Ecumenical Advocacy Network on the Philippines
In an appropriations bill signed by president Obama on December 15, the US Congress expressed serious concern about the lack of progress on human rights by the Philippine Army. The bill appropriates $50 million in credits for the Armed Forces of the Philppines to buy arms from the US, but bill contains provisions that prevent funding of the Army unless the US Secretary of State certifies the Army meets three human rights restrictions.
In order for the Philippine Army to be given access to the funding the Government of the Philippines must be:
- 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;
- implementing a policy of promoting army personnel who demonstrate professionalism and respect for human rights; and
- 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 of State concluded that the AFP has not sufficiently improved its human rights record.