Archive for the ‘VFA/Balikatan’ Category

Barangay RP Komix (Gloria’s VFA Nightmare)

May 27, 2009

Brgy RP VFA

More Balikatan Woes in Bicol

April 20, 2009

militants declare:
Probe on Balikatan prostitution a whitewash!
The Bikolano Alliance for Nationalism against Balikatan (BAN BALIKATAN) called the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) probe on the Balikatan prostitution issue as nothing but a white wash.

According to Prof. Jocelyn Bisuña, spokesperson of BAN BALIKATAN, “the AFP is just trying to cover up the misdemeanors of the US troops that is why their so-called probe is just a white wash. Besides they will be investigating themselves so they would just exonerate themselves as well, like what they always do,”

“Their alibi stating that it might be other Caucasians visiting the Magayon festival that may be ordering the women does not hold water because as the head of the Tourism Committee of the Province of Albay Councillor Glenda Bongao said many legitimate tourists are complaining that because of the US troops booking all hotels here, they cannot go to the Magayon Festival,” Bisuña said.

“The top hotels here also say that most of their rooms if not all of them are occupied by US troops which number around 400 and considering the fact that at least 2 batches of 8-10 women are brought to these hotels every night tell us that they cater to a lot of Americans troops she said.”

“We have also received reports that residents of Uson, Masbate no longer have water because the US troops and the AFP consume it all. Just as we said the Balikatan will do more harm than good to the region and now we are already experiencing it,” added Bisuña.(Bicol Mail)

AFP Denies NPA-Bicol’s News Advisory

April 20, 2009

Blast NPA for seaborne ambush

CAMP ELIAS ANGELES, PILI, CAMARINES SUR—Army spokesperson Major Christopher Morales of the 9th Infantry Battalion in Bicol blasted Monday the “news advisory” sent through email to media outlets that five Army men were killed by the New People’s Army (NPA) in a daring seaborne ambush, supposedly in “North Coastal” of Lagonoy town on March 27”.

“The story should have already been out in the mainstream media at this moment, if assuming something happened like that,” Morales commented and he went on to say that it is a sweeping propaganda aimed at putting doubt on the capability of the Army. “Where are the bodies? Why didn’t people hear the firefight?” he added.

The emailed “news advisory”, dated on the same date of the seaborne ambush was supposedly sent by an NPA commander with certain name of Baldemoro Archangel, spokesperson of Tomas Pilapil Command of the NPA in Camarines Sur’s third district.

Morales added the NPA is just making a political statement that would put the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in the bad light.

He said the military establishment encourages the filing of cases against erring members of the AFP and that they would cooperate with investigating body to probe the imputation against any soldier and officer, including alleged human rights violation.

Raising alarm on five deaths attributed to military operations from February to March, the National Democratic Front (NDF)-Bicol links the incidents of killing to the clearing operation of the AFP in preparation to the RP-US Balikatan Exercises in Bicol planned staged in April.

Ka Greg Bañares, spokesperson of NDF-Bicol, enumerated five civilians killed in the provinces of Camarines Sur, Albay and Catanduanes in the course of military clearing operations involving members of Citizen’s Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu) with a 16-month-old baby the youngest victim.

According to Morales it was the NPA’s bullets that killed the baby. Their investigation team found out that the NPA were holding meeting it Balanac when the Army soldiers arrived. “Our soldiers did not even fire a shot and when the rebels scampered to flee they indiscriminately fired which resulted to civilian casualty,” he added.

Bañares also accused the Army soldiers and Cafgu members together with the mayor of Presentacion, Jaime Deleña, of firing at the hapless fishermen suspected of fishing illegally in San Jose, Camarines Sur that killed Domingo Bardado and seriously wouding William Arroyo.

In this particular incident, Morales said it was Deleña and Task Force Kalikasan who requested assistance from Army. He said the fishermen charged at the apprehending authorities and fired shots which made the Cafgu members retaliate by firing at the fleeing fishermen.(Bicol Mail)

House Resolution 1020 by Bayan Muna, Gabriela and Anakpawis Partylist Reps Re: Balikatan in Bicol

April 17, 2009

Republic of the Philippines

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

Quezon City

FOURTEENTH CONGRESS

Second Regular Session

HOUSE RESOLUTION NO. 1020

______________________________________________________________________

INTRODUCED by Reps. SATUR C. OCAMPO and TEODORO A. CASIÑO (Bayan Muna),

LIZA L. MAZA and LUZVIMINDA C. ILAGAN (Gabriela), and RAFAEL V. MARIANO (Anakpawis)

______________________________________________________________________

RESOLUTION
DIRECTING THE COMMITTEES ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND NATIONAL DEFENSE AND SECURITY TO JOINTLY OR SEPARATELY CONDUCT AN INQUIRY, IN AID OF LEGISLATION, ON THE IMPACT OF THE RP-US BALIKATAN JOINT MILITARY EXERCISES TO OUR NATION’S SOVEREIGNTY AND THE SAFETY OF THE PEOPLE IN THE BICOL REGION

WHEREAS, the Bicol region has the distinction of having the last Filipino General to surrender during the Philippine-American war – General Simeon A. Ola – who along with other patriots, fervently defended the region and the whole country against the American colonizers;

WHEREAS, a new type of invasion is happening in Bicol in the form of the RP-US Balikatan (Shoulder-to-Shoulder) exercises that will see thousands of US troops enter four provinces of the region from February 25 to April 30, 2009;

WHEREAS, Balikatan 2009 is to be the 25th annual event of its kind under the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) of 1951 and the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). Both the US and Philippine national governments claim that this event shall comprise “humanitarian missions” in Camarines Sur, Albay, Sorsogon and Masbate;

WHEREAS, the Balikatan exercises and the VFA violate our national sovereignty because they cause the prolonged presence of foreign troops on Philippine soil despite the absence of any basing treaty;

WHEREAS, the VFA, as crafted and implemented, does not specify or limit the number of US troops allowed entry into the Philippines or delineate the areas and activities in the country that the “visiting” troops can have access to for a particular time frame. The VFA allows US troops to enter military camps, civilian facilities and even areas of actual internal armed conflicts such as Sulu and Basilan provinces;

WHEREAS, the VFA does not specify or limit the duration of the stay of the “visiting” US forces. The agreement’s vagueness in this respect allows the continuing, even if rotational, presence of US troops in the Philippines;

WHEREAS, the VFA does not explicitly prohibit activities that violate our Constitution, such as direct combat involvement of US forces. The VFA allows the US to deploy an unlimited number of troops, for an unspecified duration, anywhere in country for a broad range of activities that may not be limited to “joint exercises;”

WHEREAS, since the “visiting” US troops are not required to present visas like other foreign visitors, there is really no way under the VFA for the public to know how long they actually stay, when they will leave and when they would return;

WHEREAS, the presence of US troops, even if on a rotational basis, has become permanent. For example the structures in Camp Navarro in Zamboanga have been ‘permanently occupied’ by US Special Forces, 365 days a year, for almost six years now;

WHEREAS, there are several “exercises” and activities between US and RP armed forces throughout the year, all of which are said to be approved by the Mutual Defense Board. However, there have been many conflicting statements from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and other government officials on whether or not the current batch of US forces (both in civilian clothes and in combat fatigues) in the country are covered by any joint exercise;

WHEREAS, according to Major Ramon Zagala, AFP spokesperson for the annual Balikatan, about 6,000 US troops will join 2,500 Filipino soldiers in “humanitarian missions” and “civic actions” from April 16 to 28 with the main part of the exercises to take place at Filipino military bases north and south of Manila;

WHEREAS, Maj. Zagala also said that the US government would spend at least US$2 million on the exercises and would bring in a number of warships and aircraft, including F-16 fighter planes into the country. He also added that US military medics and engineers would also conduct clinics and build schools and other basic infrastructure in the Bicol region;

WHEREAS, the terms “humanitarian mission” and “civic action” have become the standard response of both the AFP and the US embassy every time US forces get involved in incidents that are not covered by the VFA, such as operating unmanned spy planes, or being part of AFP military convoys that engage in combat missions;

WHEREAS, the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) by US forces in Mindanao and now in Bicol have been reported in media. The Mindanao Examiner reported that a UAV crashed in Jolo, Sulu (February 2006); an unmanned spy plane reportedly crashed in Mount Tumatangis in Jolo (November 2005); and a Predator-type drone crashed in the sea off Zamboanga City (March 2002);

WHEREAS, various media reports have said that “the US military has a fleet of various unmanned spy planes, from palm-size remote-controlled aircraft to bigger and sophisticated high-altitude, long-range, remotely piloted vehicles designed for long-endurance photographic reconnaissance and electronic surveillance missions, and as attack aircrafts;”

WHEREAS, the AFP has defended presence of US spy planes. Maj. Gamal Hayudini, a spokesperson for the AFP Southern Command, told the Zamboanga Journal that “there is nothing to fear about the US drones. It is being used to survey areas where humanitarian activities will be jointly undertaken by US and Philippine troops.” This does not answer who controls the surveillance equipment, grants authority for its use and who are the targets of spying;

WHEREAS, the use of these UAVs are not limited to surveillance activities. They can also be used as lethal offensive weapons, such as the cases of US forces in Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan;

WHEREAS, on January 29, 2009 around 6:30pm, a US UAV drone crashed between the towns of Esperanza and Pio V. Corpuz in Masbate province;

WHEREAS, sometime in January 2009, a US naval officer visited several hospitals in Albay province, asking health care personnel if they had orthopedic facilities. This also shows that US are preparing to do “war games” and possibly participate in direct combat operations with the AFP;

WHEREAS, “humanitarian missions” and “civic actions” are part of the “communications strategy” being employed by the US armed forces to justify their continued presence in the country as stated in the Strategic Communication document of the US Pacific Command (PACOM) Pacific Joint Training Strategy. Such activities are undertaken “to educate elected officials, opinion leaders and the public on the importance of military training; build public trust and support of training activities; portray the cost of readiness and potential impact of not being ready…and highlight the military as good stewards of the environment;”

WHEREAS, humanitarian missions are not the main activities of US Special Forces in previous joint exercises in Central Luzon, Mindanao and Panay. It will not be different in the exercises to be launched in Bicol. They are merely part of a “communications strategy” that is subsumed to strategic US military thrusts. In the US Pacific Command Joint Training Strategy 2007, the umbrella plan for activities such as the Balikatan, it stated that “the overarching goal of the Pacific Joint Training Strategy is to ensure U.S. forces are ready to respond promptly and effectively to any and all contingencies that may confront our nation;”

WHEREAS, it has been ten years since the VFA came into effect. Under this agreement, especially from 2002 to the present, various illegal and criminal activities involving American troops have placed the general safety of the local people into question;

WHEREAS, there is a pressing need to look into the current tack of the AFP interpreting foreign policy and the application of relevant treaties and agreements with regard to the Balikatan exercises;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, AS IT IS HEREBY RESOLVED, that the Committees on Foreign Relations and National Defense and Security, jointly or separately, conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation, on the impact of Balikatan exercises to our nation’s sovereignty and the safety of the people in the Bicol region.

Adopted,

SATUR C. OCAMPO TEODORO A. CASIÑO LIZA L. MAZA

Bayan Muna Party List Bayan Muna Party List Gabriela Womens Party

LUZVIMINDA C. ILAGAN RAFAEL V. MARIANO

Gabriela Womens Party Anakpawis Party List

Anti-Balikatan Poster

April 17, 2009

Kalbaryong balikatan

http://kalbaryongbalikatan.blogspot.com

Editorial Cartoon: Sili Lover

April 16, 2009

spice-lover

Tsk!

