By RONALYN OLEA
Human Rights Watch
The United States Congress has withheld the US$2-million military aid to the Philippines in 2010 due to human rights concerns.
The US House of Representatives recently adopted House Resolution 3081 stating that the US$2-million Foreign Military Financing Program for the Philippines may not be released until three conditions have been met by the Philippine government. These include taking effective steps in implementing the recommendations of United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions; investigation and prosecution of military personnel who have been credibly alleged to have violated human rights.
A digital copy of the said resolution was provided to Bulatlat by the office of Bayan Muna Representative Neri Javier Colmenares.
UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston visited the Philippines in February 2007 and has recommended, among others, the elimination of extrajudicial killings in the counter-insurgency program of the Philippine government, the abolition of the Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG), which was tasked with filing trumped-up charges against activists and the prosecution of human rights violators.
The US House resolution also states that the Armed Forces of the Philippines must not have ‘a policy of, and are not engaging in, acts of intimidation or violence against members of legal organizations who advocate for human rights.’
The US Senate also adopted a similar resolution, October 26.
In 2008, following a hearing conducted by the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs convened by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) regarding the human rights situation in the Philippines, the US Congress voted to set conditions for the release of the full amount of 2009 military aid. The conditions are the same as stated in the recent resolution.
Colmenares met with officials from the US Department of State in Washington DC on October 27. The State Department officials, whose responsibility includes US policy towards the Philippines, confirmed with Colmenares that the conditioned amount has in fact been withheld.
“The release of the military aid was tied to the prosecution of human rights violators in the country including retired General Jovito Palparan. Of course, it has always been our position that no country should give military aid to a repressive government,” he said.
Colmenares added that State Department officials admitted that they were unable to report to the US Congress that Philippine government had met the human rights conditions required for the release of the military aid.
But Colmenares disagreed. “Instead of heeding the conditions, the Philippine government merely launched high-level lobbying efforts at the US Congress, led by Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, President Arroyo’s Special Envoy Patricia Ann Paez and the Philippine Legislative Affairs Officer Ariel Penaranda. The failure of Pres. Arroyo to investigate and prosecute Gen. Jovito Palparan defeated all their lobbying efforts.”
To this date, not one perpetrator of extrajudicial killings has been prosecuted. Despite recommendations from Alston and other international organizations, summary executions continue with impunity.
Even as the Arroyo government abolished the IALAG, activists continue to face fabricated charges.
In his meeting with US State Department officials, the human rights lawyer-legislator also raised concerns regarding the progress of the US-Philippines Defense Reform Program, a large US funding for the modernization and reform of the AFP. The Philippines Defense Reform Program began in 2003 in cooperation with the US military and is funded, in part, by the US Congress.
Colmenares said the State Department said they would look into the said funding from the Pentagon. The Pentagon has been criticized in the US for implementing aid projects, a purely civilian function. Colmenares called for an end to the funding considering the human rights record of the AFP.
Colmenares also met with representatives from the office of Senator Boxer, Representative Nita Lowey, head of the House Appropriation Sub-committee on Foreign Operations, Rep. Howard Berman, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and other offices of the US House of Representatives and Senate to express concern over the continuing US military aid to the Philippines. (Bulatlat.com)