The Manila Standard Today
Nov. 6, 2007
US Senate ties aid to human rights
The United States’ Senate wants the Philippines to prosecute human rights violators, including soldiers, before approving additional military aid for the poor Asian country.
Malacañang, nevertheless, thanked the American legislators for increasing the regular military funding for the Philippines from $11 million to $30 million.
But in the first significant international backlash over a wave of killings of left-wing activists blamed on Philippine government forces, the Senate also set conditions for the release of an additional $2 million in military assistance.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo said the Senate wanted to be assured by his American counterpart, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s government was enforcing reforms recommended by a UN official to prevent extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations before approving the additional military aid.
The US Senate also wanted to be sure that the Philippine government was promoting only professional military officials who respect human rights, and that its military was “not engaging in acts of intimidation or violence against members of legal organizations who advocate for human rights,” Romulo said in a statement.
The Philippine government has complied with the US funding requirements, Romulo said.
“The three requirements for us to be given this additional amount are already part of our overall and comprehensive approach to the issue of politically motivated killings,” he said.
Prominent left-wing human rights group Bayan praised the US Senate’s decision to impose human rights-related conditions for the additional military aid, but lamented that American lawmakers still agreed to the larger funding for the Filipino military.
“This is a de facto recognition that the Philippine government is committing human rights violations,” Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes said.
Reyes urged Washington to come up with a mechanism to check compliance by Arroyo’s government.
UN human rights rapporteur Philip Alston traveled to the Philippines early this year to investigate hundreds of unexplained killings of left-wing activists, which human rights groups blamed on Arroyo’s military.
Another local human rights group, Karapatan, claims to have documented more than 800 such killings since Arroyo took power in 2001.
Armed Forces Chief Hermogenes Esperon has denied allegations that the military was behind most of the killings, saying a police task force has found 14 soldiers were involved in six cases, and that the other cases apparently did not involve the military. The military has no policy of targeting civilians, he added.
Since human rights groups have started a public campaign to halt the killings, “there has been a perceptible decrease in body counts,” Reyes said, but added, “There remains an atmosphere of terror, repression and activists were being arrested based on trumped-up charges.”
Romulo cited 76 cases of extrajudicial killings that went on trial and another 33 being prepared for prosecution. Six people, including law enforcers, have been convicted, he said. AP, Roy Pelovello
Look who's talking. What do they did in Iraq? So many human rights atrocities. Besides, giving aids should focus more on Education and living standard conditions of every humans to live instead of killing.
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