Letter of Concern: Regarding the Human Rights Crisis in the Philippines

December 3, 2007

Dear Members of the United States Congress,


We, the leaders and members of faith-based, Filipino-American, labor, and human rights organizations concerned with the on-going human rights crisis faced by our friends and colleagues in the Philippines’ civil society, wish to express our support and appreciation for the attention and efforts undertaken by members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees (H.R. 2764). In the weeks ahead, a joint conference committee will work to resolve the differences in the House and Senate versions, and we are calling to your attention the significant consequences for the Filipino people of the military aid being extended unchecked to the Government of the Philippines.


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


Many in the Government have concluded that numerous civil society organizations are “fronts” for the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed group, the New People’s Army.”


One response has been counter-insurgency operations that result in the extrajudicial execution of leftist activists. 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 Government of the Philippines’ own Melo Commission, appointed to investigate the causes of the human rights abuses, found evidence to link the military to the killings. Furthermore, the Melo Commission also noted that “the likelihood . . . of violence increases after senior military officials label those organizations as communist fronts and ‘enemies of the state.’”


Human rights groups in the Philippines continue to report being wrongly targeted for human rights violations by Philippine military and paramilitary forces working with the military with impunity carried out openly and without fear of prosecution by the government. The Government of the Philippines continues to deny the military’s involvement in the killings, claiming that “the Melo Commission clearly indicated that there was no evidence showing that the police and the military were the perpetrators of killings and other actions.”[3] (emphasis added). These denials have prompted the U.N. Special Rapporteur to state that the military was in a “state of denial” about its role in the killings. Human Rights Watch (HWR) has cited this state of denial and the “unwillingness of senior military officials” to recognize command responsibility as a “roadblock” to prosecutions. This September, HRW noted that not one single case it investigated has been solved in the past year.


As a result of the attacks on certain segments of civil society, including church groups, clergy, opposition political parties, labor unions, and NGOs, democracy in the Philippines is suffering. Abuses by the military have 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 [Pres.] Arroyo, who remained heavily dependent on military support to stay in power.”


Section 688 of the Senate version, H.R. 2764 EAS, will help to ensure that U.S. military aid to the Philippines is not being used to further abuses by the Armed Forces of the Philippines. It will condition the release of $2 million out of a total of $30 million in military aid to the Philippines on the State Department reporting that (1) the Philippine government is successfully implementing the recommendations of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings; (2) the Philippine government is investigating and prosecuting military personnel and others who have committed human rights violations; and (3) the Philippine government has ended its campaign against members of civil society organizations. These conditions are a necessary first step in ensuring that U.S. military aid does not directly or indirectly promote human rights violations and undermine democracy in the Philippines. They must remain in the final version of legislation.


We are very concerned, however, that the amount of 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 over the State Department’s request has already sent a message to Philippine Government that the United States government supports the Philippine military’s counter-insurgency strategy cited by the U.N. Rapporteur as the cause of many serious human rights abuses. We urge the Committee to limit military aid to the Philippines to no more than $11.1 million, a figure that was not altered by the House. In addition, all of the military aid should be conditioned on the State Department reports described in H.R. 2764 EAS.


We also believe that transparency and accountability in the reporting process are vital so that people in both the United States and the Philippines will have a full understanding of the efforts by the United States Government to ensure that our military aid is not promoting human rights violations. Therefore, we urge that members of Congress ensure that the State Department’s reports regarding the end of the Philippine government’s campaign against civil society (Sec. 688, H.R. 2764 EAS) and the process used to monitor that military aid is not being misused by the Philippine government are made publicly available. (Sec. 671, H.R. 2764 EAS)



We urge that the Committee ensure that the final version of H.R. 2764 will:


(1) limit the amount of military aid to the Philippines to the $11.1 million requested by the State Department in the Congressional Budget Justification; Foreign Assistance and USAID Operations FY 2008 Budget Request.


(2) ensure 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 reports by the Department of State requested by the Senate committee in Sec. 671 and Sec. 688 in H.R. 2764 EAS in order to promote greater transparency and understanding between the United States and the people of the Philippines.


The rights and freedoms of the Filipino people depend on it.


If you wish to respond to this letter please contact Rev. Larry Emery at (916) 284-9686 / wgcpc@hotmail.com or Katrina Abarcar at (443)-794-8836 / katarungan@comcast.net.



