Obama Urged to Cut Aid to Philippine Govt

Following the release of the 2008 US State Department report on the Philippines, the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) called on the Obama administration to cut military and other aid to the Arroyo government.

Released February 25, the US State Department country report on human rights practices in the Philippines, states, “Arbitrary, unlawful, and extrajudicial killings by elements of the security services and political killings, including killings of journalists, by a variety of actors continued to be major problems …Concerns about impunity persisted. Members of the security services committed acts of physical and psychological abuse on suspects and detainees, and there were instances of torture. Prisoners awaiting trial and those already convicted were often held under primitive conditions. Disappearances occurred, and arbitrary or warrantless arrests and detentions were common. Trials were delayed, and procedures were prolonged.”

Bayan said that while the number of victims may have dropped compared to previous years, the policies that allow human rights abuses remain.

Renato M. Reyes, Jr. , Bayan secretary general, said, “The State Department report, though merely scratching the surface, showed the persistence of human rights abuses under the Arroyo regime. It behooves the Obama administration to reexamine its military aid to the abusive and corrupt Arroyo administration. Obama can do the right thing and cut aid to Arroyo now.”

He added, “Obama must stand by his inauguration speech that those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent are on the wrong side of history. Consistent with this assertion is the withdrawal of US military aid to the Arroyo regime.”

The group said that the Arroyo government has received $30 million in military aid annually for the last two years under the Bush regime.

“The US is in a severe economic crisis and must find better ways of using its funds other than supporting dictators and fascists,” Reyes said.

Bayan also criticized the Arroyo government for failing to follow the recommendations of United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Prof. Philip Alston. Alston visited the country in February 2007 to investigate the spate of extrajudicial killings in the country.

In his report, Alston said that the President, as commander in chief of the armed forces, must take concrete steps to put an end to those “aspects of counterinsurgency operations which have led to the targeting and execution of many individuals working with civil society organizations.” He said that extrajudicial executions must be eliminated from counterinsurgency operations.
The government, Alston also said, “should immediately direct all military officers to cease making public statements linking political or other civil society groups to those engaged in armed insurgencies.”
Bayan said that to this day, scores of activists are being jailed based on trumped up charges of rebellion and murder and that the counter-insurgency framework targeting unarmed activists is still in place.

Human rights group Karapatan documented 50 cases of extrajudicial killings and seven cases of enforced disappearances in 2008.

“If despite its own report, the US government does not withdraw [its] aid [to the Philippines], it would mean it has given its consent to the actions of the Arroyo government. The Obama administration will share the responsibility for the human rights situation in the country,” Reyes maintained.(Bulatlat.com)

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