In the evening of January 8, the Portland Human Rights commission voted on a draft resolution to the Portland City Council to suspend US military aid to the Philippines.
Supporters of the resolution said that since 2016, the US has provided the Philippines with over $550 million dollars in military aid despite Duterte’s infamous ‘war on drugs’ and human rights record, that have resulted in over 6,000 killed in the country in his over three years as president. Rights groups place the number of those killed at three times higher.
“Youth should not have to grow up looking down the barrel of a gun,” said Veronica Porter from GABRIELA Portland and the Malaya Movement, describing the situation of many youth growing up in the Philippines who are facing indiscriminate harassment from state forces.
Porter recently returned from a delegation to Panay island in the Visayas, Philippines.
Dr. Crystallee Crain, Portland Human Rights Commissioner and author of the resolution, stated, “I believe that it’s important to use our voices for change and to impress upon the leaders of the city, state, and country that we do not support these violations of human rights.”
The Commission voted 6-1-1 to push for the resolution at the level of Portland City Council. The Commission also voted to write a public statement of support. The current draft of the resolution will be submitted for a vote at Portland City Council on a later date.
“While this is a big step in the right direction, I encourage leaders in Congress to divest unnecessary military aid that are being unjustly utilized. We should not allow our elected officials to squander tax dollars to dictatorships that aim to bolster their own power. We need massive review and reform of appropriations on the federal level. Our local work is meant to catalyze the movement in that direction,” continued Dr. Crain.
The Portland resolution is a part of growing diplomatic pressure against Duterte and also said to be a contribution to the US-wide campaign to suspend military aid to the Philippines.
In July 2019, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution seeking a comprehensive report on the human rights situation in the Philippines, including alleged extrajudicial killings related to the president’s war on drugs.
In September, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a similar resolution, which calls for the suspension of military aid to the Philippines.
On the same day of the Portland Human Rights Commission vote, the U.S. Senate passed Resolution S142, which condemns human rights violations in the Philippines and the detention of Senator Leila De Lima and harassment of journalist and Time Magazine Person of the Year 2018 Maria Ressa.
Supporters of the resolution to cut US military aid to Philippines due to human rights violations invoke the Leahy Law, which “prohibit(s) the U.S. Government from using funds for assistance to units of foreign security forces where there is credible information implicating that unit in the commission of gross violations of human rights.”
US military aid to Duterte
On August 17, 2018, the US Embassy in Manila said the Philippines is the largest recipient of American military assistance in Southeast Asia, valued at over P15 billion for the past three years. This was revealed following the Philippine government’s announcement of plans to procure arms and weapons from outside the US.
In January, US president Donald Trump authorized $1.5 billion annually for the Asian Pacific region, including the Philippines, from 2019 to 2023.
The US State Department already plans to deliver $5.3 million this year to the Philippine police for anti-narcotics activities.
Shunning loans, aid from countries backing rights probe
In reaction, Duterte and his office said they will not accept aid or ask for loans from those who question his policies and usually refers to other countries reactions to his policies as ‘intrusions’, especially on human rights and the war on drugs.
On August 27, through Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea issued a memorandum directing government agencies, government-owned-and-controlled corporations and government financial institutions to suspend the loan negotiations “pending the assessment of our relations with these countries.” The countries referred to are the 18 countries who voted in favor of the Iceland-led resolution to investigate killings related to the war on drugs.