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Withhold aid rights groups ask United States

NEW YORK (Mabuhay) : Human Rights Watch urged the United States of America (US) to pressure Manila to discipline and punish abusive military officials by using foreign aid as a bargaining chip.
The New York-based rights group said Washington should press senior Philippine officials during an end of April visit to the US to make good on the government promise to prosecute military officers involved in human rights abuses.
The group said it can be done by continuing the policy of withholding a portion of foreign aid to The Philippines and only releasing it when it has been demonstrated that progress on human rights has been made.
“The Philippine government’s pronouncements on improving human rights have been mostly talk, and not much action,” the group’s deputy director in Asia, Elaine Pearson, said in an article posted on its website on April 30.
“Progress will be measured by results, in particular the prosecution of soldiers and officers implicated in abuses,” she stated.
She said the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, and defence secretary, Leon Panetta, who met with their Philippine counterparts on April 30 and May 1 to discuss defence and security issues, should take advantage of the strong ties between the two countries to raise human rights concerns.
“Clinton and Panetta should press for a commitment from their Philippine counterparts for full military cooperation in the investigation of abuses and disciplinary measures against those who fail to do so,” Pearson said. “Too many Filipinos have endured abuse for the US to keep looking the other way.”
The US government has withheld up to US$3 million ($23.25 million) each year in assistance to The Philippines since 2008, because of the failure by Manila to rein 
in extra-judicial killings.
State security and paramilitary forces in the Philippines have been implicated in hundreds of killings and enforced disappearances, particularly of leftist activists and sympathisers, journalists and clergy over recent years.