Canadian groups: Ottawa should suspend military aid to PH over human rights violations

Community News & Features Oct 27, 2017 at 3:38 pm

kairosBy Ysh Cabana

TORONTO — Civil society groups and advocacy networks in Canada urged the Government of Canada to cease all military aid and sale of military equipment to the Philippines and expressed “deep concern” to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to act on the “severe deterioration” of human rights situation in the Philippines.

cupe-logo-1The Asia Pacific Working Group of the Canadian Council for International Cooperation (CCIC), together with faith-based organizations, unions, rights groups, and citizens sent a letter to Ottawa to address the Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s deadly extrajudicial ‘war on drugs’ and the military counter-insurgency program.

“Given the significant political, diplomatic, and economic relations between Canada and the Philippines, we believe it is incumbent on the Government of Canada to speak out more strongly against this violence and to reconsider these relations,” the letter read.

The groups said they are “deeply troubled that the victims of this state-sponsored violence are predominantly from poor, vulnerable and marginalized sectors of Philippine society” and that “the drug problem will only be solved by providing proper social support and treatment, and by addressing this underlying socio-economic inequality.”

They also raised the issue of human rights violations committed by “emboldened military and paramilitary forces” and how independent offices are undermined as the Duterte administration is “increasingly exhibiting characteristics of a dictatorship.”

NewUCCrestColourThe groups said that the Philippine government should fulfill its obligations under international human rights agreements.

“We are extremely concerned by the growing numbers of extra-judicial killings and lack of accountability, due process and transparency of the Duterte administration,” said Dominique Caouette, Coordinator for Contemporary and Transdisciplinary Studies on
Southeast Asia Research Group at the University of Montreal, via email.

The Canadian political scientist said that civil society groups are working with Philippine NGOs and community counterparts to channel support to official observer undertakings to look into the situation in the country. Educational tours and international solidarity missions with a focus on Mindanao are set to take place in November 2017 and in March 2018 organized by the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines.

Mining Watch Canada

Mining Watch Canada

Signatories to the letter include the United Church of Canada, KAIROS Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, Canadian Union of Public Employees, Mining Watch Canada, International Coalition on Human Rights in the Philippines-Canada, Beaconsfield United Church-Quebec, Unifor, Canada-Philippine Solidarity for Human Rights, International Coalition on Human Rights in the Philippines-Toronto, Centre d’appui aux Philippines/ Centre for Philippine Concerns, Femmes de diverses origines/Women of Diverse Origins, Victoria-Philippine Solidarity Group, Ontario Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, Migrante-Canada and chapters in British Columbia, Ontario, and Alberta, Anakbayan–Canada and Anakbayan–Toronto, and concerned individuals.

”The anti-drug trafficking campaign of President Duterte has become an occasion for military and para-military organizations to execute suspects and by-standers without the basic respect of human rights protection and guarantees,” Caouette added.

Canada was among the 39 nations which expressed a similar concern in a UN human rights council meeting in September. International groups reminded that the Philippines is at risk of being removed from the council if it continues to violate its membership obligations to uphold human rights and be open to independent probes. A two-thirds vote by the UN general assembly is required for suspension.