Rights group urges US pressure on Manila
Abuses committed by military must not go unpunished, HRW says
Human Rights Watch (HRW) is urging the US to pressure Manila into punishing abusive military officials and to use foreign aid as a bargaining chip. The New York-based rights group said Washington should press senior Philippine officials who are visiting the US this week to make good their promise to bring to justice military officials allegedly involved in abuses. The pressure can be done, it said, by continuing the policy of withholding a portion of foreign aid to the Philippines until significant progress on human rights is made. “The Philippine government’s pronouncements on improving human rights have been mostly talk, and not much action,” said HRW's deputy Asia director Elaine Pearson in an article posted on the group’s website today. “Progress will be measured by results, in particular the prosecution of soldiers and officers implicated in abuses.” She said US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who will meet with their Philippine counterparts today and tomorrow to discuss defense and security issues, must take advantage of the strong ties between the two countries to raise human rights concerns. “Clinton and Panetta should press for a commitment from their Philippine counterparts for full military cooperation in the investigation of abuses and disciplinary measures against those who fail to do so,” Pearson said. “Too many Filipinos have endured abuses for the US to keep looking the other way.” The US government has withheld up to $3 million each year in assistance to the Philippines since 2008 because of the failure by Manila to rein in so-called “extra-judicial killings.” State security and paramilitary forces in the Philippines have been implicated in hundreds of killings and enforced disappearances, particularly of leftist activists and sympathizers, journalists and clergy in recent years.