Manila waits for US move on Cpl Smith DFA: Americans not ready to discuss issue

February 14, 2009

By Tarra Quismundo, Kristine L. Alave
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 03:11:00 02/14/2009

Filed Under: Crime and Law and Justice, Subic rape case, Diplomacy

MANILA, Philippines — A Philippine official on Friday said any new negotiations on custody of Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith would have to wait until the Americans were ready to talk, and indicated Manila was powerless to compel Washington to sit down immediately.

“Right now, the department is very serious in coordinating with the US embassy. But they had to approach first their experts to get their legal opinion,” Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Bayani Mangibin said in a phone interview.

Mangibin said: “We don’t have a policy to wait for them … What can we do if they are not ready?”

Earlier, US diplomats made it clear they were firm in their position to keep custody of the American Marine convicted of raping the Filipino woman “Nicole” until the courts had ruled with finality on Smith’s appeal.

Smith has been confined in the US Embassy compound, according to US and Philippine officials, since December 2006 after he was sentenced by a Makati court up to 40 years in jail for raping Nicole during a one-night encounter at Subic Bay Freeport. He has elevated his case to the Court of Appeals.

A new furor erupted over the custody issue after the Supreme Court last week ruled that the US-Philippine executive agreement that allowed the embassy to keep Smith ran counter to the two countries’ Visiting Forces Agreement. The court ordered the DFA to immediately negotiate with the US the transfer of Smith to a Philippine-controlled facility.

Main concern

Mangibin said the DFA had started the “process of coordination” with the embassy on the issue of custody, based on the Supreme Court ruling. He said the DFA was also consulting the Departments of Justice and Interior and Local Government, and the Solicitor General.

“Our main concern is to look for appropriate arrangements for Daniel Smith,” he said.

The embassy has said it is studying the court decision and referred it to government legal experts in Washington.

Mangibin said formal negotiations could begin after the embassy had received the legal opinion from Washington and that in the meantime, Smith would stay at the embassy compound.

3 scenarios

Interior Undersecretary Marius Corpus said yesterday that after his last check on Smith on Feb. 5—or several days before the high court’s ruling came out—he met with an embassy political officer and discussed three possibilities in anticipation of a court decision.

In that meeting, Corpus saw the embassy’s steadfast position to continue holding on to Smith until the appeals process had been completed. After his December 2006 conviction, Smith was briefly held at a Makati jail before the embassy took custody of him—in the middle of the night—based on the controversial executive agreement.

“We talked about the possible consequences of the Supreme Court decision,” Corpus said. The discussion was not prompted by any advance information on the court’s eventual ruling, Corpus said when asked if there was any leak.

“One, that the Supreme Court would declare the VFA unconstitutional. Two, I said it’s highly probable that the court would affirm the VFA’s constitutionality, including the agreement [to hold Smith at the embassy], and that it would order some provisions of the VFA revised,” Corpus said by phone.

“Third, that everything will be upheld, both the VFA and the transfer (of Smith to the embassy).”

Lobby for Smith

Corpus said when the issue of custodial arrangement was brought up, the US side said: “We’ve already agreed on that. We’d like to continue what was agreed upon.”

Corpus said he heard that a congressman from Smith’s home state of Missouri was “lobbying in the State Department for it to take care of Smith.”

“That’s the reason why they defend Smith so much,” Corpus said, adding however that he had no categorical information about the supposed lobby.

Also discussed at the meeting was Smith’s condition while in detention, particularly his having gained a lot of weight, according to Corpus, who said he had been visiting Smith almost monthly.

“They (the embassy officials) said, ‘We should give him work, with your permission,’ so that he will not deteriorate physically,” Corpus said.

Corpus said he agreed, noting that similar activities were allowed local prisoners. He said he just asked that any chores given to Smith should not compromise the terms of his confinement.

‘He is bored’

“You can see the emotional stress in him,” Corpus said. “Every time I talk to him, I can see that he is emotionally suffering. He is very bored. The condition is even better in detention facilities outside, where [detainees] have some company.”

Corpus assured the Nicole camp that Smith remained inside the embassy compound, contrary to claims by some of the rape victim’s supporters that he had been spirited out of the embassy.

“Even if I visit him every day, they will not believe me,” Corpus said.

Send him to Munti

Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo has joined growing calls for Smith’s immediate transfer to a local prison.

“We demand that the Philippine government immediately effect the transfer of Smith to the New Bilibid Prison,” Ocampo said in a press statement. “We cannot understand why a clear-cut exercise of sovereignty, in this case custody over a convicted foreign felon, should be subject to negotiations.”

Ocampo added: “What the Philippine government should do is simply impose its own laws over a foreigner who violated those laws. It should not negotiate but order the US Embassy to turn over Smith to the proper local authority.”

Indefinite delay

The leftist lawmaker said the high court’s order for the DFA to arrange a detention place acceptable to Washington was just a ruse to “indefinitely delay” Smith’s transfer. With a report from Gil C. Cabacungan Jr.

Supreme Court orders US Marine into local custody

February 11, 2009

MANILA — (Updated 5:23 p.m.) The Philippine Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered a US Marine convicted of rape to be moved from the American Embassy into Philippine custody, reopening an emotional case that has become a rallying point for anti-American protests.

The court ruled that a deal allowing Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith to stay at the embassy while appealing his 40-year jail term was contrary to the Visiting Forces Agreement, which governs the conduct of U.S. forces in the country.

The justices instructed Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo to negotiate Smith’s transfer to an appropriate detention facility.

Pending such an agreement, Smith can remain at the embassy, the court said.

It also directed the Court of Appeals to quickly resolve Smith’s appeal.

The US Embassy issued a statement saying it would consult with legal experts in Washington.

The rape case has stirred emotions in the former US colony and became a rallying point for activists demanding an end to US military counterterrorism exercises.

Smith, 23, from St. Louis, Missouri, was detained and put on trial in 2006 after a woman accused him of rape. After sentencing, he was transferred from a local jail to US custody while his case was on appeal.

When a Filipino judge initially ordered that Smith be detained in a suburban Manila jail, the US government temporarily suspended joint, large-scale military exercises in protest. Washingon agreed to proceed with the annual Balikatan war exercises with the Philippines only after Smith had been transferred to the embassy.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo backed the US position and said Smith’s embassy detention was necessary to avoid complications in relations with its key ally.

A provision in the 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement states that any accused US service member shall remain in American custody until all judicial proceedings are exhausted.

But there are differing interpretations of when that is. The Filipino woman’s lawyer, Evalyn Ursua, and the left-wing alliance Bayan claim Smith should be serving his sentence in a Philippine jail, regardless of his appeal.

Smith’s lawyer, Jose Justiniano, said he explained the implications of the decision to his client. He said Smith has no choice but to comply. (AP)(Sunstar)

BAN Balikatan (Bicolano Alliance for Nationalism Against Balikatan) protests the RP-US military exercies in the Bicol provinces

January 29, 2009

BAN Balikatan (Bicolano Alliance for Nationalism Against Balikatan)

protests the RP-US military exercies in the Bicol provinces

Bonus Tracks: Bushrack

January 22, 2009

Mass Mobilizations Against Balikatan All Over Bicol Today
01/22/2009 by banbalikatan

In Albay, 5,000 people expressed their resounding opposition of the conduct of Balikatan 2009 in Bicol and thundered the streets to shout: STOP BALIKATAN! They also told the US Troops to stay out of Albay Province.

In Sorsogon, 7,000 people stormed into the streets shouting NO TO BALIKATAN and encouraging more Sorsoganon folks to speak out against Balikatan and defend our sovereignty.
Sorsoganons by the thousands rally against Balikatan

In Masbate, 8,000 people congested the narrow streets in order to indicate their strong opposition of Balikatan 2009 and no to indignity, intervention, human rights violations, US terrorism and poverty.

In Camarines Sur, 2,000 people flooded the streets shouting out protests and pouring out their indignation of foreign intervention and violations to the Constitution.

In Camarines Norte, a substantial number of people also participated in an Outdoor Activity to protest against Balikatan.

All over Bicol today, January 22, 2009, more than 22,000 Bicolano nationalists headed by BAN Balikatan expressed their opposition to US Intervention and terrorism. Bicolanos showed that they will never rest until the US troops have totally been driven out of our country, VFA/MLSA have totally been scrapped, genuine peace has been achieved and our country has undergone significant and lasting political and economic change.

—————————————————————–

01/20/2009 by banbalikatan
News Release
January 20, 2009
References: Tessa Lopez, public information officer, BAYAN-Bikol
John Concepcion, spokesperson, KARAPATAN-Bikol

Bicol militants challenge new US President Obama to Stop Balikatan!
Sets massive rally against Balikatan on Jan. 22

Leaders of people’s organizations comprising the umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Bikol (BAYAN-Bikol) gathered in Legazpi City today to issue a challenge to US President-elect Barack Obama on the day of his inaguration to put a stop to the Balikatan exercises in the country, as well as to rescind the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

According to Tessa Lopez, public information officer of BAYAN-Bikol; “As the new president of the sole superpower in the world, we hope that Obama will make a clear foreign policy shift contrary to the war-mongering Bush regime.. In this light, our challenge to him is to stop the Balikatan exercises in the Philippines before it cause more damage to the lives of Filipinos,”

“To show the urgency and seriousness of our call we will lead a massive rally against the Balikatan this coming January 22. All provinces of the region will mobilize on this day and we expect at least 20,000 people to participate. This is a clear manifestation of the Bicolano people’s opposition against the exercises,” added Lopez.

Meanwhile John Concepcion, spokesperson of KARAPATAN-Bikol said, “If the Balikatan is not stopped we fear that the number of human rights violations will spike in the region. This is aside from the fact that the US troops are trampling on our country’s sovereignty and they are also endangering the lives of Bicolanos with their war games,”

“So we are enjoining more Oragons to come and participate in the rally so that early on we can register our opposition to the Balikatan and the VFA. Like Gen. Simeon Ola we must continuously oppose the presence of US troops in our country,” ended Concepcion. # # #

Kabataang Pinoy (Filipino Youth) of Bicol Speaks Out Against Balikatan

01/21/2009 by banbalikatan

Kabataang Pinoy-Bikol Statement:
Reference: Journey Alfonso, Spokesperson
ANG KABATAANG PINOY-BIKOL AY KONTRA SA BALIKATAN

Kaming mga Kabataang Bikolano ng KABATAANG PINOY ay maigting na tumututol sa pagpasok ng Balikatan exercises sa Kabikulan. Walang ibang hatid ang pagdating ng tropang militar ng Kano kundi ang pamamaslang, paninira at pangwawasak ng kabuhayan at mismong buhay nating mga Bikolano.

Hindi makakatulong sa pag asenso ng ating rehiyon at bansa ang tropang militar ng Kano. Bagkus, lalo lang iigting ang kaguluhan. Kung talagang “Humanitarian Mission” lamang ang kanilang sadya, bakit hindi ang Red Cross na lamang ang maglunsad nito? Pinalalabas lamang nila na Humanitarian Mission ang pakay upang malinlang ang mga tao at malaya nilang magawa ang tunay na anti-mamamayang misyon sa ating rehiyon.

