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Wednesday, 24 October 1984
Page: 2423

(Question No. 1167)

Senator Mason asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 3 October 1984:

(1) Has the Australian Embassy in Manila investigated the facts surrounding an incident at a demonstration held in Manila on 27 September 1984 to protest the Philippines Government's use of violence against demonstrators, in which a young man, Fidel Nemenzo, was shot in the back when the army fired into the crowd, given reports that at least 11 people have been tortured and killed, that one of the people shot has died, and that ice picks were used as instruments of torture .

(2) Is the Australian Government now prepared to condemn the Government of the Philippines for its consistent use of brutal violence against people exercising their democratic rights.

(3) Will the Australian Government continue to give military aid to the Philippines (estimated last year to be worth $1.6 million), given that Professor Richard Simbulan, Professor of Politics at the University of the Philippines, said in Australia earlier this year that the Philippines' defence budget is only sufficient to cover the salaries and running costs of the soldiers, so that the Philippines is effectively armed by foreign military aid.

Senator Gareth Evans —The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) The Australian Embassy in Manila has advised that the demonstration held on 27 September resulted in the death of one bystander. In addition several bodies were found the day after the demonstration. A large number of people were injured and several arrests were made. One of those injured in the demonstration was Fidel Nemenzo, son of Dr Francisco Nemenzo, who is currently at the Australian National University on a fellowship. Fidel Nemenzo is now in a satisfactory condition. The National Assembly has unanimously condemned the violence and instituted an investigation.

(2) The Australian Government has been paying close attention to recent developments in the Philippines. Reports of growing differences between the Government and important sections of the community, including the Church, are a matter of particular concern. It is apparent that there is a growing demand within the Philippines for political reform. The Government hopes that these demands can be resolved peacefully and constructively and with respect for democratic processes and human rights.

(3) Australia has a small defence co-operation program (DCP) with the Philippines which has increased-from $0.804m in 1979-80 to $1.66m in 1983-84. DCP expenditure since 1979-80 has remained about the same both in real terms and as a proportion of the overall Defence Co-operation Program-3.4 per cent.

No weapons or armaments are provided to the Philippines under the DCP, which, with the Singapore DCP, is the smallest in South East Asia.

The Government is aware of criticisms that the DCP with the Philippines contributes to, or exacerbates, human rights problems in that country. The Program comprises mostly training and technical advisory assistance related to Australian equipment previously supplied under the Program. In 1983-84 the DCP provided maintenance assistance for 12 Nomad aircraft; technical assistance for Australian-made small-arms target equipment (DART); medical kits; and the provision of training in Australia. We would hope that exposure of overseas trainees to Australian military institutions and traditions and to the attitudes of the broader Australian community during training courses in Australia will in the longer term help to increase awareness of human rights issues and thus reduce abuses.