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Mission Leader Asks US Congress to

Make Human Rights Key In Philippines Aid
 


General Board of Global Ministries
The United Methodist Church

475 Riverside Drive
New York, NY 10115

Tel: 212/870-3921
email: info@gbgm-umc.org

 

New York, NY, December 11, 2007--The bishop who currently heads The United Methodist Church's international mission agency has asked the Congress of the United States to assure that no US military aid to the Philippines can be used in ways that violate human rights.

Bishop Felton E. May on December 10, which is International Human Rights Day, faxed his request to members of the House of Representatives and the Senate. As part of spending bills, Congress was considering a measure (H.R. 2764) that would provide $30 million in military aid to the government of Philippines President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The amount is $19 million more than was requested by the US State Department.

The Philippines' military has been directly implicated in numerous reports as complicit in, if not directly responsible for, a series of murders of human right activists, including clergy and church lay leaders. These so-called "extra-judicial killings" have been widely condemned by both Protestant and Roman Catholic leaders in the Philippines and on the global stage.

Bishop May asked the senators and representatives to approve no more than the $11.1 million requested by the State Department for military aid to the Philippines. He further asked that human rights conditions be applied to whatever amount is voted, and he appealed to Congress to make publicly available State Department reports that might indicate whether the US government was aware of the use of US funds in anti-human rights activities of the Arroyo Administration and its military.

Several reports indicate that the extra-judicial killings are falsely justified on the basis of security precautions rooted in the "war on terror."

The United Methodist Church in general and the General Boards of Global Ministries and Church and Society in particular are active in work to firmly establish human rights in the Philippines, to stop the extrajudicial killings, and to bring to justice those responsible for the murders. The United Methodist Church has three episocpal areas in the Philippines, and the global ministries agency is also linked through mission work to the United Church of Christ in the Philippines.

Bishop May wrote that his board "has been involved for many years in advocacy ministries of peace, human rights, interfaith relations, and reconciliation in cooperation with Filipino churches. There are many United Methodist congregations in the Philippines that are experiencing increasing human rights violations within their communities."

His letter cited several reports, including one by the Philippines' government itself, that implicated the military in the wave of killings, which some estimates place at more than 800.

The bishop said:

As a result of the attacks on civil society, including church groups and clergy, opposition political parties, labor unions, and non-governmental organizations, democracy in the Philippines is suffering. We know this first hand and are involved in efforts to protect human dignity and rights. United Methodists in the Philippines are among the victims. In March 2007, my colleague, Bishop Solito Toquero of Manila, came to Washington as part of an ecumenical delegation to voice concern to members of the US Congress about the many extra-judicial killings. Global Ministries has also supported human rights delegations that document atrocities and give support to bereaved families and communities.

The full text of the letter follows:

Dear Members of the Congress of the United States of America:

The General Board of Global Ministries is the international mission agency of The United Methodist Church. The Board of Directors includes members from across the globe, including churches in the United States, Africa, Europe and the Philippines. We have projects or personnel in more than 130 countries. One of our stated goals of mission is that of seeking justice, freedom and peace for all people.

The General Board of Global Ministries has been involved for many years in advocacy ministries of peace, human rights, interfaith relations, and reconciliation in cooperation with Filipino churches. There are many United Methodist congregations in the Philippines that are experiencing increasing human rights violations within their communities.

We add our voice to that of an international network of faith-based, labor, and human rights organizations concerned with the on-going human rights crisis faced by our sisters and brothers in Philippines' civil society. We wish to express our support and appreciation for the attention and efforts undertaken by members of the US House and Senate Appropriations Committees (H.R. 2764) to address the human rights situation there. As a joint conference committee seeks to resolve the differences in the House and Senate versions, I call to your attention the significant consequences for the Filipino people of US military aid being extended unchecked to the government of the Philippines.