Siguradong lalaganap na naman ang paglabag sa mga Karapatang Pantao sa ating bansa. Hindi pa ba sapat ang sakripisyo’t kahihiyan na dinanas ni Nicole at kanyang pamilya sa kamay ni Smith at iba pang kasamahang sundalong Kano? Napatunayan nga ng hukuman na nagkasala ang Amerikanong sundalong ito at nahatulan ng habambuhay na pagkabilanggo,ngunit ngayon ay pinalaya at nakabalik na sa sariling bayan.

Ang kaso ni Nicole na isang kabataang Pilipina ay pagpapatunay sa pagpoprotekta ng tropang Kano ng Balikatan. Hindi makatarungan ang batas. Ang nangyari kay Nicole ay maaring maulit kung hahayaan na lamang natin ang paglulunsad ng Balikatan Exercises dito sa Bikol.

Tutulan natin ang Balikatan, para sa katahimikan ng Bikol. Tutulan natin ang Balikatan at siguarduhing hindi na lumala pa ang talamak na prostitusyon, droga, sex scandals, pang aabuso, at mismong pagyurak sa Karapatang Pantao nating mga Bikolano. Tutulan natin ang Balikatan upang hindi na mas lumala pa ang pagdanak ng dugo ng maraming sibilyan. Huwag nating hayaang makapasok ang Tropang Kano sa ating Rehiyon na maaring magpakalat ng mga sakit tulad ng AIDS, Syphilis, atbpang klase ng sexually transmitted diseases o STD.

Hindi ang Balikatan Exercises ang sagot sa kahirapan, at hindi ito ang solusyon sa kagutuman. Huwag tayong magbulag-bulagan, alamin natin ang magiging epekto nito sa ating bayan. Huwag basta paniwalaan ang kasinungalingang sinasabi ng gobyerno, na makakatulong ito, at ito ay para rin sa ating kapakanan, dahil alam naman nating pansariling interes lamang ang iniisip ng may mga katungkulan sa gobyerno at hindi ang kapakanan nating mga mamamayang sibilyan.
Huwag hayaang dalhin sa Bicol ang gerang nangyayari na sa Mindanao,
Maigting nating isigaw: NO TO BALIKATAN!!!

Presss Conference in Legazpi City, Jan 20, 2009

PAHAYAG SA MIDYA
Enero 20, 2009
Reference: JOEL ASCUTIA, Regional President – PISTON Deputy Secretary General (09153199469 / 4834624)

RP-US BALIKATAN Exercise, Instrumento para sa Higit na Proteksyon sa Industriya ng Langis at sa Interes ng Estados Unidos!
BALIKATAN Exercise TUTULAN AT LABANAN!

Tinututulan ng CONDOR-PISTON-BICOL ang pagsasagawa ng ika 25 RP-US BALIKATAN Exercise sa Bikol. Ito ay tahasang paglabag sa soberanya, integridad at mga probinsyon sa Saligang Batas ng bansa.

Ito ay pagyurak sa kalayaan ng bansa at direktang panghihimasok sa internal na mga usaping dapat ay responsalidad ng ating gubyerno. Ang pagpasok ng mga sundalong Amerikano ay magdudulot ng mas malalalim na suliraning sosyal dahil sa pagdisrespeto sa ating kultura, tradisyon, relihiyon at kababaihan.

Ang RP-US BALIKATAN Exercise ay ang magkasanib na ehersisyo militar ng mga sundalong Amerikano at sundalong Pilipino. Sa bahagi ng mga sundalong Pilipino, layunin nitong mapamilyarisa at matuto sa mga makabagong teknika sa pakikidigma partikular sa paggamit ng mga sopistikadong kagamitan at sandatang pandigma.

Sa kabilang banda, matuto naman ang mga sundalong Amerikano sa mga bagong operasyong pangkombat sa mga kagubatan ng bansa.

Kung kaya’t hindi kami naniniwala sa sinasabi ng mga tagapagsalita ng BALIKATAN na “purong humanitarian mission” ang pakay nito, ito ay isa lamang na panlilinlang at panloloko sa mamamayan para maisagawa ang mas madilim na pakay nitong maglunsad ng mga operasyong militar laban sa mga mamamayang tumututol sa paghahari ng Estados sa buong mundo at sa rehimeng Arroyo bilang pinakamasugid na tagasunod nito sa bansa.

Sa pangunguna ng sektor ng tranportasyon at CONDOR-PISTON sa Bikol, naitambol natin sa bansa at sa buong daigdig ang ating malakas na panawagang buwagin ang pandaigdigang kartel sa industriya ng langis. Isa sa pangunahing pinagkukunan ng limpak limpak na kita ng Estados Unidos ang pagmamay-ari sa mga dambuhalang kumpanya ng langis gaya ng PETRON at CALTEX na siya ring nagdodomina sa bansa.

Sa bisa ng OIL DEREGULATION Law, nais ng US na manatili ang kanyang kontrol sa negosyong ito at tahasan nitong gagamitin ang kanyang pwersang militar para nyutralisahin at supilin ang higit pang lumalakas na paglaban ng sektor kasama ang buong mamamayang Bikolano at Pilipino.

Naninindigan din kami na hindi kailangang magsagawa muna ng BALIKATAN Exercise kung seryoso ang gobyernong Arroyo na tugunan ang problema ng mamamayan Bikolano sa kagutuman, kalusugan, eskwelahan at iba pa.

Hindi rin kailangan ang mga sundalong Amerikano para magpatupad nito dahil mayroon tayong mga ahensya at organisasyong sibiko na may ma kakayahan at karanasan sa pagpapatupad ng mga proyektong ito.

Huwag tayong pumayag na insultuhin at bastusin ang ating kalayaan at kasarinlan ng NUMERO UNONG TERORISTA sa daigdig na Estados Unidos. Magkaisa tayong tutulan at labanan ang BALIKATAN Exercise sa Bicol at saanmang lugar sa Pilipinas.
Buwagin ang Pandaigdigang Kartel sa Langis!
Wakasan ang Imperyalitang Pandarambong sa Bansa at sa Daigdig!

Drive Out US Troops and Balikatan! – Tindog Atenista
01/22/2009 by banbalikatan

Statement
Tindog Atenista
Reference: Gerard Edgar O. Surtida, Spokesperson
STOP BALIKATAN 2009! NO MORE TO FOREIGN INTERVENTION!

Tindog Atenista, an alliance of individuals and organizations in Ateneo de Naga University, condemns the implementation of the Balikatan 2009 and its suspicious objectives through “humanitarian missions”.

The news has erupted and was confirmed by the released statements from the advance party movements of the RP-US Balikatan that since October last year, they have ensured that several areas in the Bicol region will be the primary locations for the implementation of the 25th Balikatan Exercies 2009.

The Chairman of the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement Commission Edilberto Adan, other high-ranking officials, and the military spokesperson of the Solcom, 9th ID and 901st 1B also confirmed that there are 3-4 possible provinces in Bicol Region that will be affected.

JUNK THE MDT and VFA! The implementation of the Balikatan Exercises throughout the country came forth from the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) of 1951, which states that the Republic of the Philippines has entered into a “mutual understanding and agreement” with the United States of America in terms of military activities.

This continues to reflect the characteristics of the country being a dependent, neo-colonial outpost of the United States of America. Such characteristics were observed in US’s wars of aggression against Korea and Vietnam. From the MDT, Visiting Forces Agreement came to be. This This lengthened the direct and indirect interference and stay of US in Philippine soil, making the country open for foreign military activities.

Provisions in the VFA sets that US military forces need not to be inspected in entering and leaving the country, making us more prone to illegal activities such as illegal drugs, smuggled goods, exploitation of natural resources, nuclear weapons, etc. only US military forces are given the authority to check and inspect their own cargo and transport vehicle as stipulated in the provision.

Furthermore, a provision of tax exemption is given to these foreign elements, which is a big disadvantage to our economy’s part. Both MDT and VFA aimed to have a more developed and improved military tactics and technology but for more than 50 years of foreign intervention, no development was seen and our AFP still remains backward.

This is a grave offense against our sovereignty and a severe threat to our national security.

WE WANT GENUINE SOVEREIGNTY AND INTEGRITY! Balikatan 2009 with the objective of giving humanitarian actions to the Bikolanos is a farce. It is a farce that was proven in the past Balikatan exercises. Its unwanted effects were further supported by the 17 congressmen of Mindanao for its suspension.

What the people need is not more foreign activities and intervention happening in our country but a change and progress in economy, politics, and culture. What the people need is change and progress that is not tainted by the filth coming from foreign influences.

What we need is a government that is efficient and sufficient by itself and free from overseas interference. Provisions of MDT and VFA directly contradict our right to sovereignty and integrity. Such provisions disrespects and puts into utter disregard our laws of the land.

It is a big conspiracy of lies and deceptions Balikatan will bring more human rights violations as seen in the “Nicole Case”, more environmental degradation, more exploitation of our natural and human resources, and more chaos within the region. This is unacceptable.

WE NEED WHAT IS NECESSARY! The very fact that this is a humanitarian mission is also as true as the thought that Balikatan 2009 is a free helping hand. The Philippines being the host country for this program will the source of finance for this activity. What we need right now is not the “helping hands” of foreign elements.

Needless to say, we do not need them at all in these times of crisis and hardships. We need proper and fair subsidies in education, agriculture, development and improvement of facilities and services, and health.

We do not need hypocrites to walk among the oppressed and suppressed. We do not need more funding for the military activities for this will not save us from our churning stomachs and burnt down lungs.

What we need is change and progression without this aliens interfering in everything that we do. Drive them out now!

We therefore call upon the youth sector and the other sectors of Bicol region to stand up and drive out the Balikatan 2009.

Also, we call upon the people and other public officials to junk the MDT and VFA for it is the basis why such foreign intervention continues to exist in our country.

YOUTH STOP BALIKATAN!
DEFEND OUR SOVEREIGNTY & INTEGRITY!
DRIVE THEM OUT NOW!

News Release
January 17, 2009
Reference: Prof. Jocelyn Bisuna, spokesperson, BAN BALIKATAN

More sectors speaking out against Balikatan exercises!
Sorsogon alliance vs Balikatan launched

More and more sectors are now voicing out their opposition against the planned Balikatan exercises in the Bicol region. Now, a Sorsogon-wide group named Sorsoganon United Movement Against Balikatan at Para sa Kapayapaan or SUMABA KA (SPEAK OUT) is launched to demand a stop to the exercises.

According to Jocelyn Bisuna, spokesperson of the region-wide alliance BAN BALIKATAN, “Aside from people’s organizations and human rights advocates, Sen. Francis Escudero and the Catholic Church in Legazpi have already taken their position. Sen. Escudero pointed out the ‘hidden agenda’ that may be behind the Balikatan exercises and expressed fear that it may be used to interfere with Philippine affairs.

“Meanwhile Bishop Lucilo Quiambao voiced out his view that the Balikatan will just be a bane to Bicolanos because civilians will be the ones caught in the crossfire when US troops are engaged in armed encounters. The bishop also said that prostitution would increase with the presence of US troops and the morality of our youth will be endangered,” said Bisuna.


“It is good that more and more people and organizations are now coming out and standing up against Balikatan 09. It is even better now that an alliance like SUMABA KA has been formed to carry out the campaign against this new type of invasion,” added the patriotic teacher.

“We hope that other formations like these will be formed at the soonest time possible in other Bicol provinces so that we can show the US troops that we do not want them here and we have not forgotten our history,” ended Bisuna.

