Stop RP Killings, US Solons Tell Arroyo: Manila Mail

September 2, 2007 at 11:00 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

WASHINGTON D.C. – Filipino groups in the US have hailed the letter signed by a bipartisan group of 49 congressmen asking President Gloria Arroyo to stop the extra-judicial killings in the Philippines saying it was an unprecedented act.

Katarungan’s committee for peace, justice and human rights in the Philippines in the tri-date area said that “not even during dark days of the Marcos dictatorship did US members of Congress deliver a letter of concern to the President protesting human rights abuses.” The recent Methodist conference in Virginia Beach issued a resolution hailing the bi-partisian group of representatives.

It said the issue of human rights under President Arroyo is not just an issue of the Filipino-American community, but has become an issue for US lawmakers whose diverse constituents have raised concern over how their tax dollars may be being misused by Philippine security forces to kill, abduct and torture Filipinos exercising their democratic right to dissent.

In Manila, Malacanang said it was still verifying the authenticity of the letter and signatures of the congressmen.

Katarungan said that while Filipino American organizations mobilized to get the signatures of the congressmen, a good number who signed represented districts not known for having a large Filipino American population.

“It is truly a sad state of affairs when policy makers of another nation are compelled to request President Arroyo to exert ‘strong and immediate leadership’ because her administration has inadequately responded to the urging of its own citizenry.

Based on the current Philippine administration’s track record in responding to international outcry about the killings, we unfortunately do not expect a qualitative change in the human rights situation, which makes one wonder what it will truly take to stop the killings.

“As the cases of extra-judicial killings and abductions continue unabated, the Philippine government should also expect escalating forms of pressure from Filipino-Americans and the American public,” it said.

Among the signatories to the letter are chairmen or ranking members of vital committees in the House of Representatives. Among them are Reps. Tom Lantos (Democrat-California), Committee on Foreign Affairs; David Obey (Democrat-Wisconsin), Ways and Means Committee; John Lewis (Democrat-Georgia), Oversight Subcommittee; Mike Honda (D-CA). Asian-Pacific American Caucus; James Oberstar (D-Minnesota) and Joseph Pitts (R-PA).

The letter said “the well-documented violence that continues with impunity must be ended.” They urged Arroyo to show strong and immediate leadership to put a top to the extra-judicial killings and other human rights abuses.

It said: “Since the extrajudicial killings in the Philippines continue unabated, and given the fact that there are many unanswered questions about the role of the Philippine government and military in these deaths, we respectfully request your strong and immediate leadership in investigating and prosecuting those individuals and/or groups, including those in the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] and PNP [Philippine National Police], responsible for these killings, and in eliminating the underlying causes of the violence.”

Describing the letter as “a sincere communication between the two governments” intended to elicit a positive response from the Philippine government, the US legislators’ letter aired deep concerns over a “growing environment of impunity” in the Philippines.

“The killing of civilians who are peacefully exercising their lawful right in a democratic society to express dissent is a gross violation of universally recognized human rights and international law,” the solons said.

They have also expressed concern that US aid to the Philippine military and police is being used to commit the killings, which human rights groups estimate have claimed the lives of more than 800 people — mostly left-wing activists — since Arroyo came to power in 2001, and other human rights violations as part of the government’s counterinsurgency program.

“We are very concerned that the extra-judicial killings could be a conscious and systematic part of the Philippine government’s counterinsurgency program and that financial assistance from our government is being used to support, directly or indirectly, those within the PNP and AFP who are responsible for the killings,” they said.

They said the numerous reports that our offices “receive indicate the need for our close monitoring of this situation, particularly regarding the alleged use of US assistance to implement the abductions and killings.”

The 49 US lawmakers who signed the letter to Arroyo are: Brian Baird (Democrat-Washington), Tammy Baldwin (Democrat-Wisconsin), Howard Berman (Democrat-California), Dan Burton (Republican-Indiana), Julia Carson (Democrat-Indiana), Rosa DeLauro (Democrat-Connecticut), Keith Ellison (Democrat-Minnesota), Phil English (Republican-Pennsylvania), Sam Farr (Democrat-California), Chaka Fattah (Democrat-Pennsylvania), Trent Franks (Democrat-Massachusetts).

Raul Grijalva (Democrat-Arizona), Luis Gutierrez (Democrat-Illinois), Maurice Hinchey (Democrat-New York), Mike Honda (Democrat-California), Jesse Jackson (Democrat-Illinois), Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (Democrat-Michigan), Mark-Steven Kirk (Republican-Illinois), Dennis Kucinich (Democrat-Ohio), Tom Lantos (Democrat-California), Rick Larsen (Democrat-Washington), Barbara Lee (Democrat-California).

John Lewis (Democrat-Georgia), David Loebsack (Democrat-Iowa) , Zoe Lofgren (Democrat-California), Doris Matsui (Democrat-California), Betty McCollum (Democrat-Minnesota), Jim McDermott (Democrat-Washington), James McGovern (Democrat-Massachusetts), Jerry McNerney (Democrat-California), Mike McNulty (Democrat-New York), Jerry Moran (Republican-Kansas), James Oberstar (Democrat-Minnesota), David Obey (Democrat-Wisconsin).

Donald Payne (Democrat-New Jersey), Collin Peterson (Democrat-Minnesota), Joe Pitts (Republican-Pennsylvania), David Price (Democrat-North Carolina), Jim Ramstad (Republican, Minnesota), Steven Rothman (Democrat-New Jersey), Bobby Rush (Democrat-Illinois), Jan Schakowsky (Democrat-Illinois), Adam Smith (Democrat-Washington), Fortney Stark (Democrat-California), Ellen Tauscher (Democrat-California), Lee Terry (Republican-Nebraska), John Tierney (Democrat-Massachusetts), Tim Walz (Democrat-Minnesota), and Frank Wolf (Republican-Virginia).

Last March, Karapatan, the Ecumenical Advocacy Network and other human rights groups staged demonstrations on Capitol Hill and testified in the Senate hearings chaired by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) about the unabated extra-judicial killings.

Sen. Boxer warned she would move for the reduction of military aid unless the government did something to stop the killings.

“As you may know, there is increasing evidence from well-regarded human rights organizations, including the Melo Commission created by your government, which indicates the involvement of personnel from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP)” in the killings, the solons’ letter told Arroyo.

Amnesty International and the United Nations Special Rapporteur Philip Alston have reported similar findings.

Karapatan said that since Arroyo became president in 2001 until May 15 this year, there have been 863 extra-judicial executions (including 51 journalists) and 196 abductions.

The US State Department has proposed trimming US military aid to the Philippines from $30 million to a little over $11 million. But some members of Congress said this was only a recommendation and that they want the level to be the same as this year’s.

The lawmakers also cited the May 27 abduction of Pastor Berlin Guerrero, who was allegedly beaten by the abductors until he gave them the names of his family, parishioners, friends, and the password to his computer.

The abductors reportedly then replaced Guerrero’s computer documents with incriminating documentation connecting Guerrero to the underground left.(Manila Mail)

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