FOR RIGHTS VIOLATIONS:
ARROYO GOVERNMENT MAY LOSE FOREIGN AID
With human rights violations in the Philippines being laid bare before the bar of international public opinion, the Philippine government could end up losing foreign aid. “When aid-giving countries look into reports showing bad human rights records on the part of their recipients, they would be apprehensive about continuing to give assistance,” Karapatan secretary-general Marie Hilao-Enriquez said.
BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
With human rights violations in the Philippines being laid bare before the bar of international public opinion, the Philippine government could end up losing foreign aid.
This was the observation shared by Marie Hilao-Enriquez, secretary-general of Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights), in an interview with Bulatlat over the weekend. “When aid-giving countries look into reports showing bad human rights records on the part of their recipients, they would be apprehensive about continuing to give assistance,” Enriquez said.
Enriquez was one of five leaders from non-government and people’s organizations who went to Geneva a few weeks ago to submit complaints of human rights violations against the Arroyo government to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). The UN body held its second session from Sept. 18 to Oct. 6. The others were Edre Olalia of the Counsels for the Defense of Liberties (CODAL), Danilo Ramos of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Philippine Peasant Movement), Tess Vistro of the Asia-Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), and Rhoda Dalang of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA).
The complaints focused on high-profile cases of extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances.
“We went there to inform the international community so that strong international pressure would be generated,” the human rights leader said.
Data filed by Karapatan at the UNHRC showed a total of 755 extra-judicial killings and 184 enforced disappearances since 2001, when President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was catapulted to power through a popular uprising.
Karapatan-Central Luzon submitted an urgent alert showing 109 of the extra-judicial killings and 62 of the disappearances occurred in the said region. Of these, Karapatan-Central Luzon records further show, 71 extra-judicial killings and 46 enforced disappearances took place from September 2005 to August 2006 – during the stint of recently-retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, Jr. as commanding officer of the Philippine Army’s 7th Infantry Division, which is based at Ft. Ramon Magsaysay in Laur, Nueva Ecija.
Dalang gave an oral presentation concerning the killings of 96 indigenous people’s leaders since 2001. Ramos, for his part, filed on behalf of the KMP 25 cases of extra-judicial killings of peasant leaders before the monitoring body of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the Philippine government is a signatory.
At the UNHRC session, the Arroyo administration had come under fire on the issue of enforced disappearances. The Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, chaired by Stephen Toope, had named the Philippines as one of several countries with “outstanding cases” of disappearance.
“While in the past disappearances could be blamed primarily on military dictatorships, mostly in Latin America, today (these are) also perpetrated in more complex situations of internal conflict, such as Colombia, Nepal, the Russian Federation, Iraq, and the Sudan,” the group said in its report. “In other countries, such as Algeria and the Philippines, political repression of opponents resulted in hundreds of cases of disappearance.”
Classified as crimes against humanity under international human rights instruments are murder, deportation or forced transfer of population, imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law, torture. Other crimes are persecution against any identifiable group or collectivity on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender, or other grounds that are universally recognized as impermissible under international law; enforced disappearance of persons; and other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health.
“Within the community of nations, if you have a human rights record like that, is it not very embarrassing?” Enriquez said. “It could draw what we may call ‘peer pressure,’ if we talk in terms of psychology.”
With that, the Philippine government does not only stand the risk of having its UNHRC membership suspended: it could stand to lose aid from the international donor community, Enriquez said.
It had happened, she said, during the presidency of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos. “His human rights record became a measuring stick on whether to continue giving aid to his government,” said Enriquez, who was herself a victim of human rights violations during Martial Law.
Development aid donors have historically suspended assistance to their recipients on account of human rights violations, especially when these draw international outrage.
Various international news reports showed that summary executions, as well as arbitrary arrests and detentions increased in Nepal after King Gyanendra assumed power through a coup in February 2005. Denmark suspended $26 million of development assistance, while the United Kingdom and India suspended military assistance, following international outcries against human rights violations in Nepal.
Burma had a similar experience in 1988. That year, Aung San Suu Kyi of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) led a massive pro-democracy rally in protest against the abuses of the military regime. The rally was suppressed by the military. The NLD won in a subsequent election but the military refused to let its winning candidates assume office. That same year, Japan – Burma’s biggest single aid donor – suspended official development assistance.
As early as May last year, the Reality of Aid Network – an international non-governmental initiative producing analyses and lobbying for poverty eradication policies and practices in the international aid regime – had called for the cessation of all military aid to the Philippines on account of various human rights abuses, mainly the spate of extra-judicial killings. Enriquez said the group that went to Geneva has a similar call.
“We would like all these to lead to a stop in foreign aid to the Philippine government,” Enriquez said. “That is the most concrete thing that can come out of all these, that the Philippine government can get from these.”
“The citizens of donor countries should pressure their governments to cut aid to the Philippine government, with its record of human rights abuses,” the human rights leader added.
Based on data from the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), the Philippines’ top six aid donors are the U.S., Japan, the European Union, Australia, Germany, and Canada. Bulatlat