Defense chief denies Bell helicopters from Canada to be used vs enemies of state
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana denied that the Bell helicopters that the Philippines is acquiring from Canada will be used to fight enemies of the state.
“The 16 brand new Bell 412 helicopters, which we are procuring for the Armed Forces of Philippines, will primarily be used for the transportation of personnel and supplies, ferrying wounded and injured soldiers, and the conduct of humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR) operations,” said Lorenzana in a statement issued Thursday.
“They are not attack or close support aircraft. While they may be used in support of Internal Security Operations or ISO, their role is limited to those that I mentioned,” he said.
“As its designation 'Combat Utility Helicopter or CUH' connotes, the Bell CUH 412 is a utility helicopter and, contrary to what some parties mistakenly believe, its mission is to save lives,” he added.
Lorenzana issued his statement following news reports the Canadian government ordered the review of the Bell helicopter deal with the Philippines following a remark by a general these will be used to fight enemies of the state under the internal security operation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). The announcement on the Bell helicopter deal was announced on Feb 6.
Department of National Defense Public Affairs Service Director Arsenio Andolong said it is not fair to link the internal security operation of the military to alleged human rights violation. Canada Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne mentioned human rights is a key elements of Canada’s foreign and trade policy.
“Although it is their prerogative to subject such a transaction from here I think it is unfair to equate internal security operations in general with human rights violations first of all the alleged human rights violations are unverified there are still being investigated and have to be documented,” Andolong said.
“I think it’s premature to cast judgment on the armed forces in this regard so I think it would be to the best interests of both our countries to step back and reconsider what the Canadian government is thinking,” he added.
Andolong also emphasized that the Department of National Defense and AFP do not tolerate human rights violations.
“They (soldiers) are not (engaged in human rights violation) and the secretary of national defense has said that violators of human rights will be severely dealt with. He said that again and again that is why we have a human rights office up from the division level down to the battalion level monitoring all activities on the ground,” he said.
“If you will recall when martial law was proclaimed last year most of our reservist attorneys who were serving at...active duty to serve in the field to precisely make sure that any arrests that are being undertaken on the ground follow the law,” Andolong added.
“If there are any violations, we will know so I don’t want to say where they are coming from but they should consider these things. I’m not entirely ruling out these violations because physically I’m not there but I think whatever was alleged still has to be verified,” Andolong noted.
Lorenzana assures the procurement of helicopters will continue even if the Canadian government decides to cancel its helicopter deal with the Philippines.
“Should the Canadian Government choose to discontinue their sale of the aircraft to us, then we will procure them from another source,” he said.
The 12 billion pesos contract for the acquisition of the 16 units of Bell 412 EPI utility helicopters was signed by Lorenzana, James Williamson representing Bell and Yvonne Chin, Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC) Director for Asia last December 29, 2017.
Based on the contract the delivery of the helicopters was set in the first quarter of 2019 and will be completed by the second quarter of 2020. Robina Asido/DMS