ICHRP-US commends Representative Susan Wild in her amendment to the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act which suspends US military aid to the Philippine National Police (PNP). In her statement, she rightly demands that US rhetoric around human rights be backed by actual policy adding, “is it too much to ask that our country put some modest conditions on arming and assisting the security forces of an authoritarian government waging war on its own people?” Indeed, this amendment is only one step in addressing the well-documented human rights abuses perpetrated by the US- backed Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and PNP.
Despite Wild’s clear case for ending US assistance to the PNP, Representative Steve Chabot, Co-Chair of the US-Philippines Friendship Caucus, opposed the amendment under the guise of “friendship” and “partnership” with the Philippines. Chabot suggested that the amendment would undermine US national security and threaten a 70-year “partnership” with the Philippines, and even made the preposterous and incoherent claim that he “supports the war on drugs . . . just not extrajudicial killings.” What politicians like Chabot call “friendship” or “partnership” with the Philippines is in fact collusion with a government that terrorizes and murders the people it claims to serve.
While Rep Chabot pretends to stand for the mutual interests of the US and Filipino people. he has shown that he is willing to accept the lies of a murderous regime in order to protect US geopolitical and economic interests. In 2019, Chabot received a delegation of supposed indigenous leaders from the Philippines who came to share their struggles. In reality, the Mindanao Indigenous People’s Council of Elders and Leaders (MIPCEL) is sponsored by the Philippine state and is composed of people who do not represent the people of the communities they claim to speak for.
Instead of exposing the role of the AFP and PNP in the militarization of Lumad schools, red-tagging of students and teachers, and extrajudicial killings of indigenous leaders, MIPCEL actively collaborates with these very same forces to red-tag Lumad communities and progressive organizations. The AFP and PNP have been responsible for countless massacres of Lumad people and their allies, most recently in February 2022 when two volunteer teachers, a health worker, and their 2 drivers were tortured and killed near New Bataan, Davao de Oro.
Chabot’s willingness to back the AFP and as well as support former president Duterte’s murderous drug war exposes the true purpose of the US Philippines Friendship Caucus: to maintain US economic, political, and military supremacy in the region. It is true that the US has always been friendly with the repressive puppet governments of the Philippines, including the dictator Marcos Sr., and now his son, Marcos Jr. who claimed victory in a fraudulent and widely condemned election process. The Filipino people continue to bear the brunt of US neoliberal economic policies and intensifying state terrorism the Philippine government imposes upon them.
Genuine friendship however, is exemplified by the people to people solidarity of countless grassroots organizations pressing for the passage of the Philippine Human Rights Act. It means standing with the Filipino people in calling for an end to the red-tagging and murder of activists, journalists, trade unionists, church leaders, teachers, lawyers, indigenous people, peasants, and the urban poor. The US’s more than 70 year “partnership” with the Philippines is in fact over 70 years of the repression of the Filipino people’s demands for genuine democracy and national sovereignty.
As collusion between the US and Philippine state become more transparent and as Biden extends an invitation to Marcos Jr. to visit the White House, it is essential to expose the insidiousness of “friendship” when it only extends to elite and dynastic politicians in the Philippines and excludes exploited and oppressed sectors of society. Wild’s amendment, on the other hand, demonstrates a commitment to genuine friendship by listening to the demands of the Filipino people and their allies and revoking military aid to repressive state forces like the PNP.