Philippines delegation invited to CANSEC even after President threatens to throw people out of helicopter

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Photo: The Philippines delegation at CANSEC, 2017.

In December 2016, Reuters reported: “Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened corrupt government officials with the prospect of being thrown out of a helicopter mid-air, warning he has done it himself before and would do it again.”

Despite this admission, a Canadian government agency invited the Philippine government to the CANSEC arms show in Ottawa.

On June 1, 2017, the Philippine Embassy in Canada posted on Facebook: “Defense Assistant Secretary for Plans and Programs Teodoro Cirilo Torralba III leads the Philippine delegation attending CANSEC… The Canadian Commercial Corporation, a Canadian government corporation, invited and hosted the Philippine Delegation.”

The following year, the National Post reported: “The Ottawa-based CCC, which helps Canadian exporters get contracts with foreign governments, came under fire in February 2018 after the media learned the corporation had brokered a $234-million deal to sell 16 Bell 412 helicopters to the military of the Philippines.”

Notably it added: “The Crown corporation that helped broker the controversial sales of Canadian military equipment … to the ‘Madman of the Philippines’ gets a cut of the proceeds, prompting critics to warn it has little incentive to scale back its involvement in lucrative arms deals despite a government order to do so.”

Alex Neve, then the secretary general of Amnesty International Canada, commented: “’When the Canadian Commercial Corporation is involved in arms deals there often seems to be a lack of rigour when it comes to human rights concerns.”

The sale of the helicopters was approved by then-Canadian Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, who is scheduled to be a keynote speaker at CANSEC this year.

By February 2018, the Philippines had cancelled the purchase.

While the Canadian government had said the helicopters would have been used for disaster relief and humanitarian aid, the National Post reported: “The Philippine government never hid its intention to use the Canadian-built helicopters in military operations, even going as far as displaying the first batch of those choppers armed with machine guns during an official ceremony in 2015 attended by Canada’s ambassador.”

Photo: Canadian Ambassador Neil Reeder and Philippines defense secretary Voltaire Gazmin were present at Villamor Air Base in Pasay, south of Manila, in August 2015 for the final delivery of eight Bell 412EP helicopters to the Philippine military.

Philippines Major General Restituto Padilla further confirmed: “The helicopters will be used for the military’s internal security operations.” And Duterte also commented the helicopters would likely be used against “the rebels and terrorists”.

Despite this controversy, by May 2018, Bell was back in discussions with the Philippines as a potential client for the same helicopters.

Lockheed Martin sells to the Philippines

CANSEC sponsor Lockheed Martin has also recently sold helicopters and fighter jets to the Philippines.

In 2021, Lockheed sold $2.43 billion of F-16s to the Philippines, despite congressional opposition related to widespread human rights violations carried out by the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

And in February 2022, Lockheed Martin also announced: “PZL Mielec, a Lockheed Martin company has signed a contract award with the Philippine Department of National Defense (DND) to manufacture 32 additional S-70i Black Hawk utility helicopters for the Philippine Air Force.”

There continues to be a Bell helicopter connection too.

Earlier this year, it was reported the Philippines could receive Fuji-Bell UH-1J Huey military helicopters and Mitsubishi Type 74 main battle tanks from Japan as part of a security cooperation grant.

Protest CANSEC, May 31

For information on the popular mobilization being planned against militarism, the relationship between arms sales and human rights violations, the manufacturing of wars to sell weapons, and more, please click here.

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