Contact: Rhonda Ramiro
In Wake of U.S. State Department Report on Human Rights 2009, BAYAN-USA Calls on Congress to Cut Military Aid to the Philippines in 2011 Budget
BAYAN-USA called on Congress to follow its own ruling and withhold military aid from the Philippines’ 2009-2010 allocation, in light of the U.S. State Department’s just-released 2009 Human Rights Report on the Philippines. The report described case after case of torture, abduction, extra-judicial killing, illegal arrest, and other human rights atrocities committed under the watch of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo last year. The report cited credible evidence that the Philippine military, police and paramilitary units are to blame, and pointed to the administration’s failure to investigate, prosecute or convict any of the perpetrators as fostering a culture of impunity. According to the report, “Investigative and judicial inaction on previous cases contributed to a climate of impunity and undermined public confidence in the justice system… The [Commission on Human Rights] CHR and human rights groups reported that excessive force and torture remained an ingrained part of the arrest and detention process.”
“President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has continued doing what she’s done best since 2001: torturing and killing off her opponents, blaming the victims, and then denying any responsibility for the crimes,” said Bernadette Ellorin, BAYAN-USA Chair.
BAYAN-USA also submitted witness testimony today to the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs, urging the Committee to grant no military aid to the Philippines in the 2011 U.S. budget unless state-sanctioned human rights violations end, and perpetrators of the atrocities are prosecuted and convicted. Human rights conditions were placed on $2 Million of the $32 Million military aid packages to the Philippines approved by Congress in the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 U.S. budgets. The conditions came as a result of international outrage and persistent advocacy to respond to the hundreds of extrajudicial killings that the Philippine military had racked up from the time Gloria Arroyo became president in 2001 up to the date the legislation was enacted; the death toll has now reached 1,176 innocent people.
“The restrictions placed on $2 million of the aid in past years were a start, but that is far from enough to end the bloodshed.” stated Ellorin. “Granting even one cent of aid from the U.S. emboldens the Philippine military to continue committing the atrocities. The U.S. needs to completely cut off taxpayer funding and political support for the Philippine military’s brutality.”
BAYAN-USA condemned Arroyo’s counter-insurgency program “Operation Plan Bantay Laya” for providing the road map for the military’s carnage. “Oplan Bantay Laya’s goal is to literally eliminate anyone who stands in the way of Arroyo’s neoliberal economic agenda and the big landlords and multi-national corporations who profit from the status quo. OBL labeled journalists, health workers, religious leaders, labor organizers, students, peasants and women ‘enemies of the state’ and systematically executed them,” said Ellorin.
“U.S. taxpayers should not be paying million dollar rewards to the serial killer Arroyo. Arroyo’s looming June 30th deadline for reaching Oplan Bantay Laya’s goals means that the military rampage will get even worse if the U.S. government does not act now to cut off financial and political support,” said Ellorin. Concerned organizations and individuals will be participating in a day of action against Oplan Bantay Laya on April 14–a day before ‘Tax Day’ when 138 million people in the U.S. file their income taxes and pay a third or more of their income to the U.S. government–during which BAYAN-USA will reiterate its demand to end the U.S. government’s irresponsible spending of millions of dollars in military aid to the Philippines.