Philippine President Arroyo’s Attendance at National Prayer Breakfast Draws Demand for Human Rights in the Philippines
Contact: Katrina Abarcar, Katarungan: Center for Peace, Justice, and Human Rights in the Philippines, katarungan@comcast. net
February 5, 2009--Outside the National Prayer Breakfast at the Hilton in the U.S. capital, Filipino-American and American human rights advocates assembled to project the message, “Pray for the victims of injustice and human rights violations in the Philippines.”
The contingent, organized by Katarungan: Center for Peace, Justice, and Human Rights in the Philippines, targeted their message to President Obama, US lawmakers and global leaders, including Philippine President Arroyo, who attended the breakfast.
“Arroyo’s presence at the Prayer Breakfast gives us the opportunity to call attention to the ongoing problem of military involvement in political killings, abductions, illegal arrests, and harassment of government critics,” said Redante Asuncion-Reed of Katarungan. “I think it’s important that a concerned contingent expose President Arroyo’s brazen unwillingness to seriously address the Philippines’ human rights crisis whenever she makes an official visit to the U.S.”
United Nations Special Rapporteur Philip Alston has specifically criticized the Philippine government’s policy of identifying and neutralizing these fronts, integral to the Arroyo administration’ s counterinsurgency program, for the extrajudicial killings, disappearances, and other human rights abuses. Other independent human rights watchdogs such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have also published reports documenting these abuses and putting responsibility for them to the Philippine military.
In addition, President Arroyo’s administration has been widely criticized for its failure to convict any military personnel for involvement in the killings and abductions of over 1000 government critics, despite credible evidence. In fact, the President has praised and rewarded one of the most notorious suspects behind the political killings, retired Major General Palparan. He is currently being considered for a post on the Dangerous Drugs Board.
“US Public Law No: 110-161 placed three conditions on a portion of military aid to the Philippines with one of them being the prosecution of those in the military and others responsible for the human rights violations. President Arroyo’s administration failed to meet any of the conditions but still received the full amount of aid in 2008,” explained Katrina Abarcar of Katarungan. “We hope President Obama’s administration will more thoroughly scrutinize President Arroyo’s actions with regards to human rights than the previous administration.”
“In fact as US taxpayers, we believe we should be calling for a complete cut in military aid to the Philippines given its abysmal track record in obtaining justice for the thousands of human rights victims,” added Ms. Abarcar.
“The Philippines received a massive increase in US military aid when President Arroyo gave her unconditional support for former President Bush’s 'War on Terror.' It is pork barrel spending on an international scale that should be cut out,” ended Ms. Abarcar.##