Rev. Dr. Clifton Kirkpatrick


Stated Clerk of the General Assembly


Presbyterian Church, (USA)



The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church



Rev. John H. Thomas


General Minister and President


United Church of Christ



Rev. William G. Sinkford


President


Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations



Bishop Roy I. Sano


Executive Secretary, The Council of Bishops


The United Methodist Church



Andrew L. Stern


International President


Service Employees International Union



Robert B. Fisher, SVD


Vivat International



Rose Therese Nolta, SSpS


Vivat International


Ramsey Clark
Former US Attorney General
International Human Rights Attorney


Bob Edgar


President and Chief Executive Officer


Common Cause International



Rev. John L. McCullough


Executive Director & Chief Executive Officer


Church World Service



James E. Winkler, General Secretary


General Board of Church and Society


United Methodist Church



Rev. Cally Rogers-Witte,


Executive Minister


Wider Church Ministries,


United Church of Christ,


Co-Executive,


Common Global Ministries Board


Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ



Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos


Associate General Secretary for International Affairs and Peace


National Council of Churches USA



Rev. Dr. David Vargas, President


Division of Overseas Ministries, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Co-Executive of the Common Global Ministries Board of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ



Rev. Dr. Xiaoling Zhu
Area Executive for East Asia and the Pacific
Common Global Ministries Board of the
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ



C. Christopher Epting, Bishop


Deputy for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations


The Episcopal Church



Bishop Beverly J. Shamana


California Nevada Annual Conference


United Methodist Church


West Sacramento, California



David Robinson


Executive Director


Pax Christi USA:


National Catholic Peace Movement



Bama Athreya, Executive Director


International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF)



Brian Campbell, Attorney


International Labor Rights Forum



Prof. Howard Zinn


Professor Emeritus,


Department of Political Science


Boston University


Boston, Maryland



T. Michael McNulty, SJ


Justice and Peace Director


Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM)



Marie Dennis, Director


Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns


Rev. James Kofski, Associate


Asia/Pacific and Middle East Issues


Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns



Amy Woolam Echeverria, Director


Columban Missionaries Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Office


(The Rev Canon) Brian J Grieves


Director, Peace and Justice Ministries


The Episcopal Church


New York, New York



Derek Duncan


Associate for Global Advocacy and Education


Common Global Ministries of


the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ



Neil Watkins


National Coordinator


Jubilee USA Network



Kristin Sundell, M.Div.


Director of Advocacy and Organizing
Jubilee USA Network



Ethan Vesely-Flad


Editor, Fellowship magazine


Fellowship of Reconciliation



Rev. Emmanuel Orendain, Pastor


Calvary Filipino Presbyterian Church


Wilmington, California


Moderator,


National Filipino Presbyterian Council


Presbyterian Church (USA)



Alex Vergara


President


National Association of Filipino American United Methodists



Pong Javier, Dir. of Communication and Information


National Association of Filipino American United Methodists





Jon Melegrito


Communications Director


National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA)



Rev. Kathryn J. Johnson


Executive Director, Methodist Federation for Social Action



Tina M. Foster, Executive Director


International Justice Network



Sara Flounders
Teresa Gutierrez
National Co-Directors
International Action Center



Zack Knorr
International Campaigns Coordinator
United Students Against Sweatshops



Rick Ufford-Chase


Executive Director


Presbyterian Peace Fellowship



Nestor Villatoro
President
American Guatemalan Association (AGUA)



Galatea King, Co-Chair


Filipino/American Coalition for Environmental Solidarity (FACES)



Inday Day


Executive Director


National Federation of Asian American United Methodists



Seamus P. Finn


OMI Director


Justice, Peace/Integrity of Creation Office Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate



Christina Cobourn Herman


Justice Peace / Integrity of Creation Office, Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate



Rev. Dr. John R. Deckenback
Conference Minister
Central Atlantic Conference United Church of Christ



Sally Hinchman
General Executive
Presbyteries of Sacramento, Stockton and Nevada
Presbyterian Church (PCUSA)



Rev. Jay Olsen


Associate Executive


Presbyteries of Sacramento, Stockton and Nevada


Presbyterian Church (PCUSA)



Rev. Dr. Rich Schlosser


Director


California Council of Churches



Barbara Farley


Moderator
Presbytery of Sacramento (PCUSA)
Sacramento, California



Rev. Bryce Little and Phyllis Little


Mission Co-Workers in Spain & Portugal


Presbyterian Church (PCUSA)



Rev. Jose Olagues
Associate Executive
The Presbytery of Grand Canyon (PCUSA)
Phoenix, Arizona



Rev. Ben Larson-Wolbrink


Campus Minister


Presbyterian Campus Ministry


Tucson, Arizona



The Honorable Chris Daly, Supervisor


City and County of San Francisco


San Francisco, California







Rev. Michael Yoshii


Buena Vista United Methodist Church


United Methodist Church California-Nevada Annual Conference


Co-Coordinator Philippine Task Force


Alameda, California



Rev. Ruth Cortez (retired)


