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Philippines' human rights record an issue in pending $2.6B military sale

Philippines' human rights record an issue in pending $2.6B military sale
Although the U.S. State department approved a $2.4 billion military aid package to the Philippines on Thursday, members of the U.S. Congress objected, citing the Philippines' record on human rights. Photo courtesy of Philippines Air Force/Facebook

June 25 (UPI) -- Despite Congressional opposition, the U.S. State Department announced a determination this week to sell nearly $2.6 billion of defense material to the Philippines.

The largest potential sale involves 12 F-16 fighter planes at a cost of $2.43 billion, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said on Thursday.

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In separate statements, the DSCA announced agreements to sell 24 AIM-9X Sidewinder tactical missiles at a $43.4 million, and 12 AGM-841-1 Harpoon missiles at $120 million.

Each contract includes associated equipment, training and spare parts.

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Lockheed Martin would be the primary contractor for the F-16s, with Raytheon for the Sidewinder missiles and Boeing for the Harpoon missiles.

The State Department gave its assent to the deals, which must still be approved by Congress.

The DSCA statements noted that "the proposed sale will improve the Philippines' capability to meet current and future threats by enabling the Philippines to deploy fighter aircraft with precision munitions in support of counterterrorism operations in the southern Philippines."

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A group of 10 House members co-sponsored a bill last week to suspend military arms sales to the Philippines, citing the human rights record of President Rodrigo Duterte's administration, "until violence against dissident ceases and accountability against the perpetrators commences," Rep. Susan Wild, D-Pa., said in a statement.

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The bill, called the Philippine Human Rights Act, would cut support for Philippine military and police until alleged human rights violations have been examined.

It identifies a need to remove the Philippine military from domestic politics, and establishment of protections for trade unionists, journalists, small farmers, LGBT activists and critics of the government.

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The bill calls for suspension of U.S. security assistance, and vetoing of loans, to the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippines National Police.

It also requires the U.S. State Department and U.S. Department of Defense to report to Congress on the misuse of the aid, "including but not limited to extrajudicial killings, intimidation, illegal sales, and misappropriation."

The United States has already sold $2.4 billion in military equipment to the Philippines since Dutarte was elected in 2016.

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