3 conditions set for additional military assistanc
By Cynthia Balana
Last updated 02:21am (Mla time) 11/06/2007
MANILA, Philippines -- The US Senate has served notice it wants the Arroyo administration to prosecute human rights violators, including soldiers, before it approves additional military aid.
Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo Monday said he had thanked the US Senate for approving an increase in regular military funding to the Philippines from $11 million to $30 million.
But in the first significant international backlash over the wave of killings of left-wing activists blamed on Philippine security forces, the US Senate also set conditions for the release of an additional $2 million in military assistance.
In a statement from New York, Romulo said the US Senate wanted to be assured by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that:
• The Philippine government is implementing the recommendations of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.
• The Philippine government is implementing a policy of promoting military personnel who demonstrate professionalism and respect for human rights, and is investigating and prosecuting military personnel and others who have been credibly alleged to have committed extrajudicial executions or other violations of human rights.
• The Philippine military is not engaging in acts of intimidation or violence against members of legal organizations who advocate for human rights.
In a 21-page report to the UN General Assembly on Oct. 28, UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston stuck to his findings earlier this year that leftist leaders in some parts of the Philippines were “systematically hunted down.”
The report lumped the Philippines with 30 countries -- led by the United States, Israel, China and Russia -- that had a disturbing record of extrajudicial or “targeted killings.”
The Arroyo administration 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.
The additional $2-million contingent outlay would be over and above the $30-million Foreign Military Funding (FMF) for the Philippines, the foreign secretary said.
Romulo, who is at the United Nations in New York, made the statement shortly after meeting with Philippine Ambassador to the US Willy Gaa, who gave him an update on developments in Washington.
In the statement, Romulo thanked the US Senate for increasing funding assistance to the Philippines.
“We deeply appreciate the efforts of our friends in the US Congress to provide increased resources with which we can help secure our nation and build stronger foundations for growth and progress for our people,” he said.
Romulo noted that in September, the US Senate made an almost three-fold increase in its FMF for the Philippines -- from the $11 million proposed by the executive branch to $30 million.
Final decision soon
The US Senate also increased the Economic Support Fund (ESF) from $26 million to $30 million and urged the executive branch to request for more once there is a peace agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
“There are no preconditions to these increased levels of funding,” Romulo stressed.
Gaa told Romulo that with discussions on the US budget set to be concluded in the coming weeks, the Senate-proposed funding would soon be taken up in conference committee for finalization.
Romulo said he was confident that the additional amount would be granted.
“Many of the recommendations that have been made so far by Professor Alston are already part of the measures we have adopted,” he said.
“Military promotions are subject to extreme scrutiny -- including from the Commission of Human Rights to the Commission on Appointments, and investigations and prosecutions are being undertaken when there is credible evidence.”
Romulo pointed out that the Melo Commission, which investigated the extrajudicial killings, and even the UN Special Rapporteur had acknowledged that rogue elements in the Armed Forces -- not the entire Philippine military -- were involved.
“The Philippine government’s resolve to defeat this scourge is clear: 76 cases are on trial, 33 cases are being prepared for prosecution, and six persons, including men in uniform, have been convicted,” he said.
In an earlier report to the United Nations in March, Alston criticized key government institutions, particularly the executive branch and the military, for their apparent failure to address the issue of killings.
Alston said the military, not the purges in the Communist Party of the Philippines, was responsible for a “significant” number of the summary executions.
Importance of US aid
Alston also criticized the Malacañang policy requiring government officials, including military officers, to get approval from Ms Arroyo before they can appear at congressional inquiries.
He also criticized the Office of the Ombudsman for its failure to act on even a single case of the 444 complaints filed before it between 2002 and 2006 regarding killings attributed to public officials.
Romulo said that US assistance had helped the Philippines on many fronts.
He said the funding had been crucial to the successes which the Philippines had achieved in fighting terror and creating growth, particularly in Mindanao.
“This is funding that has been central to uprooting terrorism by bringing in basic infrastructure, health care and education to affected areas,” he said.
Bayan praises US move jeez
The left-wing group Bagong Alyansang Makayan (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.
He urged Washington to come up with a mechanism to check compliance by the Arroyo administration.
A local human rights group, Karapatan, claims to have documented more than 800 extrajudicial killings since Ms Arroyo took power in 2001. The Philippine Daily Inquirer count is about 300.
Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. 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 he added: “There remains an atmosphere of terror, repression and activists were being arrested based on trumped up charges.” With an Associated Press report
US aid tied to RP action on killings - INQUIRER.net, Philippine News for Filipinos
To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway
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