WASHINGTON, DC — As the human rights record of the government of President Aquino improves, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. del Rosario is urging the United States government to release its Foreign Military Financing (FMF) allocation for the Philippines.
Mr. Del Rosario lamented that because the U.S. has tied the FMF to human rights record, it merely released $3-Million out of the total of $30-Million FMF allocations for the Philippines since 2008.
Secretary Del Rosario contrasted the U.S. State Department’s 2006 FMF request for the Philippines, which accounted for over 70% of the total for East Asia, that has fallen to 35% for fiscal year 2012. He raised the matter up with the State Department during his visit. Assistant Secretary Andrew Shapiro of the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs committed to double the initial $15 million in FMF for the Philippines to $30 million for FY 2012. He also added that the State Department will explore additional creative funding streams for the Philippines.
He said this was merely released after the U.S. State Department reported that “1) the Philippine government is taking effective steps to prosecute those responsible for extrajudicial executions (EJEs), sustain the decline in the number of EJEs, and strengthen government institutions working to eliminate EJEs;
“2) the Philippine government is implementing a policy of promoting military personnel who demonstrate professionalism and respect for internationally recognized human rights, and is investigating, prosecuting and punishing military personnel and others who have been credibly alleged to have violated such rights; and,
“3) the Philippine military does not have a policy of, and is not engaging in, acts of violence or intimidation against members of legal organizations who advocate for human rights.”
SPOKE AT HERITAGE FOUNDATION
Del Rosario made the plea as he spoke as guest of the Heritage Foundation, a Washington, D.C. think tank, Wednesday (May 2) two days after he attended the first ever 2 + 2 meeting at the U.S. State Department with Philippine Secretary of Defense Voltaire Gazmin and their U.S. counterparts U.S. State Department Secretary Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta where the U.S. reaffirmed their commitment to the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty between the Philippines and the United States.
Kim R. Holmes, Ph. D., vice president, Foreign and Defense Policy Studies and Director of the Davis Institute for International Studies at the Heritage foundation, introduced Mr. Del Rosario.
During his 40-minute talk, Mr. Del Rosario said that the Philippines has already gained strides in the field of human rights by reducing the extrajudicial killings and setting up strong policy for respect and sensitivity to human rights. But he came up short with details if the military is holding rigorous human rights sensitivity training.
But in the operational side, he mentioned the issuance of arrest warrants on some high-profile suspects, notably General Jovito Palparan and former Palawan Governor Joel Reyes and the prosecution of 198 suspects in the massacre of journalists.
“Even our harshest critics acknowledge that there has been a significant decline in the number of extrajudicial killings,” the Secretary remarked. He added, “President Aquino’s family itself was a victim of a most heinous human rights crime since his father who was then in the political opposition was assassinated in 1983. For this reason, President Aquino has taken bold and resolute action to break the culture of impunity and to institutionalize greater sensitivity and full respect for human rights.”
Secretary del Rosario also touted the Philippine ratification, two weeks ago, of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which obligates the Philippines to create a National Prevention Mechanism that will conduct independent and unannounced visits to places where people are deprived of their liberty.
This ratification comes a few months after the country’s accession to the Rome Statute, where parties are obliged to bring to justice those responsible for crimes under international law.
He said that while the Aquino government has made major investments in the upgrade of Philippine defense equipment, supplementary foreign military financing from the U.S. remains a very important component of our effort to develop our external defense capabilities.
“While fully recognizing the constraints posed by recent congressional limits placed on defense spending,” the Secretary noted with concern the shrinking allocation for the Philippines of the U.S.’ FMF pie for East Asia and the Pacific.
Del Rosario said when the Philippines invokes its alliance with the U.S., it was not meant to “confront or contain anyone.” Far from it, it will be the “last thing that the Philippines would do – heighten tensions in the West Philippine Sea and drag our allies into it.”
Last Monday (April 28) Secretary Clinton firmly reiterated that the United States will honor its treaty obligations under its Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the Philippines and urged the claimant countries in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) to clarify and settle their claims legally in accordance with international law including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) – a move which PH has been advocating. (firstname.lastname@example.org)