U.S. may divert PH law enforcement aid

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U.S. soldiers and Philippine troops observe as jungle survivor instructor prepares a meal in Fort Magsayay, Nueva Ecija.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The United States may take back $6.7 million (₱322 million) in law enforcement aid pledged to the Philippines if the two countries fail to agree on how it will be used.

U.S. Embassy Press Attache and First Secretary Molly Koscina told CNN Philippines, “The $6.7 million in funds can be used only after agreement between the United States and the Philippines on their specific use. If no agreement is reached, the funds may be used in a country other than the Philippines.”

The amount is part of the $32 million (₱1.5 billion) Washington earlier pledged to Manila. However, the money is not meant to finance police operations to hunt down drug criminals.

“The funds will strictly comply with U.S. legal obligations and international law enforcement and policing standards,” Koscina said. “These funds are for programs supporting rule of law, due process, and maritime security. The funds are not for law enforcement operations.”

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The U.S. government has expressed concern over alleged extrajudicial killings in the ongoing war on illegal drugs by the administration of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. It is urging the government to follow international human rights laws and standards in dealing with suspected drug dealers.

Duterte has accused Washington of trying to meddle in Philippine affairs, saying it had no right to “lecture” him about human rights.

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The $32 million pledge was announced during U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Manila in July. Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said it would come in the form of trainings and services to boost Philippine law enforcement efforts.

Koscina said the U.S. government appropriated the amount between fiscal years 2011 to 2016. Funding existed before Duterte took office.

“The U.S. has a long-standing partnership with the Philippines that extends over a wide range of issues. On law enforcement, we hope to continue that partnership. We must do so in a way that abides by our national laws, both from the United States and the Philippines, and by international standards,” Koscina said.