the said bill – H.R. 8313 – will not only be our loss but theirs as well, considering that a major part of the security assistance being extended to the Philippines is used to combat terrorism, which knows no borders and timing. And they know that for a fact.”

“And since the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) is still existing, they may have to resolve that as a legal issue in their deliberations,” Lacson added.