CHICAGO (JGL) – When I go to the Philippines later this month to cover the visit of President Obama, I am going to prepare a few questions just in case I am given an opportunity to pop a question.
Mr. President, Secretary of State John Kerry, your global diplomat, in the 2013 Country Report on Human Rights Practices in the Philippines, it is stated, “The most significant human rights problems (in the Philippines) continued to be extrajudicial killings (EJK’s) and enforced disappearances undertaken by security forces (– namely the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines); a dysfunctional criminal justice system notable for poor cooperation between police and investigators, few prosecutions, and lengthy procedural delays; and widespread official corruption and abuse of power.”
KARAPATAN, a Philippine human rights NGO, reported that only last April 6, another Filipino woman reporter, was savagely gunned down in her home, becoming the 20th journalist killed under the watch of President Aquino.”
Since Fiscal Year 2008, the U.S. Congress had limited the release of the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) for the Philippines ($30-M in 2012) of the U.S. State Department because the following human rights conditions were not met:
HUMAN RIGHTS CONDITIONS
*The Government of the Philippines is taking effective steps to prosecute those responsible for EJKs and enforced disappearances and strengthen government institutions working to eliminate EJKs and enforced disappearances;
*The Government of the Philippines is implementing a policy of promoting military personnel, who demonstrate professionalism and respect for human rights, and is investigating, prosecuting, and punishing military personnel and others, who have been credibly alleged to have violated such rights; and
*The Philippine military, and paramilitary groups under its control, are not engaging in acts of violence or intimidation against journalists or members of legal organizations and indigenous communities who advocate for human rights.
My question: Are you going to continue to withhold the release of the FMF for the Philippines for the Fiscal Year 2014 budget?
45-YEAR OLD INSURGENCY
Human rights abuses by security forces are generally linked to the 45-year insurgency by the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army (CPP-NPA). The victims in these abuses are the usual suspects — worker, peasant and environmental activists, who have been accused of being communists and/or members of NPA, and have carried on with their activism despite the threats. The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) has called for “principled negotiations to thresh out the issues, unearth and address the root causes of the conflict” by reviving the Norway peace talks that broke down in 2013.
My question: With the recent spate of killings and the sensational arrest of CPP peace consultants Benito and Wilma Austria Tiamzon and others, can you urge the Philippine government to re-engage in the peace process by removing the CPP-National Democratic Front from the State Department list as a Foreign Terrorist Organization? By doing so, the CPP-NDF should be encouraged to participate in political exercises by running for elective positions and encouraging its followers to renounce armed struggle?
Hasn’t the CPP-NDF heard of former Marxist guerilla leader Salvador Sanchez Ceren, who claimed last March 2014 presidential election victory in El Salvador while a Namibia rebel group, South-West Africa People’s Organization, who waged a guerrilla war against South Africa, was declared winner in Namibia’s first elections in 1989 in Namibia’s transition to independence, among others?
I framed these questions up based on letters from the Ecumenical Advocacy Network on the Philippines to President Obama and U.S. Senators, notably re-electionist Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, shared by Paul R. Bloom, Ph. D., a soil chemist, from the Twin Cities campus of University of Minnesota in St. Paul and Gary King, Ph. D., a retired neurophysiologist, a member of Amnesty International (AI), during the AI national convention over the weekend held in Chicago.
It was Chicago-based grassroots human development social worker, Juanita Salvador-Burris, Ph. D., who introduced me to Doctors Bloom and King, who are both married to Cebuanas.
ARREST THE BUTCHER!
If I were given a chance to pose a question to President Aquino, here it is: How come we do not see ranking police and military officials (the likes of former Congressman and former Gen. Jovito “The Butcher” Palparan) involved in human rights violations being demoted, placed behind bars, dismissed or held accountable?
Because the Philippines is just about to commemorate the Bataan Death March’s 72nd anniversary on April 9, I can probably ask Ben Rhodes, Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting, to give to President Obama my additional questions:
There are Senate (S. 690) and Congressional (H.R. 1452) bills that try to overturn the Recession Acts of 1946 to provide war pay for Filipino veterans equal to their U.S. Army counterparts. Would you certify these bills as urgent?
In fact, in order to resolve this nagging Filipino veterans issue once and for all, I suggest the U.S. government exercise prosecutorial discretion by not opposing a pending class suit, Entines v. USA et al #13-cv-348 filed in Federal District court in Washington, D.C. that among others suggests that because people born in Puerto Rico are considered U.S. native-born citizens, then, Filipino veterans born during the Philippine Commonwealth period must likewise be considered U.S. Citizens.
ALIENS, WHO JOIN U.S. MILITARY, MAY BECOME U.S. CITIZENS
Not only because the Philippines was a U.S. Commonwealth at that time like Puerto Rico based on jus soli (by birth) and jus sanguines (by blood) rights but also because of the 1862 Act Sec. 21, Alien Naturalization Act, that provides that an “any alien, of the age of 21 and upwards, who has enlisted or shall enlist in the armies of the United States, either the regular or the volunteer forces, and has been or shall be hereafter honorably discharged, may be admitted to become a citizen of the United States, upon his petition, without any previous declaration of his intention to become a citizen of the United States …”
And finally, I hope the German government can file an amicus curiae (friend-of-court) brief before the United Nations’ Arbitral Tribunal, enclosing the 1735 map, supporting the Philippine claim to portions of Philippine Western Sea (South China Sea). If not, the Philippine government can request for a copy of the map from Germany to solidify its claim.
A news item shared to me by China’s “Public Enemy No. 1,” Filipino American Atty. Loida Nicolas Lewis, said that German Chancellor Angela Merkel gifted Chinese President Xi Jinping recently a historical map that contradicts China’s own claim of territory in history, eliciting a stir and confusion among Chinese netizens. If the Philippines and China negotiate their overlapping claims over Philippine Western Sea (China Sea) peacefully before the U.N. body, the “U.S. Pivot to Asia” should become moot.
Welcome to the Philippines, President Obama. Mabuhay (pronounced ma-boo-high, which means long life)!