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US Senate Links Additional Aid for Philippine Military to Issue of Political Killings


The U.S. Senate says the Philippines can receive additional military funding if it addresses allegations of military involvement in the killing of leftist activists. Douglas Bakshian reports from Manila.

The Senate has voted to increase military funding for the Philippines to $30 million, from $11 million. It says another$2 million will be added if Manila investigates alleged human rights violations by the military, and shows that soldiers are not targeting leftists.

However, Philippine Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo says the government is already meeting many of the requirements for the additional aid money. Romulo says Manila is investigating individual soldiers for alleged human rights abuses.

Ramon Casiple of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform in Manila says the Senate action will likely have little effect.

"What the U.S. Senate did was basically put pressure on the Philippine government. I think it will not be enough," he said. "Because the government now is saying it has already fulfilled all of the requirements of the U.S. Senate, and there is no problem getting the$2 million."

U.S. embassy spokeswoman Rebecca Thompson says the Senate measure is far from a done deal. She says it must still be approved by the House and its legislation could be quite different.

Local human rights groups say more than 800 people have been killed since President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo took office in 2001, and another 200 are missing. In February, a U.N. special rapporteur said the military was responsible for many of the deaths. But the government has blamed the killings and abductions on internal fighting in the communist New People's Army and on rogue military elements.

The Philippines is an important U.S. ally in southeast Asia and on the front line in the war on terrorism. It receives U.S. aid and training in its fight against Islamist militants in the south, and is also battling a long-standing Communist insurgency.

The Philippine military said Wednesday that eight of its soldiers were wounded in a clash with al-Qaida-linked militants on the southern island of Jolo. It is a stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf extremist group, known for kidnappings and bomb attacks. A U-S supported campaign against the group began in 2002 and its leader, Khadaffy Janjalani, was killed by Philippine marines on Jolo last year.

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