The convenors of SUMABA KA are the following Fr. Rene Mabute, Sorsogon State College(SSC) President Dr. Antonio Fuentes, Pastor Lemuel Igdanes (UCCP), Atty.Joven Laura, Mr. Lito Bonifacio, Mrs. Elisea Bonifacio (Baptist), Mrs. Jenny Decano, SSC Student Council President Jayboy Evano, Joey Goiz, Red Lasay, Noel Gepulle (KADAMAY), Enrique Ermino (LFS), Mark Rosas (KARATULA), Eduardo Ferreras (PORTA), Reynaldo Hababag (BAYAN), Jing Francisco, Teodoro Escanilla (KARAPATAN), Constantino Jerus (KMP) and Lisa Dugan (UMASA SORSOGON BAY) . # # #

=================

American Soldiers in Sorsogon

===================

Bonus Track

GUARDIAN.CO.UK


President orders air strikes on villages in tribal area

* Ewen MacAskill in Washington
* The Guardian, Saturday 24 January 2009

Barack Obama gave the go-ahead for his first military action yesterday, missile strikes against suspected militants in Pakistan which killed at least 18 people.

Four days after assuming the presidency, he was consulted by US commanders before they launched the two attacks. Although Obama has abandoned many of the “war on terror” policies of George Bush while he was president, he is not retreating from the hunt for Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders.

The US believes they are hiding in the tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan, and made 30 strikes last year in which more than 200 people were killed. In the election, Obama hinted at increased operations in Pakistan, saying he thought Bush had made a mistake in switching to Iraq before completing the job against al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The US marine corp commander said yesterday that his 22,000 troops should be redeployed from Iraq to Afghanistan. Gen James Conway said “the time is right” to leave Iraq now the war had become largely nation-building rather than the pitched fighting in which the corps excelled; he wanted the marines in Afghanistan, especially in the south where insurgents, and the Taliban and al-Qaida, benefit from both a nearby safe haven in Pakistan and a booming trade in narcotics.

Obama has warned that he is prepared to bomb inside Pakistan if he gets relevant intelligence about the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. He had also said he would act against militants along the border if the Pakistan government failed to.

The US missiles were fired by unmanned Predator drones, which hang in the sky gathering intelligence through surveillance and, when commanded and directed by remote control, to launch attacks.

The strikes will help Obama portray himself as a leader who, though ready to shift the balance of American power towards diplomacy, is not afraid of military action.

The first attack yesterday was on the village of Zharki, in Waziristan; three missiles destroyed two houses and killed 10 people. One villager told Reuters of phonethat of nine bodies pulled from the rubble of one house, six were its owner and his relatives; Reuters added that intelligence officials said some foreign militants were also killed. A second attack hours later also in Warizistan killed eight people.

The Pakistan government publicly expressed hope that the arrival of Obama would see a halt to such strikes, which stir up hostility from Pakistanis towards the government; in private, the government may be more relaxed about such attacks.

There is a lot of nervousness in the new administration about the fragility of Pakistan, particularly as it has nuclear weapons, but it also sees Afghanistan and Pakistan as being linked. In the face of a Taliban resurgence, there is despair in Washington over the leadership of the Afghan leader, Hamid Karzai, and there will not be much disappointment if he is replaced in elections later this year.

But Washington insists on seeing as one of its biggest problems the ability of the Taliban and al-Qaida to maintain havens in Pakistan. Obama on Thursday announced he was making veteran diplomat Richard Holbrooke a special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan. The secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, spoke by phone to the Pakistan president, Asif Ali Zardari.

===================

http://www.arkibongbayan.org/breakingnews/banbalikatan.jpg

BAN Balikatan or Bicolano Alliance for Nationalism Against Balikatan is an alliance of nationalist and patriotic Bicolanos against the 2009 RP-US Balikatan Exercises – the 25th Joint RP-US War Exercises, to be conducted in the provinces of Region V Bicol, Philippines.

BAN Balikatan believes that the main purpose for conducting joint military exercises by the AFP and US Military in Bicol this 2009 is to intensify the US intervention in our country.This activity is a flagrant violation of our country’s sovereignty and integrity based from the related provisions in the Constitution.

Contact BAN Balikatan at banbalikatan.media@gmail.com

Visit website at:

http://banbalikatan.wordpress.com/

US troops seen in Bicol for war games

January 25, 2009

By Delfin Mallari Jr. Southern Luzon Bureau

LUCENA CITY — American military personnel have been inspecting various sites in the Bicol region for the joint US-RP military exercises in April, fisherfolk here said over the weekend.

The Lakas ng Mangingisda ng Bicol (Lambat-Bicol, Forces of the Bicol Fishermen) expressed fear of being displaced from their traditional fishing grounds as a result of the security preparations for the Balikatan (Shoulder to Shoulder) exercises.

Quoting an initial report by the Lambat-Bicol, Fernando Hicap, chairman of the nationwide fishers’ alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya, National Forces of the Fishers Movement of the Philippines), said several unidentified US military personnel were seen inspecting spme coastal villages in Masbate City and towns of Mobo, Uson, and Cataingan in Masbate province.

Hicap said Lambat-Bicol also noted the early presence of US troops in Oas, Albay, particularly in the farming villages of San Pascual, San Miguel, and Talisay, where the Army’s 5th engineering battalion has been based.

The Pamalakaya leader also said that based on the report of Lambat-Bicol, a number of US troops were spotted in Irosin, Sorsogon. Aside from Albay, Sorsogon, and Masbate, Hicap claimed that the “Balikatan” would also cover Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur.

The Balikatan is part of the mutual defense treaty between the Philippines and the United States. Its primary objective is to improve the “interoperability” of the two countries’ armed forces for defense.

Citing military intelligence information, Hicap said US war ships would avail of the interconnecting bodies of water in the Bicol region namely the Ragay Gulf, Albay Gulf, and Sorsogon Bay that join the provinces of Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Albay, Sorsogon, and Masbate for the loading and unloading of US troops and personnel.

Hicap said the fishermen in Bicol have been bracing for a fishing ban by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in areas to be covered by the annual war games.

“We saw it coming. There’s no recourse for us but to face and fight this anti-fisherfolk Balikatan exercises in the sea, in the parliament of the streets and in the court of public opinion,” Hicap said in a statement sent to Philippine Daily Inquirer, parent company of INQUIRER.net.

The fishers group claimed that over a 100,000 fishermen would lose their livelihood to the “crazy and shameful military stint.”

“We will not allow this puppet government to sacrifice our rights and livelihood to please their Washington-based military puppeteer,” said the Pamalakaya leader.

Reports said some 400 American doctors, engineers and nurses, belonging predominantly to the military, would join the month-long exercise to provide humanitarian aid to depressed areas in Albay, Sorsogon and Masbate.

According to the Philippine military, the three provinces are considered hotbeds of the communist insurgency in the Bicol region.

Military officials in the region have assured war games critics that the aims of the exercises were “peace and development” in the form of medical missions and engineering works.

Wary of the joint US-RP war games, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) has ordered its armed wing, the New People’s Army, to attack Filipino and American military forces that would participate in the military exercises.

Hicap said the RP-US Balikatan exercises were not only meant to gain future access to rebel-controlled territories but would also involve intelligence and military operations against militant groups in Bicol, which the AFP and the US State Department have labeled as “communist front organizations.”

Group opposes RP-US war games in Bicol

January 22, 2009

By Ephraim Aguilar, Roy Gersalia
Southern Luzon Bureau
First Posted 00:06:00 01/22/2009

Filed Under: Regional authorities

LEGAZPI CITY – The many unsolved cases of sexual abuse of Filipino women by US servicemen should be reason enough to call off planned joint military exercises between Philippine and US forces in Bicol, according to a militant women’s party.

Jenelyn Nagrampa, secretary general of Bikolana Gabriela, said her group filed 97 cases of rape and sexual assault against American soldiers in the former US bases in Clark and Subic.

She said 15 of the victims in these cases were children.

Many of the cases were filed prior to the closure of the US bases.

Nagrampa said when the US military bases were still operating, more than 3,000 cases of abuse of women and children were filed by various sectors and individuals against US servicemen in Clark from 1980 to 1988.

“Sadly, justice was not served to any of the victims. None of the cases has been resolved. Others have not even been reported,” she said.

“The public should be reminded that there was more than just one Nicole,” she added.

Nicole was the victim in the much-publicized Subic rape case in 2005, wherein US Marine Daniel Smith was convicted while three others were acquitted.

The Subic rape case is considered a landmark case, being the first conviction among over 3,000 cases filed against US servicemen in the Philippines.

She said Gabriela would push for a resolution in the House of Representatives urging the government to ban US troops from coming to Bicol.

The annual joint military exercises, which Philippine Army officials said would be composed of humanitarian projects, will be staged in three Bicol provinces – Albay, Masbate and Sorsogon – in April.

She said if Balikatan pushed through in Bicol, it was likely to increase the number of cases of women abuse, prostitution and spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

Earlier, Bishop Lucilo Quiambao of the Diocese of Legazpi expressed opposition to the coming of US troops in Bicol.

Nagrampa said aside from the resolution to be filed in the House, Gabriela will also launch an awareness campaign among women in areas covered by the Balikatan.

Tessa Lopez, spokesperson of Bayan-Bikol (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan), said a massive rally was set on Jan. 22 and expected to coincide with the reported arrival of US Ambassador Kristy Kenney in Bicol.

A Sorsogon-wide group calling itself “Sorsoganon United Movement Against Balikatan at Para sa Kapayapaan” or “Sumaba ka” (Speak out) was launched over the weekend to seek a stop to the planned Balikatan exercises in the Bicol region.

RP-US Balikatan kicks off in April

January 18, 2009

LEGAZPI CITY – Some 400 American soldiers are coming to the province of Albay, Sorsogon and Masbate to join the RP-US Balikatan exercise slated during the whole month of April 2009.

Col. Ariel Bernardo, Philippine Army 901st Infantry Brigade commander, said the 2009 Balikatan would be purely a humanitarian mission involving medical service and infrastructure development.

Bernardo said Balikatan planning and survey team composed of US Navy and AFP personnel are currently in town to finalize activities to be undertaken during the month long RP-US joint military exercises that will be held in the provinces of Albay, Sorsogon, and the island province of Masbate.

The survey team have specifically pinpointed Ligao City and six other towns in the third district of Albay, the towns of Juban and Irosin in Sorsogon, and Uson and Mobo towns in Masbate as sites of the exercises.

The areas have been considered by military intelligence groups as critical spots where operations by the communist New People”s Army (NPA) “are active.”

Bernardo explained “the Balikatan exercise is a very important undertaking because it is a pro-poor and pro-people project that will surely be welcomed by the beneficiaries in waging a war for peace and development.”

He pointed out that the 15th Balikatan exercise will be absolutely humanitarian and infrastructure-based operation, minus the so-called war games.

The exercise is an annual bi-lateral military exercise between the AFP and the US under the RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty between the two countries.

US Navy Captain Kelly Schmader commander of the Civilian Military Operations (CMO) said his contingent will involve more than 400 Navy personnel composed of engineers, doctors and medical staff.

He said the uniqueness of this exercise is that it endeavors to help communities in Bicol that where hard hit by disaster in 2006 where thousands of lives where lost and more than 30,000 families displaced due to the two super typhoons that struck the region.

He added that the joint military exercise would focus on rendering medical, dental, veterinary and other assistance to poor families in selected areas. It will also include the repair and building of schools, water systems and farm to market roads.

Schmader said the US government has earmarked some $450,000 for this activity.

He added that the joint military contingents would maximize the use of local resources including labor and materials to spur local economic activities in the area.

