...Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces; however, some elements of these security forces committed human rights abuses. During the year there were a number of arbitrary, unlawful, and extrajudicial killings apparently by elements of the security services and of political killings, including killings of journalists, by a variety of actors. Many of these killings went unsolved and unpunished, contributing to a climate of impunity, despite intensified government efforts during the year to investigate and prosecute these cases. Members of the security services committed acts of physical and psychological abuse on suspects and detainees, and there were instances of torture. Arbitrary or warrantless arrests and detentions were common. Trials were delayed and procedures were prolonged. Prisoners awaiting trial and those already convicted were often held under primitive conditions. Corruption was a problem in all the institutions making up the criminal justice system, including police, prosecutorial, and judicial organs. During a brief "state of emergency" in February, there was some attempted interference in freedom of the press and in the right of assembly. In addition to the killings mentioned above, leftwing and human rights activists were often subject to harassment by local security forces. Problems such as violence against women and abuse of children, child prostitution, trafficking in persons, child labor, and ineffective enforcement of worker rights were common. In addition to killing soldiers and police officers in armed encounters, the New People's Army (NPA, the military wing of the Communist Party) killed local government officials, and ordinary civilians, including through the use of landmines, and were suspected in many of the killings of leftwing activists. The NPA also used underage soldiers in combat roles. Terrorist groups committed bombings that caused civilian casualties, and these groups also used underage soldiers.That's the professional opinion of US diplomats. In other words, the US Senate isn't operating in an information vacuum, or is taking only the world of certain groups for it. What the US Senate is thus attempting to get testimony on the matter to see if the report was accurate. What's at stake isn't diplomatic relations between our two countries, but American policy towards our country -and new policies that might have an effect on further aid being conditional on a better human rights situation. It is fundamentally an internal matter of Americans, involving the US Congress and the Executive branch of the US government.
On to Washington!
WHEN INQUIRER.net editor in chief JV Rufino asked John Nery and myself to start blogging for the online counterpart of our mother paper, I leaped at the opportunity to work more closely with John, and with the good folks at INQUIRER.net. But it took me some time to figure out how on earth I'd differentiate this new effort from my own blog. In the end, it seems to me, the medium defines itself. My own blog is, well, mine -while this one is shared. My own blog is my personal soapbox, and is written for a general audience. Therefore, from the universal (my blog) we go to the particular (this blog), and from the personal, to a joint effort. This blog is very clearly part of the Inquirer family of publications, upholds the regulations and ethics of the whole, and is aimed at a particular kind of reader: you, the loyal reader of the Inquirer. So to differentiate my writing here from my writing elsewhere, I decided, first of all, to limit my advocacy to my Inquirer column or my blog. Personally, because I have never been a reporter but always, an opinion writer, I happen to think commenting on the political scene necessarily leads to some kind of political involvement. But that that is something I can do in a column and my personal blog, but which doesn't serve the best interests or hopefully, helpfulness, of this blog. Second of all, this is a current events blog so the takeoff point for each entry here will be the issue of the day as the Inquirer reports it. My purpose here is to amplify or, perhaps even clarify, the issues I personally feel are the most interesting, or relevant on the days it's my turn to comment in this space. Third of all, if I'm an opinion writer (with a tendency, as the late Teodoro M. Locsin Sr. wrote of himself, to "thunder and shrill" as all opinion and editorial writers do), John Nery is a reporter and an editor. The reporter and editor points out the Who What When Where and Why, though personally I've always felt the first four are so difficult to do professionally that the last, the Why, often gets done least best of all. I think John and I will therefore spend a lot of time focusing on the Whys, from our own perspectives -- which will be different because our professional backgrounds are different. Finally, John also brought up, in the private e-mail exchanges that took place prior to this blog's birth, that what defines blogging is the idea of a "conversation," and it begins with a conversation between John and myself, and then hopefully between one or both of us and you, the reader. In my personal blog I have the freedom of choosing when to have a conversation or not, and in some ways, a conversation is dispensable over there, because I've always viewed my personal blog more along the lines of the pamphleteers of the 18th and 19th centuries; here, I don't have that luxury. Don't get me