U.S. to stop PNP drug war assistance unless ‘international human rights standards’ are observed

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By Corina Oliquino l Filam Star Correspondent

The United States may stop its assistance to the Philippine National police if its campaign against illegal drugs is notconsistent with “international human rights standards.”

According to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations’ bill on the 2019 State and Foreign Operations approved last June 20 for the U.S. State Department, they have suggested that funds appropriated for the Philippines’ counter-narcotics campaign be made available when “Sec. of State Mike Pompeo determines the Philippine government’s compliance with international human rights standards.”

In a report by BusinessWorld, according to a provision under Section 7403 of the Bill, Pompeo is directed to “determine and report” to U.S. Congress if the Philippines has enforced a “counter-narcotics strategy that is consistent with international human rights standards.”

The Bill, however, would not apply to funds for drug demand reduction or maritime programs of the Philippines.

Meanwhile, in another report related to the Bill, the appropriations committee also stated that extra-judicial killings had eroded the confidence of the Philippine government’s commitment to “human rights, due process, and the rule of law.”

The U.S. Congress is also asking the U.S. Department of State to “strictly monitor United States assistance” to the Philippines.

Discontinued assistance to the PNP
In the same report, the U.S. Senate committee noted that the U.S. may discontinue its assistance to the PNP “given the absence of the adoption and implementation of a counter-narcotics strategy that is consistent with international human rights.”

Instead, the Committee is calling for the funding to be allocated to USAID for national and community-based drug treatment and demand reduction programs to be implemented by the Philippines’ Department of Health (DoH).

“Such funds shall be made available on a cost-matching basis, to the maximum extent practicable,” the U.S. Senate said.

The Committee is also requiring Pompeo to submit a report assessing the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) compliance with human rights and rule of law.

“The AFP must be a legitimate defender of the state and all the people of the Philippines. Therefore, not later than 90 days after enactment of the act, the Secretary of State shall submit a report to the appropriate congressional committees assessing the extent to which the AFP is respecting human rights and the rule of law, particularly regarding involvement in extra-judicial killings, and the investigation and prosecution of military personnel who commit gross human rights violations. The report shall also include a description of the steps taken by the AFP to implement policies and reforms to prevent such abuses,” the report of the U.S. Senate committee on appropriations statedinBusinessWorld.

Moreover, in a story by The Philippine Star, the Report, which will be submitted to appropriate congressional committees, must also assess the possible involvement of the AFP in extra-judicial killings and investigation on military personnel who commit gross human rights violation.

“The Report shall also include a description of the steps taken by the AFP to implement policies and reforms to prevent such abuses,” the U.S. Senate said.

“Sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), the U.S. Senate’s budget proposal for the Department of State and foreign operations has been placed on the legislative calendar since June 21,” reportedThe Philippine Star.

The latest recommendations of the report of the U.S. Congress are for the next fiscal year, which runs from October 1, 2018 to September 30, 2019.

The Philippine Star report also noted how this is not the first time the U.S. government has shifted away its assistance from law enforcement since President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office.

In 2016, the U.S. Department of State shifted its focus from narcotics control to maritime security efforts in the Philippines.

U.S. Department of State Spokesperson John Kirby stressed that the U.S. government remains deeply concerned by reports of extra-judicial killings by government authorities in the Philippines.

“Since the start of the drug campaign, our law enforcement assistance has been re-focused away from narcotics control to supporting maritime security efforts and to providing human rights training to the Philippine National Police,” Kirby said in a press briefing on November 2016.

“We decided the prudent thing to do was to re-focus the way that assistance was being spent,” Kirby added.

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