PH should lend an ear to HR criticism – Pimentel
MANILA — The Philippines may well pay attention to the criticism.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, a key ally of President Duterte, had this response to the report that the US has halted an arms deal with the Philippines over concerns about the human rights situation in the country.
“The US is not the only maker of quality rifles. It’s time for us to get to know what’s available in the world market,” Pimentel told the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Tuesday.
“But it’s also time for us to listen to the human rights concerns that other people are repeatedly raising about us,” he said when reached through text.
A Reuters report said the US State Department has stopped the sale of 27,000 assault rifles to the Philippines after US Sen. Ben Cardin, a member of the Senate foreign relations committee, expressed opposition to the deal amid the spate of slays, including vigilante murders, under President Duterte’s
bloody war on drugs.
US leaders have expressed concern over the string of drug-related deaths in the Philippines, with more than 1,700 killed in police operations and hundreds others slain in cases the police classify as “deaths under investigation,” including vigilante-style murders.
The development indicated a souring of relations between the long-time defense allies, following President Duterte’s explicit disdain of America’s criticism of his drug war, at one time cursing as he spoke about US President Barack Obama.
Mr. Duterte has made clear his intent to veer away from the Philippines’ long-standing defense reliance on the US, even vowing to end joint US-Philippine military drills in two years.
Sought for comment, Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto said both the US and the European Union, a recipient of President Duterte’s repeated tirades, might be expected to “start turning the screws on the Philippines.”
He said the government should show resolve in bringing to justice vigilante killers and end possible use of excessive force in police operations.
“With regard to human rights, government, through the Philippine National Police, should capture and prosecute criminals involved in vigilante killings and police rubouts,” he said.
Still, Recto said, the dissolved arms deal should prompt the Philippines to build its own weapons development capability.
“I have always said we can and must produce our own short and long firearms. Create jobs in the process. We produce high quality firearms domestically. We can also build ships for our Coast Guard and the Navy,” he said.
Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, Mr. Duterte’s defeated running mate, called on US officials to get their facts straight before dishing out criticism against the Philippines.
“Some of their diplomats and members of Congress have been reacting based on “news reports” and their facts are all wrong on human rights and extrajudicial killings. Let me humbly advice them to get their facts straight first rather than be embarrassed internationally for again acting on false information,” he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer when reached for comment.
He said human rights were very much a local elections issue in the US, a week away from US national polls.
“Precisely, developments like this proves President Duterte’s point, that we need to be independent. Some countries really tie their support on their strategic interest and local politics, thus, we shouldn’t be aligned only to one country and their interest,” he said.
Sen. Leila de Lima, a fierce critic of President Duterte’s anti-drug campaign, said the US reaction “should have been expected” since President Duterte pursued his anti-drug war.
“The Duterte Administration saw this coming and of course was most probably indifferent to its consequences as its social media support groups and fake news sites will now drum this up as an opportunity to be independent of the US, and its support weapons supplies and technology,” she said. SFM/rga
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