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


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,


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


National Filipino Presbyterian Council

Presbyterian Church (USA)

Alex Vergara


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
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


California Council of Churches

Barbara Farley

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
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