Thursday, November 8, 2007

US-based rights lobby group says nothing is sure yet on $30M aid


US-based rights lobby group says nothing is sure yet on $30M aid

Nov. 8, 2007

NOTHING is sure yet after all with the purported $30 million in fresh
military aid from the United States, a lobby composed of Filipinos and
Americans, including members of US churches, said yesterday.

The Arroyo government might not even get any increase at all and could
face more preconditions on every dollar coming from the US if
political killings and human rights violations continue, said the
group Katarungan Committee for Peace, Justice and Human Rights in the

"Both houses of the US Congress have yet to meet and reconcile their
versions of the US budget appropriations bill for 2008 and that means
that the Arroyo government actually still has nothing concrete to brag
about," it said.

"The Arroyo government is focusing only on the bright side of the US
Senate version of the bill while at the same time airbrushing the
historic portions that paint it as a human rights violator," said
Bernadette Ellorin, secretary general of Bayan USA, one of the groups
involved in the lobby efforts to limit US military aid because of what
is seen as continuing extrajudicial executions and human rights

Katarungan and Bayan USA said they want to "prevent US public funds
from financing the reign of terror in the Philippines."

Malacañang and the Department of Foreign Affairs on Monday said the
Philippines has clinched $30 million in fresh military aid and
immediately expressed thanks to the US government.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo said the "the increased
United States funding assistance levels to the Philippines "contains
no preconditions" or strings attached," referring to "an almost
three-fold increase to Foreign Military Funding (FMF) for the
Philippines – from the $11 million proposed by the Executive
Department, to $30 million."

Malacañang and the DFA released the statements on increased military
aid soon after an October 31 posting on the official website of the
office of Philip Alston, UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial
killings, which featured news on the US Senate's pre-conditions in the
article "US Congress tying assistance to Sri Lanka and the Philippines
to progress against extrajudicial executions."

According to Ellorin, "Malacañang is obviously doing a media blitz
based on old news on a US Senate proposal approved two months ago and
which is not yet final. Perhaps this is to cover up the failure of
Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita to dampen the UN report delivered
by Alston."

Ellorin also said "the US House version only allots $23 million in
military aid for the entire East Asia and Pacific region."

"With both Houses yet to reconcile their versions of the budget bills,
it thus remains uncertain whether the Arroyo government will get the
$30 million that Philippine officials have bandied about," Ellorin

Katarungan said no bicameral committee meeting has been scheduled
because "to date, only the Senate has publicized who their conferees


Katarungan also said the US government is now running on a reenacted
budget, after the US Congress failed to enact a new budget measure
before October 1, the start of the US fiscal year.

"This turn of events is creating havoc for government agencies, which
are operating under a 'continuing resolution' that provides the same
amount of money as in the last fiscal year. By November 16, when the
continuing resolution expires, Congress will either need to have
passed the funding bills or come up with more short-term answers for
programs that still do not have their appropriations approved," it

Katarungan also said the US Senate approved in plenary on September 6
"restrictive language" or pre-conditions introduced by Sen. Barbara
Boxer on an additional $2-million military assistance to the

Ellorin said the "restrictive language" means that the Arroyo
government's human rights record is now under closer scrutiny by the
US Congress but "Malacañang is airbrushing this important, historic
fact in yet another act of cover-up."


According to documents provided by Katarungan, Boxer, using strong,
pointed language recorded in the US Senate journal, said "this binding
legislative language is critical. I hope that Secretary [Condoleezza]
Rice is able to produce a report that states that the Philippine
government is taking real action and the Philippine military is no
longer responsible for the deaths of innocent persons."

Boxer also told the Senate that "for too long, the government of the
Philippines has not taken sufficient action to address extrajudicial
killings and bring those responsible to justice."

Sen. Patrick Leahy, responding to Boxer's query on the Senate floor
whether he will work with her to put additional limitations on future
US military assistance to the Philippines if the Philippines fails to
meet the conditions, said: "I share Sen. Boxer's concern about
extrajudicial violence in the Philippines and will continue to monitor
this situation carefully."


Leahy, who chairs the US Senate committee handling the budget bill for
the State Department and Foreign Operations, warned that he "will
consider additional limitations on future US military assistance if
the Philippine government fails to adequately address this issue."

Leahy and Boxer introduced the second pre-condition to the budget bill
under Amendment No. 2762 "to clarify conditions on assistance for the
Philippines," according to a document obtained by the Katarungan.

Under Section 688 of the Senate-approved budget bill, the $2 million
in additional military aid may be made available only when the
Secretary of State reports 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. – With
Reinir Padua