Kamala Harris visit to further drive US complicity in rights violations in PH - Karapatan

Human rights alliance Karapatan slammed the upcoming visit to the Philippines of US Vice President Kamala Harris, saying that it will further drive the US government’s complicity in the worsening violations of human rights in the country.

Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said that foremost on Harris’ agenda is further strengthening security arrangements under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) which allows the US to preposition more troops, weapons and logistics in Philippine military facilities that function as quasi-bases for the US.

Ahead of Harris’ visit, US officials bared plans to add five more military facilities to its current list of five quasi-bases in anticipation of intensified deployment of military forces and ships in the Asia-Pacific region. In exchange, the US has pledged an additional $100 million in military aid to the Marcos II regime, which will surely be used to buttress counter-insurgency and “counter-terrorist” operations that can only spell more human rights violations against the Filipino people, said Palabay.

“The US cannot evade accountability for the worsening human rights situation in the Philippines. It already has blood on its hands for having pushed and funded successive regimes in the Philippines, including the Duterte administration, to adopt increasingly vicious counter-insurgency policies resulting in stepped-up attacks against people’s rights and civil liberties,” she stated.

The US government has provided $330 million of military/security assistance to the Philippines, the 13th largest in the world over the last five years, and arms sales amounting to $4.7 billion or 25th in the world in that period.

“Despite calls from various groups and members of the US House of Representatives to decrease military financing to the Philippines, the US government has instead provided the financial means along with war materiel for the conduct of such murderous counterinsurgency programs. Hundreds of civilians including human rights defenders and dissenters were killed and thousands have been displaced, with their homes and farmlands bombed because of this US-driven program,” she emphasized.  

It is disturbing, said Palabay, that this visit by the US’ second-highest ranking official has a predominantly militarist and anti-human rights agenda. “It overshadows the stance taken by the US mission to the recently concluded Universal Periodic Review calling on the Philippine government to put an end to red-tagging and ensure the security of human rights defenders, revoke laws that are hostile to free speech, including a section of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 and conduct serious investigations of extrajudicial killings.”

“By these actions, the US continues its double-speak on human rights, while pursuing its geo-political and military interests in the Philippines and in the Asia Pacific region,” Palabay concluded.