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of Churches urges Congress|
to require human rights certification in Philippines
New York, March 25, 2009 – The National Council of Churches today urged Congress to require assurances that the Philippines is living up to human rights standards before providing its government with additional military financing.
Despite efforts by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to tie U.S. military aid to improvements in the Philippines' human right record, widespread abuses continue, said the NCC's General Secretary, the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, in an open letter to the Congress.
"The perpetrators of these abuses continue to enjoy impunity and there is strong evidence that Philippine military officials responsible for human rights abuses will never face justice," Kinnamon wrote.
He cited a report that there has been no official investigation of a high ranking Philippine military official in the wake of evidence the Philippine Supreme Court found "convincing" that the officer was responsible for kidnapping and torture.
"We are also alarmed at reports that the Philippine government is increasingly using politically motivated prosecutions to charge and detain political activists, labor leaders, attorneys, academics and clergy," Kinnamon wrote.
In 2008, Congress allocated $30 million in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) to the Philippines, but said $2 million of that amount would be conditioned on the Philippine government's compliance with recommendations of a United Nations report, prosecution of human rights violators, and an end to military harassment of civil society.
"The Philippine government did not meet any of these conditions ... (but) the (U.S.) Department of State provided the Philippines with the full FMF allocation," Kinnamon said. "We are very concerned about the lack of transparency in the reporting process."
He urged the Congress to require that the Philippine government receive no further FMF until it meets all of the three human rights conditions, and that the State Department be required to make public its process for certifying human rights in the Philippines "to promote greater transparency and understanding between the United States and the people of the Philippines."
Congress must ensure that U.S. military aid does not directly or indirectly promote human rights violations and undermine democracy in the Philippines, Kinnamon said. "The rights and freedoms of the Filipino people depend on it."
The National Council of Churches consists of 35 member communions from a wide range of Christian traditions including Mainline Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican, evangelical, historic African American churches and peace church traditions. Together, the churches represent 100,000 congregations and 45 million people in the U.S.
The full text of the letter to Congress follows. A printable pdf. copy of the letter is available here.
NCC News contact: Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228 (office), 646-853-4212 (cell) , firstname.lastname@example.org
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