A day after the press conference, leftist leaders like Greg Bañares, spokesman of the National Democratic Front (NDF) in Bicol, and John Concepcion of Karapatan-Bicol issued statements assailing the Balikatan exercise as a ploy to promote American interest in Bicol.

The so-called militant groups are planning to stage a big rally on January 22 in Legazpi City to protest the forthcoming Balikatan exercises scheduled in Bicol.(BicolMail)

RP-US WAR GAMES CPP urges attacks on Balikatan in Bicol

January 12, 2009

By Delfin Mallari Jr.
Southern Luzon Bureau
First Posted 08:29:00 01/12/2009

Filed Under: Guerrilla activities, Military

MANILA, Philippines—The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) has ordered its armed wing, the New People’s Army, to attack Filipino and American military forces that will be conducting joint military exercises in three Bicol provinces—Albay, Masbate and Sorsogon—in April.

“NPA units in Bicol are specifically instructed to launch as many tactical offensives as they can in many areas of the region in mockery of the Balikatan exercises and to prevent the US military from strengthening its foothold in the region,” the CPP said in a statement sent to the Philippine Daily Inquirer Sunday.

The CPP instructed all communist guerrilla units across the country as well to continue to stage tactical offensives against state security forces.

The current NPA strength has been pegged at 5,239 armed men by the military.

40th anniversary

The CPP celebrated its 40th year on Dec. 26 with the unveiling of a five-year plan to step up the insurgency and move closer to its goal of toppling the government to establish a Maoist state.

The communists have been conducting guerrilla warfare the past four decades against the government.

The rebel group urged the Filipino people to expose and protest the deployment of US troops to more areas of the country, including the Bicol region, by using the Balikatan joint exercises as a pretext.

The CPP said the plan to conduct the annual Balikatan joint military exercise not only in Bicol but in other parts of the country signaled heightened US military intervention in the local civil war.

“In doing so, the US seeks to pave the way for the future regular access of troops to guerrilla fronts in the Bicol region where the NPA operates,” the CPP said.

US spy planes

The CPP claimed that in the past three years, there have been several sightings of US spy planes in the vicinity of NPA guerrilla fronts in Central Luzon, southern Tagalog, Bicol, northeastern and southern Mindanao.

“Recently, US troops have become increasingly active and visible in the AFP’s (Armed Forces of the Philippines) combat operations against the NPA in Mindanao,” the CPP said.

Last week, Capt. Kelly Schmader, commander of the 30th Naval Construction Regiment, visited the Bicol region to see to the final stages of surveying and planning for the scheduled Balikatan (meaning shoulder to shoulder), which is now on its 14th year in the country.

Last year’s Balikatan was held in Mindanao.

The Balikatan is part of the mutual defense treaty between the Philippines and the United States. Its primary objective is to improve the “interoperability” of the two countries’ armed forces for mutual defense.

According to Schmader, some 400 American doctors, engineers and nurses, belonging predominantly to the military, will join the month-long exercise to provide humanitarian aid to depressed areas in the three Bicol provinces.

A military report deemed these provinces as hotbeds of the communist insurgency in the Bicol region.

Military officials in the region have assured the public that the aims of the exercises were “peace and development” and there would be no war games with US forces, only humanitarian projects in the form of medical missions and engineering works.

But the CPP dismissed the “no military exercise and only humanitarian works” as “pure hogwash.”

Specific objectives

“The US military does not carry out any operation or mission by any name without specific military objectives. Joint military exercises and humanitarian missions only serve as cover for US troops to gain access to the guerrilla fronts to carry out physical and social terrain mapping, conduct surveillance, recruit local agents and influence the local governments and social infrastructure,” the CPP said.

According to the CPP, retired Gen. Edilberto Adan, head of the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement Commission, had already admitted that in conducting the forthcoming Balikatan exercises in the Bicol region, the US military has a specific objective of familiarizing its forces with guerrilla conditions and learning jungle combat operations in the area.

Body of Lies

November 12, 2008

By Carlos H. Conde

Ever since the United States sent its troops to the Philippines in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks, the Filipino people have been fed the line that the Americans are here either to help the people of Mindanao through humanitarian projects or to help train the Philippine military combat terrorism. The US troops have stayed in the country for so long now that not only have we lost count of exactly how many of them have remained – for all practical purposes, the Americans have set up camps in Mindanao. We know so little else about what they do here except some morsels of information contained in the occasional press release from the US embassy about medical missions and such.

Meanwhile, Filipino officials, particularly those belonging to the political opposition, have either lost interest in knowing exactly what the Americans are up to down south or they, too, had bought the line that all those undetermined number of troops, all those millions of dollars spent since 2002, are so the people of Basilan and Sulu can enjoy potable water or have their cleft lip fixed.

There had been assertions, of course, that there’s more to the presence of the US troops in Mindanao than meets the eye. Focus on the Global South, an international NGO, maintained, for instance, that the Americans have been engaged in an “offensive war” in Mindanao. Leftist groups, naturally, have been calling for the US troops’ pullout, particularly after the Americans suddenly sprouted everywhere — from Basilan, they moved to Sulu then to the Lanao provinces and God knows where else. And the usual line was, of course, they were on humanitarian or medical missions.

Perhaps the first real glimpse of the true nature of the US military’s presence in the south was the mission in 2002 that led to the rescue of Gracia Burnham, the American missionary, who, together with her husband Martin and several others, was kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf in 2001. The group has been linked to al Qaeda.

And today, The New York Times reported that the US military has used, since 2004, a “broad, secret authority to carry out nearly a dozen previously undisclosed attacks against Al Qaeda and other militants in Syria, Pakistan and elsewhere.”

“These military raids typically carried out by Special Operations forces, were authorized by a classified order that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld signed in the spring of 2004 with the approval of President Bush, the officials said. The secret order gave the military new authority to attack the Qaeda terrorist network anywhere in the world, and a more sweeping mandate to conduct operations in countries not at war with the United States.”

The paper also reported about operations that reminded me of Body of Lies, the movie starring Russell Crowe and Leonardo diCaprio that was shown here recently. “In 2006, for example, a Navy Seal team raided a suspected militants’ compound in the Bajaur region of Pakistan, according to a former top official of the Central Intelligence Agency. Officials watched the entire mission — captured by the video camera of a remotely piloted Predator aircraft — in real time in the C.I.A.’s Counterterrorist Center at the agency’s headquarters in Virginia 7,000 miles away.”

The New York Times report tells us not to believe whatever the US and the Philippine governments have been telling us since this “war on terror” began. Although the Philippines was not mentioned in the report, it is not difficult to imagine that we are one of the “other countries” where the US had launched these secret attacks.

If anything, this should give politicians a reason to ascertain exactly what the US is doing in Mindanao. As this report indicates, a strong argument can be made that this American presence may have violated Philippine laws.

If the US military can have its way in countries that are less friendly to Washington – Pakistan, for instance – how much more in the Philippines where Americans are given far greater access, whose people bestow on them a tremendous amount of trust that they probably will not find elsewhere?

Carlos H. Conde is a journalist based in Manila.

Editorial Cartoon: VFA Flag

October 6, 2008

Another way to see it.

Editorial Cartoon: VFA Emblem

October 4, 2008

Look closely and you’ll see the ‘VFA’ in there. :)

Fact-finding team inspects US troops and facilities

October 3, 2008

By Bong Garcia

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INITIAL findings of the Legislative Oversight Committee on the Visiting Forces Agreement (Lovfa) showed that the presence of the American forces in Zamboanga City is not violating any provisions of the VFA between the US and Philippine government.

This was disclosed Thursday afternoon by Senator Rodolfo Biazon, the co-chairman of Lovfa that is tasked to verify all allegations against the continued stay of the American forces in the country.

What’s your take on the Mindanao crisis? Discuss views with other readers

However, Biazon said they are not yet making a conclusion based on the initial findings, citing they will continue to do the evaluation based on their ocular inspections.

Biazon and other members of the Lovfa arrived Thursday morning in Zamboanga City and inspected the American forces that are stationed inside Philippine military bases.

Some of the American forces are stationed inside Camp Don Basilio Navarro that houses the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) headquarters, Camp General Arturo Enrile and Edwin Andrews Air Base (EAAB) that houses the 3rd Air Division.

Biazon said there are two issues that they are checking and these are the allegations that the American troops are involved in actual combat and whether they are establishing bases in this part of the country.

So far, Biazon said there were no reported American soldiers who were injured or killed in any of the clashes taking place in Mindanao, “but Filipinos, yes.”

He said there is no truth to the allegations that the American troops are establishing bases, citing all of the facilities here are administrative in nature.

“As a former soldier, it is difficult for me to make a conclusion that the Americans have establish their own military base in this part of our country,” Biazon said.

He said all of the US troops’ facilities inside the Philippine military bases are temporary in nature.

He cited that one facility, a barracks inside Camp Enrile has been turned over to the Army’s 1st Infantry Division as stipulated in the Term of Reference (TOR) of the VFA.

The TOR states that all structures of the US forces will be left behind for the use of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Lovfa co-chairman Congressman Antonio Cuenco called on the people or group complaining about violations regarding the US troops’ presence to substantiate their allegations.

“So far we have not found any violation in so far the VFA between the US and RP is concern,” Cuenco said.

Cuenco said that providing information to Filipino troops by the Americans does not tantamount to any violation.

Earlier, Presidential Commission on the VFA Undersecretary Edilberto Adan said the US soldiers only provide technical assistance to the Philippine troops as part of the joint military exercises popularly known as Balikatan.

“We are happy to be able to get information from any source whatsoever so that we can attain our objectives in demolishing these enemies of our state,” Cuenco said.(SunStar)

Himpilan ng US sa Zamboanga, tanda ng permanenteng presensiya

October 3, 2008

PARA kay Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, hindi nangangahulugan ng permanenteng presensiya ang paglabas-masok ng mga sundalong Amerikano sa bansa. “Just because laging nakikita, akala hindi na umaalis,” aniya sa pagdinig noong Setyembre 26 ng Legislative Oversight Committee on the Visiting Forces Agreement o Lovfa.

Pero isa pang opisyal ng gobyerno, si Hen. Edilberto Adan na tagapangulo ng Presidential Commission on the VFA, ang nagkumpirma sa parehong pagdinig na hindi na nga umaalis dito ang mga tropang Kano. Umano’y may 400 hanggang 600 sundalong Kano na naka-base sa Pilipinas sa “anumang takdang panahon.”

Muling dinedepensahan ng gobyerno ang VFA dahil sa paglabas ng mga ulat hinggil sa umano’y partisipasyon ng mga Kano sa mga operasyong militar sa Mindanao—gaya ng litrato ng isang sundalong may hawak na spy plane na inilathala ng Philippine Daily Inquirer sa kasagsagan ng giyera sa MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) noong nakaraang buwan.

Sinasabi ng gobyerno na naaayon ang VFA sa Konstitusyon, na nagbabawal ng pagbabase ng dayuhang militar sa bansa. Pinaninindigan nitong “bumibisita” lamang ang mga tropang Kano para ayudahan ang pagsasanay at modernisasyon ng AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines), at tulungan ang mahihirap at nasasalantang mga komunidad.

Pero tila permanenteng nagbabase na sa Zamboanga City ang Joint Special Operations Task Force – Philippines o JSOTF-P, isang espesyal na yunit ng US Special Forces – Pacific Command, ayon sa grupong Bayan (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan) at ilang lokal na opisyal ng gobyerno.

JSOTF-P nagbabase?