United Methodist Church California-Nevada Annual Conference


Co-Coordinator Philippine Task Force



Mara Ibarra, Vice President
National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) - Northern California



Rev. Pam Fine, Pastor


Wesley United Methodist Church


Bakersfield, California



William McKinney, President


Pacific School of Religion


Berkeley, California



Rev. Debbie Lee, Director
Pacific Asian North America Institute (PANA)
Pacific School of Religion
Berkeley, California



Fe Koons, Chairperson


Philippine Action Group for the Environment


Carson, California



Rev. H. Wilson de Ocera


United Methodist Church


Daly City, California



Professor Rowena M. Tomaneng
Co-Director, Institute of Community and Civic Engagement
De Anza College, California



Rev. Dennis Duhaylongsod
Filipino-American United Church of Christ
Fremont, California



Rev. Leomyr de Jesus, Pastor
Filipino American Evangelical Church (UCC)
Fremont, California



The Rev. Kathryn Schreiber
Hayward United Church of Christ
Hayward, California



Rev. David Hill, Pastor


Grace Presbyterian Church (PCUSA)


Lodi, California



Dr. Pam Brubaker
Professor, Religious Studies
California Lutheran University
Los Angeles, California



Beverly Tang
Anakbayan
Los Angeles, California



Apollo Victoria
Habi Arts
Los Angeles, California



Kathryn Poethig
Associate Professor, Global Studies
California State University


Monterey Bay



Dr. Angie Ngoc Tran
Professor, Political Economy
California State University


Monterey Bay



Dr. Gerald Shenk
Associate Professor, Social History
California State University


Monterey Bay



Armael Malinis, Chairman
Anak Bayan East Bay
Oakland/Union City, California



Lillian Galedo, Executive Director
Filipinos for Affirmative Action
Oakland, California



Rev. Ella Ray Toscano, Pastor
First Congregational Church (UCC)
Rio Vista, California


Dr. David Thompson, Pastor
Rev. Gary Cox, Associate Pastor
Westminster Presbyterian Church (PCUSA)
Sacramento, California



Rev. Larry Emery,
Pastor, Community Presbyterian Church
Chairperson, Philippine Partnership Committee
Presbytery of Sacramento (PCUSA)


Walnut Grove, California



Rev. E. Dexter McNamara, Director
Inter-Faith Service Bureau
Sacramento, California



Rev. Philip Trinh, Pastor
Bethany Vietnamese Presbyterian Church (PCUSA)
Sacramento, California



Rev Agustinus Tiwa, Pastor
Sacramento Indonesian Presbyterian Fellowship (PCUSA)
Sacramento, California



Rev. Jack Raymore, Pastor
Rev. Jean Shaw, Associate Pastor
Northminster Presbyterian Church (PCUSA)
Sacramento, California


Rev. Ginny Curinga, Pastor


Sierra Arden United Church of Christ


Sacramento, California



Rev Aart Van Beek, Pastor


Parkview Presbyterian Church(PCUSA)


Sacramento, California



Rev. Warren Barnes, Pastor


Grace Presbytrerian Church (PCUSA)


Sacramento, California





Rev. Richard Wylie (retired)


Associate Executive


Synod of the Pacific,


Presbyterian Church (USA)


Sacramento, California



The Rev. Warren Lee, Ph.D.
Professor of Ministry in Asian American Context
San Francisco Theological Seminary
San Anselmo, California



The Rev. Walt Davis, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus of the Sociology of Religion
San Francisco Theological Seminary
San Anselmo, California



Rachel R. Redondiez, Co-Founder
Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines
San Francisco, California



Terrence Valen, Executive Director
Filipino Community Center
San Francisco, California



Marisa Mariano
Chair, BABAE
San Francisco, California



Father Art Balagat
St. Anthony Catholic Church
San Jacinto, California



Dr. Jennifer Rycenga
Professor, Comparative Religious Studies
San José State University, San José, California



Dr. Victoria Rue
Faculty, Comparative Religious Studies
San José State University, San José, California



Rev. Dante Simon, Pastor


Rev Reuel Talapian, Associate Pastor


St. Paul's United Methodist Church


Stockton, California


Alan Cook


Director of Family Ministries


Central Methodist Church


Stockton, California



Rev. Byron Nelson, Pastor


Trinity Presbyterian Church (PCUSA)


Stockton, California



Rev. Alex Cambe
United Methodist Church


Sutter Creek, California



Rev. L. Don Smith, Pastor
First Presbyterian Church (PCUSA)
Tracy, California



Linda Blagburn, Program Staff


San Francisco Presbytery


San Francisco, California



Rev. Lily M. Villamin


District Superintendent