WASHINGTON ― The Philippines has formally canceled its contract with Canada for the purchase of 16 Bell 412 helicopters, according to Jane’s 360.

After the deal was announced early last week at the Singapore Air Show, human rights advocates quickly raised concerns about how the military helicopters would be used by the Philippine Air Force.

Although a spokeswomen for Global Affairs Canada said the aircraft would be used for disaster relief, humanitarian aid and transport, the Canadian government was contradicted by a Filipino general and President Rodrigo Duterte.

Philippine Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin poses in the cockpit of a newly delivered Bell 412 helicopter during a christening ceremony in Manila on Aug. 17, 2015. (Jay Directo/AFP)
Philippine Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin poses in the cockpit of a newly delivered Bell 412 helicopter during a christening ceremony in Manila on Aug. 17, 2015. (Jay Directo/AFP)

“The helicopters will be used for the military’s internal security operations,” said Philippines Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla, military chief of plans. On Friday, Duterte said the helicopters would likely be used against “the rebels and terrorists.”

The sale was originally approved by Canadian Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne on the understanding the aircraft would be used for search-and-rescue and disaster relief missions. The Philippines have been operating Bell 412 helicopters since the 1990s and most recently purchased eight aircraft from Canada in 2015.

Duterte’s anti-drug crackdown has allegedly killed thousands of Filipinos since July 2016. On Thursday, the International Criminal Court’s Office of the Prosecutor informed the Philippines that the organization was conducting a preliminary inquiry into whether a further investigation is needed into Duterte’s alleged crimes against humanity, CNN reported.