MANILA (Reuters) – A U.S. lawmaker’s push to block police and military aid to the Philippines over human rights concerns is unlikely to succeed, because of the friendship between the leaders of the two countries, a senior government official on Thursday.
The Philippines is confident the United States will give more weight to its ties with the Philippines and President Rodrigo Duterte’s personal friendship with counterpart Donald Trump, said Duterte’s spokesman, Harry Roque.
Roque during a regular briefing dismissed as a “wild suggestion” the bill filed by U.S. Representative Susan Wild, which seeks suspension of American aid to the Philippine military and police, due to concerns over an anti-terrorism law that took effect in July.
The new law has been condemned by rights groups at home and abroad as a weapon to target Duterte’s opponents and stifle free speech. Numerous petitions have been filed with the Supreme Court to try to block it.
Duterte says law-abiding citizens should not fear the law, which is intended for “terrorists” and communist insurgents. Critics, however, fear the vague definition of what constitutes a “terrorist” could be abused.
Wild’s bill comes four years after the U.S. State Department halted the planned sale of some 26,000 assault rifles to the Philippine police, after Senator Ben Cardin vowed to block the deal due to the high number of killings in Duterte’s police-led war on drugs.
That move angered Duterte, a fierce critic of U.S. foreign policy who speaks fondly of Trump and has been praised by the U.S. president for his tough approach to drugs.
Military spokesman Edgard Arevalo in a separate news conference said all Filipino soldiers operated “within the limits and bounds of respect for human rights, law of armed conflict”.
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