A FORMER envoy says the Philippines may lose out on millions of dollars in military aid from Washington following a U.S. State Department report which highlights President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal war on drugs.
Former Philippines ambassador to the U.S. Jose Cuisia Jr said the U.S. government might impose “conditions” on future financial assistance for the Philippine’s military until the Duterte administration showed it was “serious about showing respect for human rights,” according to ABS-CBN News.
“There is that danger precisely,” he was quoted as saying. “I hope they will not.”
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson earlier said the annual human rights reports were used by his government to determine the allocations for foreign aid and assistance in the security sector.
The 44-page report cited alleged cases of Duterte’s administration’s “disregard for human rights and abuses.”
“Extrajudicial killings have been the chief human rights concern in the country for many years and they had increased sharply over the past year,” it said.
Cuisia said over the period of “three to four years” under former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration, the Philippines lost an estimated US$13 million in foreign military assistance for human rights abuses.
“They felt the government had not done enough to address human rights violations,” he was quoted as saying, adding the U.S. later lifted the conditions and provided the Philippines with the highest military financing at US$66 million in 2015.
Last year, the Philippines received US$50 million and another US$425 million in maritime funding from Washington to boost its capability in the disputed South China Sea.
“It was not easy and we had to convince them (to lift the conditions),” Cuisia said.
“The first one we needed to convince was the U.S. Embassy because the embassy in Manila is responsible for submitting reports.”
The Leahy Law bars the U.S. government from providing assistance to another country found to have committed “gross violations of human rights.”
Earlier, a former senior policeman admitted to killing 200 people by his own hand or while supervising operations of the so-called Davao Death Squad at the behest of President Rodrigo Duterte who was the city’s mayor for 22 years.
Testifying against the president in the senate on Monday, Arturo Lascanas said broadcaster Jun Pala, a certain barangay captain Villarte, and a certain Fred Sotto, a former part-time commentator, were among those killed between 1989 to 2015.
Lascanas, who claims to be the death squad leader, said he did not always shoot targeted people, but also oversaw the operations.
Duterte’s allies dismiss the claims as a plot by his opponents to discredit a popular leader and his war on drugs, a campaign critics say has disturbing similarities to a pattern of mysterious killings in Davao, according to Reuters.
Duterte has repeatedly denied involvement in summary executions, either as president or during his 22 years as Davao mayor.
Ronald dela Rosa, a former Davao police chief under Duterte, has dismissed the death squad claims as a myth created by the media.
More than 8,000 people have been killed nationwide since Duterte took office eight months ago, mostly drug users killed by mysterious gunmen in incidents authorities attribute to vigilantes, drug gang members silencing informants or unrelated murders.
Human rights groups have documented about 1,400 suspicious killings in Davao while Duterte was mayor and critics say the war on drugs he unleashed as president has the same hallmarks.
Numerous investigations have found no proof linking Duterte to those deaths.