CHICAGO (JGL) – The Ecumenical Advocacy Network on the Philippines based in Durham, North Carolina has urged the United States government to withhold release of its Foreign Military Financing (FMF) to the government of President Aquino for promoting four military generals who committed human rights violations.
In a 10-page report, “The Path to Promotion in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Vilification Campaigns, Human Rights Abuses and Impunity,” emailed to this reporter, the EANP identified the four generals, who were promoted by Aquino, as Lt. General Aurelio Baladad, Major Generals Jorge Segovia, Ricardo Visaya and Eduardo M. Ano.
The document describes how several of these top generals who have led units that are at the center of widespread human rights violations, in some cases in charge of units that committed abuses, were rewarded with promotions by President Aquino in 2014.
Each were promoted to key command positions to head up combined Infantry and Air Force Divisions, where troops under their command have continued to engage in gross violations of human rights of both individual civilians and local communities more generally, or otherwise engaged in activities with a flagrant disregard for fundamental human rights of those in the area of their operations.
SOME MEMBERS MARRIED TO FILIPINAS
According the advocacy group, some of whose members are married to Filipino women, since 2008, under the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 as amended under the Fiscal Year 2015, the U.S. Congress has imposed human rights conditions on Foreign Military Financing (FMF) in response to the escalation of extra-judicial executions, enforced disappearances and torture committed by members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines or security forces under their command under the term of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
For fiscal year 2015, one of the conditions directs that funds under Foreign Military Financing Program should only be obligated for assistance for the Philippine Army if the Government of the Philippines is implementing a policy of promoting army personnel who demonstrate professionalism and respect for human rights. The promotion of military officers, who commit human rights violations, contradicts that condition, the report said.
For Fiscal Year 2015, Sec. 7043 (f) of PL 113-235, the U.S. Secretary of State is only obligated to extend assistance to the Philippine government when the U.S. Secretary of State certifies and reports to the Committees on Appropriations that the Government of the Philippines is –
- investigating and prosecuting army personnel who are credibly alleged to have committed, or aided or abetted extra-judicial executions, forced disappearances, and other gross violations of human rights, and strengthening government institutions working to eliminate such crimes;
- implementing a policy of promoting army personnel who demonstrate professionalism and respect for human rights; and
- taking steps to ensure that the Philippine army and paramilitary groups under its control are not engaging in acts of intimidation or violence against journalists or human rights defenders.
TO DATE THE AFP HAS NOT MET CONDITIONS
“To date, the AFP has not been certified by the State Department to have met those conditions, primarily due to continued record of human rights violations committed by the Philippine Army,” according to the report.
It claimed the four generals “have been promoted very rapidly over the last five years with and an average time in rank of about 18 months. Each has risen to leadership positions through service in units responsible for a campaign of extra-judicial killings, disappearances and illegal detentions.”
All of these generals are now serving, or have served, as commanders in the Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom), whose area of responsibility is the center of gravity for anti-insurgency operations against the communist New People’s Army (NPA).
Among its priorities, the EastMinCom units also provide protection for private enterprises seeking to expand large scale agricultural projects and metallic mineral mining into “undeveloped” or “under-invested” areas, which in Eastern Mindanao includes large areas that are within the ancestral domains of some of the many indigenous tribal residents in the area.
The actions of the army, and the many paramilitary units organized and supplied by the army, have resulted in many reports of extra-judicial killings, occupation of schools and other public buildings, vilification and other forms of harassments and intimidation, and dislocation of many thousands of indigenous people.
Comprised of several units, including Army, Navy and Air Force, EastMinCom’s commanders primarily rely on two infantry divisions to conduct most of their counter-insurgency operations, namely:
a) The 4th Infantry Division (4th ID), which operates in the CARAGA Region in the north of Mindanao plus the provinces of Bukidnon and Misamis Oriental. The CARAGA region includes five provinces of Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur and Dinagat Islands; and
b) The 10th Infantry Division (10th ID), which operates in the Davao Region plus parts of SOCCSKSARGEN Region, which include the six provinces of Davao Oriental, Compostela Valley, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Sarangani and South Cotabato plus the chartered cities of Davao and General Santos.
These forces are supplemented by the following:
- Citizen Armed Force Geographic Unit (CAFGU), which are “regular” paramilitary units composed of civilians trained and supported by the AFP that often conduct joint operations with regular, full-time military units;
- CAFGU “Active Auxiliary,” which are units trained by the military but paid by businesses, including large private enterprises such as mining companies like SMI/Xstrata, politicians and other private enterprises.
- President Aquino specifically endorsed the use of “CAFGU Active Auxiliaries as an AFP auxiliary force”; and
- “Civilian Volunteer Organizations,” which are small, local units that are armed and trained by the AFP but work closely with the Philippine National Police (PNP)