Government to review sale of military hardware
Those include extrajudicial killings, the destruction of homes, unlawful arrests and other alleged violations.
Last year, the Canada-based International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines wrote to Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland asking whether the Canadian helicopters sold in 2015 had been used for such purposes.
Bern Jagunos, who wrote the letter on behalf of the coalition, told The Canadian Press on Tuesday that Freeland never responded. The most recent sale, Jagunos added, only underscores the need for answers and safeguards.
Cesar Jaramillo of arms-control group Project Ploughshares, said Canada has already supported the military of a known human-rights abuser through the multibillion-dollar sale of armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia.
“President Duterte’s government has achieved global notoriety for its blatant disregard of basic human rights and its systematic threats against human rights activists,” Jaramillo said in an email.
“The fact that Canadian equipment is making its way to the Philippine military raises serious questions about the effectiveness of Canada’s exports controls-and about potential Canadian complicity, however unintended, in instances of human rights violation.”
Canada is selling helicopters to the Philippines military just months after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau voiced concerns over human rights abuses by the country’s security forces.
“The helicopters will be used for the military’s internal security operations,” Philippines Major-General Restituto Padilla, military chief of plans, said. He said the aircraft could also be used for search-and-rescue and disaster relief operations.
The deal, worth more than US$233.36-million produced in Mirabel, Que. comes as the Philippines military prepares to step up operations against Islamist and communist rebels.
Arms control advocates question why the Trudeau government is helping equip the military of a country where death squads have carried out unlawful or unauthorized killings for years – activities that have prompted concern at the highest levels in Ottawa.
“Once again, Canadian equipment is going to the military of a known human rights violator,” said Cesar Jaramillo, executive director of Project Ploughshares, a disarmament group that is an agency of the Canadian Council of Churches and which tracks arms shipments.
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland’s office referred questions about the sale to her department.
A Global Affairs spokeswoman said Canada is of the opinion the goods sold to the Philippines military will be used “explicitly for the purpose of disaster relief, search and rescue, passenger transport and utility transport.”
Brianne Maxwell said the transaction supports more than 1,000 jobs in Canada.
The Bell 412EPI helicopters will be delivered early next year as Mr. Duterte refocuses the armed forces modernization program to tackle growing domestic threats as Maoist fighters and pro-Islamic State extremists try to regroup.
According to Human Rights Watch, since taking office in 2016, Mr. Duterte has carried out a “war on drugs” campaign that resulted in the death of more than 7,000 suspected drug dealers and addicts.
Mr. Duterte has been outspoken in support of the anti-drug campaign and has sought to silence its critics. According to Human Rights Watch, “no meaningful investigation into the killings has been undertaken.”