Noong Pebrero, binisita ng grupong Citizens Peace Watch ang himpilan ng JSOTF-P sa loob ng Camp Navarro ng Westmincom (Western Mindanao Command) ng AFP. Ayon sa grupo, “itinatago ito ng mga dingding, alambre, at sandbag. Hindi makita mula sa labas ang aktuwal nitong laki. Pero nakikita ang communication facilities nito gaya ng mga satellite dish, antenna, at iba pa.”

Itinaboy ang mga miyembro ng grupo. Sa liham na ipinadala ng JSOTF-P, sinabi nitong AFP ang nagbibigay ng awtorisasyon na makapasok. Pero nang makausap ng grupo si Capt. Vicente Enriquez ng Westmincom, sinabihan silang maging ang mga sundalong Pilipino, hindi nakakapasok sa himpilan nang walang paalam mula sa mga kumander ng US.

Ginawang JSOTF-P ang dating Joint Task Force 510 na dineploy ng gobyernong US para ng Balikatan 02-1, unang serye ng ehersisyong militar sa pagitan ng AFP at mga tropang Kano noong 2002. Ang JTF 510, sa ilalim ng US Special Operations Command Pacific, ay bahagi ng Operation Enduring Freedom o kampanya “kontra-terorismo” na inilunsad ng US sa iba’t ibang bansa.

Anim na taon nang inookupahan ng JSOTF-P ang mga istruktura sa loob ng Camp Navarro. Hinala ng Bayan, isa ito sa tinatawag na Forward Operating Sites ng US. Kaiba sa hayag na mga baseng militar gaya ng sa Subic, Zambales at Clark, Pampanga noon, ang mga FOS ay pinananatili diumanong “pleksible” at “sikreto” para hindi maging tampulan ng protesta at kontrobersiya.

Noong Hulyo, nagpulong sa Camp Navarro ang matataas na opisyal ng AFP at militar ng US, sa pangunguna ni Col. Bill Coultrup, kumander ng JSOTF-P. Itinago ito sa mga miyembro ng lokal na midya. Depensa ni Maj. Gen. Nelson Allaga, kumander ng Westmincom, “walang halaga sa midya” ang nasabing pagpupulong.

Binatikos ng CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines) ang pagtatakip sa nasabing pagpupulong gaya ng umano’y “pagtanggi ng JSOTF-P sa partisipasyon nito sa paniniktik, pagpapatrulya, at operasyong militar.” Isa ang CPP sa tinataguriang “teroristang grupo” ng gobyernong US.

Dalawang insidente ng umano’y pakikisangkot ng mga tropang Kano sa mga operasyong militar ang naiulat ngayong taon. Noong Pebrero 4, sinabi ng mga testigo sa lokal na midya na kabilang ang mga sundalong Kano sa yunit ng AFP na nag-opensiba sa Maimbung, Sulu. Ikinamatay ito ng pitong sibilyan. Naiulat naman ng isang pahayagan ng US na sugatan ang isang sundalong Kano sa ambus ng mga bandidong Abu Sayyaf sa konboy ng Philippine Marines noong Agosto 30.

Itinatanggi ang mga insidenteng ito kapwa ng mga opisyal-militar ng US at AFP. Itinatanggi rin nilang naniniktik ang mga tropang Kano laban sa mga kaaway ng Estado. Ang inamin lamang ni Rebecca Thompson, information officer ng embahada ng US, nagsasagawa ng aerial surveillance ang US para alamin ang kondisyon ng mga kalsada at imapa ang tereyn. Gagamitin lang umano ang impormasyon para sa mga proyektong sibiko.

Pinalawak na operasyon

Pero hindi lamang pagsasanay militar at proyektong sibiko ang pakay ng gobyernong US sa Mindanao. Ayon sa ulat ng United States Institute for Peace o USIP noong Pebrero, may ispesipikong mga target ang mga tropang Kano kabilang na ang “tinatawag na lost commands ng MILF.” Nagsasagawa umano ang JSOTF-P ng “pinalawak” (expanded) na operasyong militar para bigyan ng paniniktik, pagsasanay, at kagamitan ang AFP.

Naging posible, ayon sa Bayan, ang operasyon ng JSOTF-P dahil sa “malabong” (vague) probisyon sa VFA hinggil sa dami, dalas at tagal ng pananatili, at sakop ng aktibidad ng mga tropang Kano. Lampas din umano ito sa saklaw ng Mutual Logistical Support Agreement o MLSA, kasunduan para sa pagbibigay ng suportang materyal sa mga sundalong Kano sa Pilipinas.

“Ano ang mga termino at kondisyon sa operasyon ng mga pasilidad na inookupahan ng US? Mayroon bang mga ulat at dokumento hinggil sa tinakbo nito sa nakaraang anim na taon? Paano umiiral dito ang batas ng Pilipinas?” tanong ng Bayan sa position paper na isinumite sa Lovfa.

Maging ang mga lokal na opisyal ng gobyerno sa Zamboanga City, kinukuwestiyon na rin ang mga pasilidad ng US. Kamakailan, sumulat si Cesar Bayabos, direktor ng Air Transportation Office doon, sa mga opisyal-militar ng US para ireklamo ang pagpapalawak sa kanilang istruktura sa loob ng airport.

Bukod sa himpilan ng JSOTF-P sa Camp Navarro, itinayo at pinatatakbo ng militar ng US sa siyudad ang air asset facility sa Zamboanga City International Airport, daungan sa Majini Pier sa Naval Forces ng Westmincom, at training facility sa Camp Arturo Enrile sa Malagutay.

Nananawagan ang iba’t ibang mga grupo na tumututol sa presensiya ng mga tropang Kano sa Mindanao na isapubliko ang ToR (Terms of Refence) para sa Balikatan Exercises. Huling nagkaroon ng kasulatan hinggil sa dami at saklaw ng aktibidad ng mga tropang Kano sa bansa noong 2002. Ayon sa Bayan, bagaman maraming kuwestiyunableng aktibidad ang mga tropang Kano sa bansa simula noon, hindi ito nakokompronta dahil walang malinaw na ToR at puno ng mga butas ang VFA.

Tuloy ang ‘bisita’

Noong Set. 16, dininig ng Korte Suprema ang oral arguments hinggil sa mga petisyon laban sa Konstituysunalidad ng siyam-na- taong VFA. Pero hanggang wala pa itong desisyon, tuloy ang paglabas-masok ng “bumibisitang” mga tropang Kano na tila may regular nang pinaglalagiang mga base sa Zamboanga City.

Sa ika-50 pulong ng RP-US Mutual Defense Board at ikatlong pulong ng Security Engagement Board noong Set. 26, lumagda muli ang gobyernong US at Pilipinas ng mga kasunduan hinggil sa magkatuwang na mga aktibidad ng mga tropang Kano at AFP para sa 2009.

Sa harap ng Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, ipinrotesta ang pagpupulong ng iba’t ibang mga grupo, pero agad silang itinaboy at binatuta ng mga awtoridad. Galit at disgustado sa dispersal, anila’y sana mga sundalong Amerikano na lamang ang pinalalayas ng gobyernong Arroyo.

3.5-B Peso Contract Prolongs Mindanao Stay of US Forces

October 2, 2008

International think-tank bares: US military base construction unit awards P3.5 billion contract for work in Mindanao; award part of multi-billion peso contract lasting until 2012

MANILA – On the eve of a congressional inspection of US military facilities in Mindanao, Focus on the Global South, a Bangkok-based international research institute, today announced that the US Department of Defense (DOD) has awarded an additional $77-million (around P3.5 billion) for support services to the US Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) which has been stationed in Mindanao continuously since 2002.[i]

The new contracts have been posted in the DOD’s website: http://www.defenselink.mil/contracts/contract.aspx?contractid=3872

The two relevant entries read as follows:

DynCorp International LLC, Fort Worth, Texas, is being awarded $44,259,606 which provides for exercise of the first option period under a cost-plus-award-fee contract with award options to provide support services for Philippines operations support in the Republic of the Philippines for the Joint Special Operations Task Force – Philippines. The current total contract amount after exercise of this option will be $202,116,113. Work will be performed in the Republic of the Philippines, and work is expected to be completed Sept. 30, 2009. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Pacific, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, is the contracting activity (N62742-08-C-1115).

DynCorp International LLC, Fort Worth, Texas, is being awarded a $34,154,949 cost-plus-award-fee modification to increase the maximum dollar value of a cost-plus-award-fee contract to provide support services for Philippines operations support in the Republic of the Philippines for the Joint Special Operations Task Force – Philippines. Work will be performed in the Republic of the Philippines, and is expected to be completed by Sept. 2012. Contract funds in the amount of $655,223 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Pacific, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, is the contracting activity (contract number N62742-08-C-1115).

As stated above, another $202-million (or around P9.3-billion) more appear to be part of the total contract, parts of which may eventually be awarded later. This amount is about one-fifth of the total 2008 budget of the Philippine military and is more than half of the Philippine’s Department of Health.

The announcement above indicates that the JSOTF-P – for which no exit date has been set – will stay on at least until September 2012.

The US military’s Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) was listed as the “contracting activity”.

According to its own website, the NAVFAC is the unit within the US military that is in charge of providing the US Navy with “operating, support, and training bases.” It “manages the planning, design, and construction and provides public works support for US Naval shore installations around the world.” Among their business lines are “bases development” and “contingency engineering.”

It cannot be immediately ascertained, whether the new contracts are part of or separate from the DOD contracts awarded last June 2007, which Focus on the Global South also publicized.

NAVFAC had then also awarded a six-month $14.4-million contract to a certain “Global Contingency Services LLC” of Irving, Texas for “operations support” for the JSOTF-P.

According to the contractor’s website, this will include “facility operations and maintenance; air operations; port operations; health care; supply and warehousing; galley; housing support; emergency services; security, fire, and rescue; vehicle equipment; and incidental construction.”[ii] Contingency Response Services LLC describes its work as encompassing “operating forces support,” “community support,” and “base support.”[iii] According to the Defense Industry Daily publication, the contract also includes “morale, welfare, and recreation support.”[iv]

In reaction to Focus’ publicizing of the contracts then, the US embassy admitted that the US military was building structures for “medical, logistical, and administrative services,” and facilities for US troops “to eat sleep and work.” The Philippines’ Visiting Forces Agreement Commission also admitted for the first time that the US maintains “living quarters” and stocks supplies in the Philippines.[v]

US troops themselves refer to their facility in Sulu as “Advance Operating Base 920.”[vi] They describe their mission in the South as “unconventional warfare” and “counterinsurgency.”[vii]

{REFERENCE: Herbert Docena, +63 917 887 4372, +63 2 433 0899, herbert@focusweb.org}

[i] US Department of Defense, “Contracts – September 29, 2008,” http://www.defenselink.mil/contracts/contract.aspx?contractid=3872

[ii] Press Release, “DynCorp International and JV Partners Win $450 million NAVFAC Contract,” DynCorp International, November 2, 2006, http://www.dyn-intl.com/subpage.aspx?id=197

[iii] “Contingency Response Services,” DynCorp International, http://www.dyn-intl.com/subpage.aspx?id=204

[iv] Defense Industry Daily, “$14.4M to help US SOCOM in the Philippines,” June 8, 2007, http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/?s=philippines; Ethan Butterfield, “DynCorp lands $450M Navy Contingency Services Deal,” Washington Technology, November 3, 2006; http://www.washingtontechnology.com/online/1_1/29650-1.htm

[v] “US denies building bases in Mindanao,” GMANews.tv, August 24, 2007; Veronica Uy, “VFACom Chief Denies US Bases in Mindanao,” Inquirer.net, August 24, 2007

[vi] T.D. Flack, “Special Operations Force aiding an important ally,” Stars and Stripes, March 10, 2007, http://stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=43138&archive=true

[vii] Col. David Maxwell, “Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines: What Would Sun-Tzu Say” Military Review, May-June 2005; Members of the 1st Special Forces Group, “The History of the 1st SF Group in the Philippines: 1957-2002,” Special Warfare, June 2002; C.H. Briscoe, “Why the Philippines: ARSOF’s Expanded Mission in the War on Terror’”, Special Warfare, September 2002 (PinoyPress)

US defense deparment awards $77.5-M contracts for Mindanao operations

October 2, 2008

By Jaime Laude
Thursday, October 2, 2008

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The United States government has approved and awarded two defense contracts amounting to $77.5 million (roughly P3.5 billion) to support the continued stay and operations of its forces deployed in the Philippines.

