PH Gets $50M Credit For AFP Arms Purchase; Must Meet Human Rights Conditions

by Joseph G. Lariosa
CHICAGO (JGL) – The $1.1-Trillion budget signed last Dec. 15 by President Obama has appropriation of $50-million in credits for the Armed Forces of the Philippines to buy arms from the United States but the U.S. Congress has expressed “serious concerns about the lack of progress on human rights by the Philippine Army.”

In a press release sent to the Journal GlobaLinks by the Ecumenical Advocacy Network on the Philippines based in Durham, North Carolina Dec. 18, the human rights advocacy group reminded U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that he is prevented from releasing the funding unless “the US Secretary of State certifies the Army meets three human rights restrictions.”
Citing the budget bill’s provisions, the Philippine Army can only be given access to the funding by the Government of the Philippines upon meeting the following conditions:
1) 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;
2) implementing a policy of promoting army personnel who demonstrate professionalism and respect for human rights; and
3) 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.
The Ecumenical Advocacy Network on the Philippines (EANP), a US based human rights group that has advocated for the human rights restrictions since its founding in 2007, recently sent a letter to the US Congress and the State Department documenting the lack of progress on human rights.
EANP stated that the Army has a very poor record of prosecuting human rights violators.  Since President Benigno Aquino was inaugurated, 152 political and environmental activists have been killed and 18 disappeared. There have been very few arrests, and only a handful of convictions and not one mastermind has been convicted.
The Army continues to promote human rights violators. In 2013 the Army promoted Brigadier General Eduardo Año, Brigadier General Aurelio Baladad, Lieutenant General Jorge Segovia, and Brigadier General Ricardo Visaya, all Army officers with credible accusations of involvement in human rights violations.
Killings and abductions continue. Human rights groups in the Philippines have documented over 40 killings so far in 2014, a very significant increase compared to the previous year. In addition to the killings, detentions, torture, disappearances, enforced dislocations of indigenous people, harassment and intimidation of human rights advocates, and suppression of labor rights are on the rise.
Since 2008 the AFP has lost over $13M in funding because the US Secretary State concluded that the AFP has not sufficiently improved its human rights record.

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