Contributed by Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights)
“Canada’s $233 million arms sale of military combat helicopters to the Philippine government will enable and worsen the already dire human rights situation under the Duterte administration. We call on the Canadian people and Filipino migrants in Canada to oppose this arms deal and intensify support for human and people’s rights in the Philippines,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay, after the agreement between the Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC) and Philippine military was announced on February 6, 2018.
Armed Forces of the Philippines Major Gen. Restituto Padilla said that the 16 Bell 412EPI choppers, which will be acquired by the Philippine military through the said arms deal, will be used for the Duterte administration’s internal security operations against so-called Islamist and communist rebels.
In 2014, the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP)-Canada chapter raised questions on the announced sale of Canada’s eight (8) Bell 421EPI helicopters to the Philippine Army. The Philippine Air Force said that three of the said choppers were commissioned “for VIPs” and five as combat utility helicopters for ground attacks and air assaults.
On March 26, 2017, ICHRP-Canada wrote to Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland expressing concern that the Philippine military may be using the helicopters for aerial bombings that occurred after Philippine Pres. Rodrigo Duterte ordered the military to “drop bombs” on rebels and consider civilian casualties as “collateral damage.”
Under the Duterte administration, Karapatan has documented 356,304 civilians affected by aerial bombings in 46 incidents when such air strikes were launched, and 426,590 victims of forcible evacuation due to said bombings and military ground combat operations.
“Such aerial bombings show the Duterte regime’s complete disregard for people’s rights and international humanitarian law. Marawi City was pulverized to the ground through airstrikes, with civilians killed and homes of residents destroyed. Duterte’s threats to bomb Lumad schools continue to hound indigenous and peasant communities in Mindanao. His militarist hubris comes not only from his government’s fascist designs to suppress legitimate dissent, but also from the complicity and support by foreign governments that provide funds and arms used by the military and police to kill civilians and destroy whole communities,” Palabay stated.
“In the context of Duterte’s sabotage of Philippine government’s peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, his announced crackdown of progressive organizations whom he perceives as enemies of the State, the sell-out of ancestral domains of indigenous communities to businesses and corporations, and his anti-people drug war, Canada’s arms deal with this murderous regime will render its government complicit on the consequent right violations against the Filipino people,” Palabay concluded.