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Philippine activists slam 'hypocritical' US rights report

Washington helps to fund military abuses, says Karapatan

<p>Protesters calling for US troops to leave the Philippines clashed with police outside the US embassy in Manila last week (picture by Rene Sandajan)</p>

Protesters calling for US troops to leave the Philippines clashed with police outside the US embassy in Manila last week (picture by Rene Sandajan)

  • Joe Torres, Manila
  • Philippines
  • March 3, 2014
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Human rights group Karapatan said on Monday that a report from the US on human rights abuses in the Philippines is "hypocritical." It also claimed that the US is responsible for abuses in the country.

"The US government foments human rights abuses in the Philippines by filling up the military war chest of the Aquino government," said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general.

Her remarks came in response to a report by the US State Department, released last week, which criticized the Philippines for failing to stamp out extrajudicial killings.  

"The [Philippine] government continued to investigate and prosecute only a limited number of reported human rights abuses and concerns about impunity persisted," the report noted.

The report further noted that the "most significant human rights problems continued to be extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances undertaken by security forces".

The report also criticized the "dysfunctional criminal justice system" in the country, "notable for poor cooperation between police and investigators, few prosecutions and lengthy procedural delays," along with "widespread official corruption and abuse of power".

The Philippines Commission on Human Rights admitted in a statement that there were indeed few convictions for extrajudicial killings during the Aquino administration, but added that there have been "improvements". 

The presidential palace on Saturday said it is taking note of the US criticism. "We'll have the national government agencies go through it and address particular areas of concern, focusing on what can be done to further our efforts," said Abigail Valte, Aquino's spokesperson.

Palabay took note of the "prompt response" of the Aquino government to the US report "while practically ignoring the killings that have been going on since Aquino’s presidency. She noted how the government "immediately dismissed documented human rights violations perpetrated by state forces as 'communist propaganda'."

From July 2010 to December 2013, Karapatan documented 169 victims of extrajudicial killings. In the first six weeks of 2014, Karapatan has documented six more victims.

She said impunity in the Philippines persists "precisely because of US backing," adding that the US$40 million US military aid to the Philippines is used to implement "Operation Plan Bayanihan [Cooperation]," a program aimed at ending a 45-year-old insurgency led by the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People's Army. 

The State Department report came out two months after US Secretary of State John Kerry pledged $40 million of military aid to the Philippines.

"The US government is trying to soften its image among Filipinos and also in the international community as it prepares for an increased and permanent presence in the Philippines for its vaunted Asian pivot," Palabay said.

The "pivot" is an initiative of the Obama administration that is meant to be a strategic "re-balancing" of US interests from Europe and the Middle East toward East Asia. 

Talks have been ongoing between the US and the Philippines for the latter to resume hosting military forces in former US military bases in the country.

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