Focus on the Global South, a Bangkok-based international research institute, said the approved contracts also included $202 million (roughly P9.3 billion), which could be awarded later.

On its website, the US Department of Defense said DynCorp International LLC in Fort Worth, Texas was awarded a contract worth $44,259,606 to provide support services for the Philippine operations of the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P).

“The current total contract amount after exercise of this option will be $202,116,113. Work will be performed in the Republic of the Philippines, and work is expected to be completed Sept. 30, 2009,” the website stated.

“Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Pacific, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, is the contracting activity (N62742-08-C-1115),” it added.

The US defense department further said that DynCorp International was also awarded a $34,154,949 “cost-plus-award-fee modification to increase the maximum dollar value of a cost-plus-award-fee contract” to provide support services for the operations of JSOTF-P.

The contract is expected to be completed by September 2012.

“Contract funds in the amount of $655,223 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year,” the website said, adding that the Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Pacific in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, is also the “contracting activity.”

DynCorp International, on its website, described itself as a maritime and avionic specialist with ongoing US-funded military projects in war-torn Afghanistan.

Retired Army general Edilberto Adan, chairman of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) Commission, could not be reached for comment.

The Department of National Defense, for its part, said the contracts are internal between the US defense department and its private contractor.

“(We’re out of it). What is important is they should abide by the rules, pursuant to approved activities while they are here,” lawyer Nelson Victorino said on behalf of Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro.

Focus on the Global South said the contracts only mean that the US government intends to prolong the stay of its troops in the Philippines.

US servicemen are deployed mostly in the Zamboanga Peninsula, Sulu, Basilan, Tawi-Tawi, Davao, Sarangani and General Santos City.

Cause-oriented groups have raised a howl over the continued presence of the US troops, saying this is in violation of the Constitution.

They also accused the US servicemen of being involved in actual combat operations against terror groups such as the Abu Sayyaf and the Jemaah Islamiyah, an al-Qaeda-link regional terror cell based in Indonesia.

But the Armed Forces of the Philippines belied this, saying the American troops are engaged in humanitarian and civil-military operations in depressed communities in Mindanao, aside from providing technical support to ground troops. – With Pia Lee-Brago (PStar)

Gov says US gov’t has helped Sulu more than Phil gov’t

October 1, 2008

Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews
Saturday, 27 September 2008 14:54
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PASAY CITY (MindaNews/26 September) – Sulu Governor Sakur Tan wants American soldiers to “stay longer” in his province, claiming the United States government has been helping Sulu more than the Philippine government.

st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } In defending the presence of American military forces in Sulu, Tan enumerated the assistance the US has given his province.

“With these (forms of assistance), I really do not see why we should discourage the presence of the US forces in my area. In fact I would like to invite them to stay longer and stay on in my province because we need the help that they are providing,” Tan said, adding, “no other government, in fact I think they’re (the United States) doing even better (for Sulu) than, with due respect, than the Philippine government.”

Tan issued the statement at the committee hearing Thursday (September 25) of the Legislative Oversight Committee on the Visiting Forces Agreement (LOVFA) at the Senate’s Senator Pecson Room, triggering laughter from members of the committee chaired by Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago and co-chaired by Rep. Antonio Cuenco, staff and guests, including Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita.

The Committee hearing was on the “alleged participation of American troops in the Mindanao armed conflict.”

Tan defended the American forces against issues about alleged human rights violations. “I would think that it is these American forces who are providing the human rights for the people (sic). Now to object to the presence of the US forces would be a violation or obstruction to the delivery of these basic services which is the human rights of every individual or every Taosug (sic).”

Tan said that when he assumed the post of governor last year, he met with various sectors from civil society and the military, including Colonel David Maxwell, commander of the Joint Special Operations Task Force, and asked him the purpose of the US military in his area.

He said Maxwell told him they were there “to bring peace and development,” to which he replied, “if your purpose is to bring peace and development, you are most welcome even if you were Israelis. But if your purpose is to bring chaos and disorder, we have enough and even if you are Arabs, we do not welcome you.”

As governor, he said, he has “seen how the American forces in my area have been helping me in my governance, especially in civic, economic and social activities such as construction of bridges, construction of schoolbuildings, repairs of rural health units, including district hospitals, providing us with medicines, including surgical missions.”

“They are also providing us with Area Coordination Centers for all the18 towns including the provincial (center). These are structures that we have envisioned to be the catalyst to bring about coordination of all efforts of all government agencies, including the military, because in the ARMM, the provincial governments do not have control over other offices especially the national offices in the province so we have the Area Coordination Centers which we intend to organize down to the barangay level for the purpose of empowering the communities.”

The US military, he said, is “very supportive.”

“They are also going to construct a fire station in the capital town of Jolo because this is one of our principal problems now in Sulu and very soon, starting construction of the runway of the Jolo airport which should be able to land now, after construction, a 737,and we already have the funds ready, we signed already the memorandum of agreement,” he said.

“Likewise our water system, another very important commodity for everybody, we start the improvement by next week this is also partly funded by the US government and likewise the US forces are also learning from our Philippine soldiers in the matter of their strategizing their counter-terrorism and in fighting the criminal elements in our areas,” Tan said.

He explained that his administration has an agreement with the Philippine military that operations will be 80% civil-military and “only 20% purely military but it should be surgical and intelligence-driven operations to avoid collateral damage on the part of the civilians.”

Tan said the US government is “monitoring the implementation of projects and every now and then we open and inaugurate projects (with the US) more frequent than we do in the local government units.”

On the reported presence of the US military in the Ipil Massacre in Maimbung, Sulu, Tan said there was “no presence of American forces in the area because I was the first one to visit the families and I was the first one to condemn the Ipil massacre.”

In his statement to the Committee, Bishop Felixberto L.Calang of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, main convenor of the US Troops Out Now Mindanao Coalition, cited the February 4, 2008 Ipil Massacre as one of the cases.

Calang said U.S. military spy plane (US P-3 Orion) “provided intelligence for an assault that led to the killing of eight civilians and four US military personnel were seen aboard military ship where victims’ bodies were taken after the incident.”

Eight persons, two of them children aged 4 and 9 were killed in what the military claimed was a “legitimate encounter” allegedly with the Abu Sayyaf in Ipil, Maimbung, Sulu on February 4 but which the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) found to be a “wanton carnage” of civilians.

The CHR on April 18 forwarded its April 14 resolution and investigation records to the Ombudsman for the Military, recommending the filing of criminal charges and the application of command responsibility “to maintain justice in the country.”

Tan also cited the order to close down the hospital in Panamao and said the American soldier in charge of Sulu, Major Eric Walker “apologized to me” and to the doctor, Silak Lakkian.

Lakkian told MindaNews that they “were ordered by American soldiers to shut down the generator the night of December 2 (2007). However, we decided to close the hospital because they told us that they will shoot us if we go out of the hospital at night.”

The kitchen and generator set were located outside.

“It took 28 days to resolve the issue. That’s why the hospital was closed for 28 day because we couldn’t sacrifice the lives of our people,” Lakian said.

Tan said: “I thought it was a matter of miscommunication. Theirs was for the purpose of cautioning civilians in the area but I made it clear to American forces through Walker that they should not impose on any individual in my province but course it through AFP in the area so they do not get their message directly but course it through authorities like Task Force Comet,” he said.

“So with these, your honors, I would think if there are human rights violation in my area , I should be the first one to condemn it but I would think that it is these American forces who are providing the human rights for the people (sic). Now to object to the presence of the US forces would be a violation or obstruction to the delivery of these basic services which is the human rights of every individual or every Taosug (sic). [Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews]

Adan: US military presence is “beneficial to our people”

October 1, 2008

Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews
Sunday, 28 September 2008 20:19
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DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/27 September) – The executive director of the Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement says the presence of US troops in the Philippine is “beneficial to our people,” citing in dollars and cents the benefits.

Contrary to reports of alleged basing by the US military, Adan said, “we believe that it is through the Visiting Forces Agreement that our country can better protect its sovereignty as it lives up to its obligations under the Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States.

The American soldiers, Adan told the Legislative Oversight Committee on the Visiting Forces Agreement Thursday at the Senate’s Pecson Room in Pasay City, are “like guests who lend assistance to repair a house and were invited by the host owner to stay and live with them for the duration of the project very much in the traditional spirit of Bayanihan.”

“Necessarily, the owners have to offer them space to sleep, work and eat, they need some privacy. In the process, they will leave marks on the floor, cause the rearrangement of furniture, and leave some footprints. The footprints of these visitors are big. Because they have big planes, big ships. The host children may complain about these discomforts. However, these are minor and tolerable,’’ he said.

Adan concluded by saying the VFA “continues to serve the national interest, is beneficial to our people and is conducted with due regard to Philippine laws.”

From the first to third quarter this year, the Philippines has already benefited from two million US dollars’ worth of American medical civic actions programs (medcaps), 165,000 US dollars’ worth of engineering and civic action programs (encaps).

Adan cited the 400 helicopter sorties by the US Air Force to assist in search and rescue and delivery of 300 tons of food in Panay Island, then devastated by Typhoon Frank.

Adan said the American soldiers number from “400 to 600 at any one time or less than the size of an Army battalion.”

He said 25,000 persons have benefited from medical civic action programs in Central Mindanao, Western Samar and Palawan and that in Sulu and Tawi-tawi, 390 projects have been done, including road repairs, building of classrooms and that these have “greatly contributed to the quest for peace in the province.”

The US government has allocated 16 million US dollars as military assistance for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in 2007 and 3.6 million US dollars for 2008.

Local communities, he said, are also earning. Zamboanga City earns an average of “5.5 million pesos every six months in employment and supply contracts on account of the US military presence.”

Adan enumerated four implementing guidelines on the US troops’ presence: that no US troops shall be engaged in combat operations; the Armed Forces of the Philippines commander shall have control over operations all the time; that ownership of facilities temporarily used by US troops will remain with the Armed Forces of the Philippines; and that US troops can only use weapons in self-defense.

Adan also noted that what is “difficult to quantify” is when an Army commander in

Cotabato last August asked a US mobile training team to help recover and disarm an unexploded bomb dropped by the Philippine Air Force.

“In saving the lives of Filipinos who were potentially endangered from the bomb, the American bomb experts risked their lives as well together with our brave Filipino soldiers in neutralizing the bomb,” Adan said.

Asked after the hearing who actually asked for assistance, Adan said “the commander in the area.”

When MindaNews told him the Army commander there said he had “no idea” about the operations, Adan said it must have been “the commander from the EOD.”