In August, Philip Alston, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial killings, reported to the UN General Assembly:

In some areas, the leaders of leftist organizations are systematically hunted down by interrogating and torturing those who may know their whereabouts, and they are often killed following a campaign of individual vilification designed to instill fear into the community. 1

This policy has resulted in extrajudicial executions aimed at eliminating "key civil society leaders, including human rights defenders, trade unionists, land reform advocates, and others."2 The Philippine government's own Melo Commission, appointed to investigate the causes of the human rights abuses, found evidence linking the military to the killings. Furthermore, that Commission noted that "the likelihood . . . of violence increases after senior military officials label those organizations as communist fronts and 'enemies of the state.' "

Human rights organizations in the Philippines continue to report being wrongly targeted for human rights violations by Philippine forces working the military, which appears to enjoy virtual immunity. Violations are carried out openly without fear of prosecution as the government continues to deny the military's involvement in the killings. These denials prompted the UN Special Rapporteur to state that the military was in a "state of denial" about its role in the killings. Human Rights Watch (HRW) has also cited this state of denial and the "unwillingness of senior military officials" to recognize command responsibility as a "roadblock" to prosecutions. In September, 2007, HRW stated that not one single case it investigated has been adjudicated in the past year.

As a result of the attacks on civil society, including church groups and clergy, opposition political parties, labor unions, and non-governmental organizations, democracy in the Philippines is suffering. We know this first hand and are involved in efforts to protect human dignity and rights. United Methodists in the Philippines are among the victims. In March 2007, my colleague, Bishop Solito Toquero of Manila, came to Washington as part of an ecumenical delegation to voice concern to members of the US Congress about the many extra-judicial killings. Global Ministries has also supported human rights delegations that document atrocities and give support to bereaved families and communities.

Abuses by the military prompted Freedom House, in its annual 2007 survey, to downgrade the Philippines from a "free" democratic country to a "partly free" country, citing "minimal concrete steps to reduce these extrajudicial killings . . . [and] doubts as to whether the perpetrators would be held accountable under [President] Arroyo, who remained heavily dependent on military support to stay in power." Is it not important in this disturbing context to make sure that US military aid does not directly or indirectly promote human rights violations and undermine democracy in the Philippines?

I am very concerned that the amount of US military aid provided to the Philippines in the Senate bill is nearly three times the $11.1 million originally requested by the State Department for FY 2008. Increasing the amount of aid by $19 million beyond the State Department's request says to the Arroyo Administration that the United States government endorses counter-insurgency strategy cited by the U.N. Rapporteur as the cause of many serious human rights abuses. In addition, transparency and accountability in reporting the uses of the aid are vital. Both the people of the US and the Philippines deserve full assurance that no military aid is diverted to human rights violations.

I urge each member of Congress to work for a final version of H.R. 2764 that will do the following: (1) limit the amount of military aid to the Philippines to no more than the $11.1 million requested by the State Department; (2) insist that the human rights conditions (Sec. 688, H.R. 2764 EAS) are applied to the entire amount of military aid to the Philippines, and (3) make publicly available the State Department reports requested by the Senate committee in Sec. 671 and Sec. 688 in H.R. 2764 EAS. The latter will promote greater transparency and understanding between the United States and the people of the Philippines.

May our prayers and our actions contribute to the restoration of justice and the achievement of peace for our sisters and brothers in the Philippines.

Thank you for your attention to these vital human rights issues that effect us all.

Grace and Peace,

Bishop Felton E. May
Interim General Secretary

For more information on the role and work of The United Methodist Church regarding the Philippines please contact David Wildman at 212-870-3735 / dwildman@gbgm-umc.org or Rebecca Asedillo at 212-870-3694 / rasedill@gbgm-umc.org.

2 Id. at ¶13.


more.

See Also...

Topic: Advocacy Civil rights Human rights United Methodist Church Statements
Geographic Region: Philippines
Source: GBGM Press Releases
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Date posted: Dec 11, 2007