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02/05/2012: PHILIPPINE FOREIGN SECRETARY ALBERT F. DEL ROSARIO CALLS FOR LIFTING OF HUMAN RIGHTS CONDITIONALITIES AND BATS FOR INCREASED FMF ALLOCATION

02 MAY 2012, WASHINGTON, DC. __Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert F. del Rosario urged the lifting of conditionalities on a portion of the United States government’s Foreign Military Financing (FMF) allocation for the Philippines.

The release of $3 million out of the total FMF for the Philippines has been conditioned since 2008 on the issuance of a report from the State Department, which would state that “1) the Philippine government is taking effective steps to prosecute those responsible for extrajudicial executions (EJEs), sustain the decline in the number of EJEs, and strengthen government institutions working to eliminate EJEs; 2) the Philippine government is implementing a policy of promoting military personnel who demonstrate professionalism and respect for internationally recognized human rights, and is investigating, prosecuting and punishing military personnel and others who have been credibly alleged to have violated such rights; and, 3) the Philippine military does not have a policy of, and is not engaging in, acts of violence or intimidation against members of legal organizations who advocate for human rights.”

Speaking at the Heritage Foundation during a public lecture today, the Secretary said that the Philippines has “effectively taken such steps,” as follows: a) there has been a significant decline in extrajudicial killings (EJKs); b) there is a strong policy environment that institutionalizes respect for and sensitivity to human rights; c) warrants of arrest have been issued against high profile suspects including General Jovito Palparan and Governor Joel Reyes; and, d) at least 198 suspects have been charged in the Ampatuan case.  He added that “these steps taken by the Philippine government probably explain why there has been a significant decline in EJKs.

“Even our harshest critics acknowledge that there has been a significant decline in the number of extrajudicial killings,” the Secretary remarked.  He added, “President Aquino’s family itself was a victim of a most heinous human rights crime since his father who was then in the political opposition was assassinated in 1983.  For this reason, President Aquino has taken bold and resolute action to break the culture of impunity and to institutionalize greater sensitivity and full respect for human rights.”

Secretary del Rosario also pointed to the Philippine ratification, two weeks ago, of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which obligates the Philippines to create a National Prevention Mechanism that will conduct independent and unannounced visits to places where people are deprived of their liberty.  This ratification comes a few months after the country’s accession to the Rome Statute, where parties are obliged to bring to justice those responsible for crimes under international law.

He said that while the Aquino government has made major investments in the upgrade of Philippine defense equipment, supplementary foreign military financing from the U.S. remains a very important component of our effort to develop our external defense capabilities.

“While fully recognizing the constraints posed by recent congressional limits placed on defense spending,” the Secretary noted with concern the shrinking allocation for the Philippines of the U.S.’ FMF pie for East Asia and the Pacific.

Secretary del Rosario contrasted the U.S. State Department’s 2006 FMF request for the Philippines, which accounted for over 70% of the total for East Asia, that has fallen to 35% for fiscal year 2012.  He raised the matter with the State Department during his visit.  Assistant Secretary Andrew Shapiro of the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs committed to double the initial $15 million in FMF for the Philippines to $30 million for FY 2012.  He also added that the State Department will explore additional creative funding streams for the Philippines.  (END)