The Philippines’ war on drugs has not only cost an estimated 7,000 lives, but may also cost millions in aid and weapons from the United States.
Last week, Senators Marco Rubio and Benjamin Cardin introduced the Philippines Human Rights Accountability and Counternarcotics Act of 2017.
If passed, the bill would require the US secretary of state to submit reports on human rights violations, and drug sources and manufacturing to the Congress.
Eric Lachica of US Pinoys for Good Governance helped spearhead the campaign for lawmakers to monitor the human rights situation in the Philippines.
“There should be conditions on economic assistance. There should be more carrots and sticks in the assistance package to encourage the Duterte administration to honor international law. and observe human rights in the Philippines,” he said.
“American tax payers benefit because it preserves the peace. When people are unhappy, when people are fearful in the Philippines, it impacts the 4 million people in America — and it would have negative consequences on the bilateral national security partnership.”
Despite condemning the war on drugs, Rubio and Cardin both reiterated the US’s commitment to the Philippines when it comes to counter terrorism and disaster relief.
The bill would also give the Philippines $50 million to promote a public health approach to drug issues, and to help victims of human rights violations.
The two authors have had their ties to Philippines.
“As you know Senator Rubio is a Catholic from Florida. So he’s very well aware of the situation in the Philippines, he’s been to the Philippines twice to help in the Typhoon Haiyan relief efforts,” Lachica added. “He has Filipino American staff on the foreign relations committee… so I’m glad that he came through.”
Lachica says Cardin, a Democrat, who has a large Filipino constituency in Maryland, has had a long track record when it comes to human rights.
He’s kept close watch on the situation, and blocked the transfer of some 26,000 assault rifles to the Philippine National Police.
The announcement of the bipartisan bill comes days after President Donald Trump invited Duterte to the White House.
While Trump has shown support for Duterte’s war on drugs, Lachica hopes this bill can be a wake up call for both presidents.
“The timing is very good we want to send a strong message to the White House, that they should live up to the American ideals of being champions for human rights. The democratic way of governing to avoid potential conflicts in the area.”
Lachica also says the bill is expected to be taken up by the Senate and the House commission on human rights up within the next 6 to 8 weeks.
Until then, advocates will now try to find cosponsors in the Senate — especially from states representing large Filipino populations.