US hypocrite, abettor of human rights abuses

“The United States government’s rhetoric on human rights puts them at a pedestal for hypocrites. Its overt and covert attacks on oppressed peoples of the world and in the Philippines, mostly exposed through its military funding and poison-laced aid for governments and State fascist machines such as the military and the police, betray their direct role and complicity in abetting violations on people’s rights,” said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan Secretary General, on the recently released 2016 US State Department Report on Human Rights Practices which includes views on the human rights situation in the Philippines. 

“Throughout different regimes, such as the Arroyo, Aquino and the Duterte administrations, the US State Department reports included state-perpetrated violations and continuing impunity, but what the US government conveniently left out was the US’ role in enabling such rights abuses,” she stated. 

Karapatan has repeatedly scored the interventionist projects of the US government in the Philippines, through military aid, and training, advising and directing US troops in the country, during the Arroyo and Aquino governments. 

According to the Philippine Department of National Defense, in 2016 congressional budget deliberations, there are around 107 US military personnel in Mindanao conducting various surveillance and drone operations. They include 50 US Marines, 17 US Army, 20 US Special Forces, plus Navy and civilian personnel. 

From 2011 and 2016, the US provided the Philippine military and police with at least $242.65 million, including $9.2 million for International Military Education and Training, and excluding the additional $42 million from the new US Southeast Asia Maritime Initiative, which included implementation of counter-insurgency programs. The US State Department said that “it is committed to providing $180 million in assistance to the Philippines in fiscal year 2017, provided that security units who commit rights violations do not get aid.”

Karapatan documented 1,538 political killings from the Arroyo to Aquino regimes, through counter-insurgency programs designed and driven by the US government. 

“The US government has kept to its rhetoric of refusing aid to State security forces that violate human rights, yet for decades, it has tolerated, funded and enabled the military in a rampage of abuses in the framework of US-driven counter-insurgency measures such as Oplan Bantay Laya and Oplan Bayanihan. The most recent of such programs, Oplan Kapayapaan, has already left twenty (20) civilians and political activists dead. The latest of victims are two peasant and environmental activists, Leonila and Ramon Pesadilla,” said Palabay.

On March 2, 2017, Leonila and Ramon Pesadilla were gunned down in their house in Brgy. Osmeña, Compostela, Compostela Valley. Their five-year-old grandson, who witnessed and survived the incident, narrated that two men knocked on their home at around 9pm and shot his grandparents after entering the house. Leonila sustained five (5) gunshot wounds while Ramon sustained six (6). 

The Pesadilla couple were both active members of the Compostela Farmers Association (CFA), a local peasant organization known to be very vocal in opposing mining firms in Compostela Valley, including the Agusan Petroleum and Mineral Corporation. The CFA has long been targeted by the military and tagged as an NPA organization. Its members were the object of attacks, perpetrated by the 66th IBPA. Last year on October 10, the organization’s secretary general, Jimmy Saypan, was also gunned down.

“The reality is that progressive organizations, political activists, and civilians who have stood as genuine opposition, such as the Pesadilla couple, have become legitimate targets under Oplan Kapayapaan, a US government-directed program,” Palabay continued.

Palabay added that “it is preposterous for the US to claim any moral high ground on the respect and upholding of human and people’s rights. Their poison-laced assistance has been an instrument to repress the Filipino people and crush opposition that attempts to subvert the country’s neo-colonial relations with the US and alter the semi-feudal character of the economy. Initiatives to develop the country through genuine land reform and national industrialization, as well as assert our sovereignty through the removal of US troops have been continuously impeded by the US, in collaboration with those in power.”

“The presence of US troops in our country in direct violation of our national sovereignty, the continuing unfair trade agreements which furthered the exploitation of our natural and human resources, and the foreign military assistance that suppresses political dissent – all this in light of the US’ righteous rhetoric on human rights puts them at a pedestal for hypocrites,” concluded Palabay.