Philippine UPR Watch delegation to ask US Congressional Offices to investigate VFA

NEW YORK CITY (March 21) – As P-Noy welcomes the presence of more U.S. troops in the country, two Philippine bishops and a former political prisoner is now in Washington, D.C. and are scheduled to meet with U.S. Congressional offices to lobby for an investigation on the connection between U.S. military aid to the Philippines and human rights violations. The group is also trying to work out an audience with the White House.

The Philippine delegation, which is part of the Philippine UPR Watch, is composed of Bsp. Reuel Marigza, vice chairperson of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), Bishop Felixberto Calang of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) and Angelina Ipong, secretary general of the Society of Ex-Detainees Against Detention and Arrest (SELDA).

“We would specifically ask for an investigation of the validity of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) as it was not ratified by the US Congress and what can be done to terminate it,” said Bsp. Marigza.

Bsp. Calang added that the “VFA provides much of the basis for the US supplying hundreds of millions of US dollars in military aid, materials, advice, and personnel to the Philippines. The VFA is also seen as violating the national sovereignty of the Philippines.”
For her part, Ipong would like to ensure that “charges of human rights violations by US military personnel get thoroughly and impartially investigated.”

The delegation’s trip to the U.S. is a follow-up to the 2007 International Human Rights Conference on the Philippines. That year, a delegation of Filipino church leaders, lawyers and human rights advocates attended the Ecumenical Advocacy Days (EAD) and brought to the U.S. religious community’s attention the growing cases of unsolved extrajudicial killings under the Arroyo government.

The 2007 delegation also presented a report before a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing conducted by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-California). Senator Boxer called on the U.S. government to withdraw economic aid to the government of then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo unless it institutes reforms to curb human rights abuses in the Philippines. The Boxer hearing concluded that the Philippine military, aided by U.S. military aid and resources, is largely responsible for the human rights violations in the Philippines.

The Philippine UPR Watch is an ecumenical network of Philippine human rights organizations and advocates that are committed to submit a Universal Periodic Review reports to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.