wrong -a painful lesson I've learned in that space, is that the price of advocacy is often civility; so this place will be a more civil one, because over here, I'm part of a team. So welcome and let's hope this blog evolves into something useful for you and me. For some time now, the question of what Washington, D.C. thinks about the Philippines, and who in Washington is thinking what in particular, has been the grist of news reports and commentary. This editorial cartoon from the 1930s says it all, to my mind. The test of the mettle of a Filipino leader has always been how he negotiates with Uncle Sam, and the proof of the ability of a Filipino administration is whether it gets a friendly hearing or not from Washington. Pomp and circumstance has always surrounded the sending of delegations to lobby Uncle Sam for this or that. The ill-fated delegation that tried to wrangle a rethinking of test-retake requirement for Filipino nurses affected by the exam scandal, belongs to a tradition as old as the First Independence Mission of 1919. But there's a difference. Our politicians like going to Washington with all the pomp and extravagance of an Oriental Pasha, because they're playing to the gallery at home ("Look, I am your knight-errant!") and making a point to the Americans they're poised to meet ("You want something done in the Philippines? I'm the man to do it!"). It's part of the political game, but we forget the game was refined prior to independence, and remained relevant, perhaps, to a different kind of Washington in the 40s, 50s, 60s and even 70s, had its "Last Hoorah" in the 80s with Cory Aquino's address to the US Congress, but was firmly buried in the 90s when the US bases closed down for good. But old habits die hard: we've been conditioned to think we're important to America, though realpolitik on the part of Americans has resulted in a marginal -definitely far from enormous- increase in Philippine importance. American resources have been devoted to lending assistance to the fight against the Abu Sayyaf and the "War on Terror." The problem now is that there's a clash of priorities between our own government and that of the United States. The Americans may be fairly satisfied with what they consider the Number 1 priority, the hunt for the Abu Sayyaf, and how the Philippines is conducting it; but I don't know if we can say the Americans care one way or another about what's the Number 1 effort for our own government -- fighting the NPA. Which brings us to what's been in the news, an investigation mounted by a committee of the US Senate into the human rights situation here at home. The committee is chaired by Barbara Boxter, who is a popular US senator representing a district with a heavy Filipino-American vote, and she belongs to a party challenging the Bush administration's strategies in fighting the "War on Terror." The focus of reports and commentary have been on the testimony delivered -- and who delivered it -- Senator Joker Arroyo's belief that the hearing represents meddling in our internal affairs, as well as on a delegation led by PNP Director General Avelino Razon. The delegation had to backpedal because it hadn't been invited. The Razon delegation, again, shows that old habits die hard: it's "On to Washington!" but unlike the old days, when the habit began because we had a reason for lobbying Washington, neither the question of our political independence (settled by 1946) nor those of security (settled with our decision to close down bases in 1991, limiting our importance to a minor strategic consideration), guarantees us that most precious American commodity: access to the White House or Congress. But Senator Arroyo may have a point: why is the US Senate conducting hearings on the human rights situation here at home, when the hearings obviously have little to do with what America's concerned with, the "War on Terror"? The answer lies in how American foreign aid has become tied to the human rights situation in countries receiving that aid. This has been the case, more or less, since the Carter administration. Up for discussion is the US budget, and it contains a portion on foreign operations, which covers our part of the world, involves oversight over US government spending over the past year, and contending views on policy with the executive branch of government (see the PDF for an example of how the US executive responds to challenges on policy raised by the US Congress). So the answer to Sen. Arroyo is that since the US government gives aid to the Philippines, and our government accepts it, we can't avoid coverage by appropriate US policy tying aid to human rights. What then, is the basis of the Boxer hearing? See the report prepared the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor of the US Department of State:
When Inquirer.net editor-in-chief JV Rufino asked John Nery and myself to start blogging for the online counterpart of our mother paper, I leaped at the opportunity to work more closely with John, and with the good folks at Inquirer.net. But it took me some time to figure out how on earth I'd differentiate this new effort from my own blog.In the end, it seems to me, the medium defines itself.... The test of the mettle of a Filipino leader has always been how he negotiates with Uncle Sam, and the proof of the ability of a Filipino administration is whether it gets a friendly hearing or not from Washington.
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