‘Sincere desire to help address slays’
MANILA, Philippines — Despite the blot on its image caused by unabated extrajudicial killings allegedly committed by security forces, the Philippines is bound to get more military aid from the United States, Malacañang said Friday.
And, while the version of the 2008 Foreign Military Funding bill approved by the US Senate’s committee on appropriations contains language that conditions increased assistance to the government’s compliance with the recommendations of the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings and making sure the Armed Forces does not commit human rights violations, the Palace chose to see this as a “sincere desire to help” address the issue of political murders.
Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye, in a statement, said the US bill includes “an almost three-fold increase to the Foreign Military Funding for the Philippines — from $11,100,000 proposed by the Executive Department to $30,000,000.”
On top of this, he said the Philippines stands to get $2,000,000 more, “subject to the confirmation of the State Department that: 1) we are implementing the recommendations of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, which we have largely done; and 2) that the Philippine military is not engaging in acts of intimidation or violence against members of legal, civic and religious organizations who advocate human rights.”
“We see this provision as a sincere desire to help and further encourage the Philippines to address the issue of politically-motivated killings,” Bunye said.
“We assure the members of the US Congress that the Philippine government acknowledges their concern and see this as a sincere desire to help us address the issue,” he added.
UN special rapporteur Philip investigated the wave of killings, mostly of political activists, which human rights groups estimate has, to date, claimed more than 860 lives since 2001, when President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
In his initial report, Alston said the many of the killings could be attributed to the military, which he described as “in a state of denial.”
“We are thankful to our friends in both Houses of the US Congress and in the Executive Branch for their faith in the Government of the Philippines as demonstrated in the strong military funding currently appropriated to the Philippines in the 2008 Foreign Military Funding bill,” Bunye said.
He said the Philippines shares the US aim to strengthen the two countries’ security relations and to bring peace to Mindanao, calling the American assistance “crucial” to crushing terrorism and bringing needed infrastructure, healthcare, education, and other basic services to people.
Bunye also countered claims by detractors that the military aid is being used against activists, saying the US funding has “saved lives and has brought renewed hopes of lasting peace and meaningful progress to thousands.”
“Unfortunately, several Philippine groups have tried to stop US funding for reasons of political expediency. This did not happen despite their best efforts,” he said.
The Senate Committee on Appropriations also increased its Economic Support Fund to the Philippines from $26,000,000 to $30,000,000 and urged the Executive Branch to request for more once a peace agreement between with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front is forged.