Canada-Philippines helicopter deal sparks human rights concerns
02:52, Feb 10, 2018
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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday said he had cancelled a US$235 million contract to buy 16 helicopters from Canada after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government ordered a review over human rights concerns.
"They must not politicise the acquisition", said Major-General Restituto Padilla, the deputy chief of staff for plans and programmes of the Philippine armed forces.
"These (helicopters) are a real benefit to Filipinos", Canadian ambassador John Holmes said on the mission's Facebook page, adding it would boost Manila's "search and rescue and disaster relief capabilities".
But International Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne announced Wednesday he had ordered a review of the deal, which was finalized in December, after a senior member of the Philippines military said the aircraft would also be used in "internal security operations". "You will never get it as long as we are president", he said.
The government in Ottawa earlier expressed concerns the helicopters could be used to fight rebels. "We are neutral", Duterte said, without making clear if he was referring to Canada or the USA, his country's treaty ally, or both.
Trudeau said in November he had spoken to Duterte about "human rights, the rule of law, and specifically extrajudicial killings".
"It angers me when you are a foreigner, you do not know what exactly is happening in this country".
The Canadian PM said Duterte has been receptive to comments regarding his government's crackdown on drug dealers that had claimed several lives. "He is doing it also for his country, people just don't understand him".
Philippine troops and police, beset by Islamist and communist insurgencies, fought a five-month battle previous year against Islamic State group supporters in the southern city of Marawi.
Almost 4,000 mostly poor drug suspects have been killed in clashes with police, according to police officials, who say the suspects resisted violently.
Bensouda has said in the past that she was deeply concerned about reports of the killings, and that statements by "high officials" in the Philippines "seem to condone such killings".
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