MindaNews asked Lt. Col. Diosdado Carreon, commanding officer of the Army’s 40th Infantry Battalion, on August 17, the day the US-RP team detonated the bomb, if he sought the assistance of American soldiers to look for unexploded ordnance or unexploded bombs and he said, “no idea.”

He said the Army Division had control over the EOD.

A soldier who identified himself as Lt. Hermosura, intelligence officer of the 40th IB, asked the MindaNews team and the other soldiers and paramilitary elements to vacate the area as the bomb would be detonated.

MindaNews chanced upon the US-RP team searching for unexploded bombs in Barangay Baliki, Midsayap, North Cotabato on August 17.

August 17 was a Sunday and MindaNews went to the interior parts where armed clashes were fierce days earlier, to look for the area where houses were reportedly burned, when the MindaNews team chanced upon the US-RP team.

Carreon, commanding officer of the Army’s 40th Infantry Battalion, had told MindaNews early that morning that the area had been “cleared.”

As it turned out, it wasn’t really “cleared” as the US-RP team was still looking for bombs.

Fortunately for the US-RP team, very few of the evacuees, who were already advised by their mayors and barangay captains to return home as the area had been “cleared” by the military, had actually returned home. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

Bishop: Make public the TORs on VFA

October 1, 2008

Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews
Sunday, 28 September 2008 20:21
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DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/27 September) — Bishop Felixberto Calang, lead convenor of US Troops Out Now! Mindanao Coalition has proposed to the Legislative Oversight Committee on the Visiting Foces Agreement (LOVFA) to require “full disclosure to the public” of all the Terms of Reference “governing every form of US military presence in the country.”

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The last time a TOR was made was during the Balikatan 02-1 in 2002, as protests mounted against the holding of the military exercise without it.

No other TOR has been made after that and since July 2002, when the American troops were supposed to have left the country, some were left behind allegedly to finish humanitarian projects but their presence in the country, particularly in Mindanao has been continuous.

This as Senator Rodolfo Biazon, committee vice chair who once served as Armed Forces Chief of Staff, demanded a copy of the “rules of engagement,” adding he “objected to certain provisions of this in 2002.”

“If those objections of mine were not considered and were adopted and still in existence today are the same rules of engagement, then we are going to be in deep trouble,” he said at the LOVFA hearing at the Senate’s Pecson Room in Pasay City last Thursday.

Calang made five recommendations to the committee, on top of which is the “abrogation of the VFA, Mutual Logistics Support Agreement and the Mutual Defense Treaty, and the eventual pull out of all US military personnel from the Philippine territory.”

In the meantime, he said, “require full disclosure to the public of the Terms of Reference governing every form of US military presence in the country, past and ongoing, such as the USS Vandegrift tours of duty, the participation of US military ‘experts’ in the investigation of bombings incidents, the intelligence gathering activities of US military personnel and their presence in conflict areas.”

Calang also urged the LOVFA to “conduct onsite visits and inspection of facilities, with accompanying civil society organizations, where US military personnel and/or their equipment and infrastructure are established, requiring the US government to open said facilities for inspection.”

He also urged the committee to “conduct onsite public hearings and investigations regarding the presence of US military personnel in the country so as to determine the scope, involvement and intervention of the US government in the Philippines affairs” and to “establish a mechanism to involve civil society organizations’ participation in the LOVFA.”

On the civil society participation in the LOVFA, the bishop urged the committee to “provide political and material support to said organizations engaged in the monitoring and advocacy for national sovereignty, and opposed to all forms of foreign intervention.”

Then US Ambassador to Manila Francis Ricciardone told MindaNews in a February 2005 interview that they had “established a semi-continuous, not permanent, but semi-continuous (military presence), that is to say, some number of our personnel, rotate, at the pleasure of the command, your command…It’s a high-priced consultancy, only we’re doing it for free. And the second your command says it’s not useful, we leave.”

Retired General Edilberto Adan, now executive director of the Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement, says the presence of US troops in the Philippine is “beneficial to our people,” citing in dollars and cents these so-called benefits, and that it is through the VFA “that our country can better protect its sovereignty as it lives up to its obligations under the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the United States.”

But Senator Miriam Santiago, Committee chair, asked during the hearing Undersecretary Teresita Domingo of the Department of Justice “how do you reconcile the VIFA with the MDT?”

Santiago said the VFA “is based on the MDT but MDT allows American military presence on Philippine territories in cases of external armed attack only.”

“But under the VFA, the American military presence is apparently being justified on domestic counter-terrorism effort. How do you reconcile the VFA with MDT?” Santiago asked.

Domingo, citing Supreme Court rulings, said the VFA “is based upon the Mutual Defense Treaty and insofar as VFA is concerned, this allows the presence of US military. It is the one that controls the entry that determines the entry and the stay of…”

“But MDT speaks only of an external armed attack. Is it the position of DOJ that there is an external armed attack on Philippines at this time?” Santiago asked.

Domingo replied, “It is not the position of the DOJ that there is external attack on the Philippines at this time.”

“If there is no such thing since VFA is based on the MDT, there is no legal basis for the American military presence, you see,” Santiago pointed out.

“The American military presence here is now based on the VFA,” Domingo responded.

“But the VFA is based on the MDT,” Santiago said.

She suggested that the issue be resolved in closed-door session. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

US Troops Are Here to Stay, Concealed in Bases Within AFP Camps

September 27, 2008

Since losing a number of its major overseas bases in the 1990s, the US has had to make shifts in its basing strategy. It now increasingly relies on what its Department of Defense calls “Cooperative Security Locations” (CSLs), and there is now less emphasis on “Main Operating Bases” (MOBs). The US has a number of CSLs in the Philippines.

BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
Bulatlat

Since losing a number of its major overseas bases in the 1990s, the US has had to make shifts in its basing strategy. It now increasingly relies on what its Department of Defense calls “Cooperative Security Locations” (CSLs), and there is now less emphasis on “Main Operating Bases” (MOBs). It has a number of CSLs in the Philippines, one of which is in Camp Navarro, Zamboanga City.

The US military installation within Camp Navarro was mentioned by Pacifico Agabin, dean of the Lyceum of the Philippines School of Law, during his presentation at the oral arguments against the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) before the Supreme Court on Sept. 19.

The 1987 Constitution does not allow foreign military presence on Philippine soil except through a treaty jointly recognized by both contracting parties. Art. XVIII, Sec. 25 of the Constitution provides that:

“After the expiration in 1991 of the Agreement between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States of America concerning military bases, foreign military bases, troops, or facilities shall not be allowed in the Philippines except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate and, when the Congress so requires, ratified by a majority of the votes cast by the people in a national referendum held for that purpose, and recognized as a treaty by the other contracting State.”

The VFA was ratified in 1999 by the Philippine Senate and signed by then President Joseph Estrada, but it was never ratified by the US Senate.

The first RP-US Balikatan military exercises under the VFA – which provides only for short stays by US troops – were conducted in 2002. There has been continuous US military presence in the Philippines since then, manifested through the CSLs.

“Visiting is quite an understatement, considering that the US forces have been with us for six years, and six years can hardly be considered a visit,” Agabin said during the Sept. 19 oral arguments. “It is really a continuous visit. It is really a kind of visit that wears out the hospitality of the host.”

Agabin then cited the presence of CSLs within Philippine military camps – specifically the one located in Camp Navarro.

The website GlobalSecurity.org defines the MOB and the CSL as follows:

A Main Operating Base (MOB) is an enduring strategic asset established in friendly territory with permanently stationed combat forces, command and control structures, and family support facilities. MOBs serve as the anchor points for throughput, training, engagement, and US commitment to NATO. MOBs have: robust infrastructure; strategic access; established Command and Control; Forward Operating Sites and Cooperative Security Location support capability; and enduring family support facilities. These are already in existence.

A Cooperative Security Location (CSL) is a host-nation facility with little or no permanent US presence. CSLs will require periodic service, contractor and/or host nation support. CSLs provide contingency access and are a focal point for security cooperation activities. They may contain propositioned equipment. CSLs are: rapidly scalable and located for tactical use, expandable to become a FOS, forward and expeditionary. They will have no family support system.

The US Department of Defense’s Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, meanwhile, defines a base as “a locality from which operations are projected or supported,” reflecting clearly the role of these installations in war posturing.

In an article in the June 2005 issue of TheAtlantic.com, Robert D. Kaplan explains how CSLs work thus:

“A cooperative security location can be a tucked-away corner of a host country’s civilian airport, or a dirt runway somewhere with fuel and mechanical help nearby, or a military airport in a friendly country with which we have no formal basing agreement but, rather, an informal arrangement with private contractors acting as go-betweens. Because the CSL concept is built on subtle relationships, it’s where the war-fighting ability of the Pentagon and the diplomacy of the State Department coincide – or should. The problem with big bases in, say, Turkey – as we learned on the eve of the invasion of Iraq – is that they are an intrusive, intimidating symbol of American power, and the only power left to a host country is the power to deny us use of such bases. In the future, therefore, we will want unobtrusive bases that benefit the host country much more obviously than they benefit us. Allowing us the use of such a base would ramp up power for a country rather than humiliating it.

“I have visited a number of CSLs in East Africa and Asia. Here is how they work. The United States provides aid to upgrade maintenance facilities, thereby helping the host country to better project its own air and naval power in the region. At the same time, we hold periodic exercises with the host country’s military, in which the base is a focus. We also offer humanitarian help to the surrounding area. Such civil-affairs projects garner positive publicity for our military in the local media – and they long preceded the response to the tsunami, which marked the first time that many in the world media paid attention to the humanitarian work done all over the world, all the time, by the US military. The result is a positive diplomatic context for getting the host country’s approval for use of the base when and if we need it.

“Often the key role in managing a CSL is played by a private contractor. In Asia, for example, the private contractor is usually a retired American noncom, either Navy or Air Force, quite likely a maintenance expert, who is living in, say, Thailand or the Philippines, speaks the language fluently, perhaps has married locally after a divorce back home, and is generally much liked by the locals. He rents his facilities at the base from the host-country military, and then charges a fee to the US Air Force pilots transiting the base. Officially he is in business for himself, which the host country likes because it can then claim it is not really working with the American military. Of course no one, including the local media, believes this. But the very fact that a relationship with the US Armed Forces is indirect rather than direct eases tensions. The private contractor also prevents unfortunate incidents by keeping the visiting pilots out of trouble—steering them to the right hotels and bars, and advising them on how to behave. (Without Dan Generette, a private contractor for years at Utapao Naval Station, in Thailand, that base could never have been ramped up to provide tsunami relief the way it was.)”

According to Roland Simbulan, a professor of development studies at the University of the Philippines (UP) in Manila and an expert on RP-US foreign and military relations, the dismantling of the US bases in the Philippines following the Senate’s rejection of a new Military Bases Agreement in 1991 was a major contributor to the US shift in basing strategy.

The Philippines was once host to the largest US overseas bases. Subic Naval Base alone had an area of 6,658 hectares, while Clark Air Base covered 4,400 hectares.

Apart from these, the US had O’Donnell Transmitter Station (1,755 hectares), San Miguel Communications Station (1,100 hectares), Capas Naval Transmitter Station (356 hectares), John Hay Air Station (227 hectares), and Wallance Air Station (202 hectares).

All these spanned a total area of 14,698 hectares of arable land. “If you combine that, it would be bigger than Singapore,” Simbulan said in an interview.

“So the dismantling of the bases in the Philippines was a hard blow to the US. The US was really shocked by the 1991 vote against the new bases treaty… They were forced to shift to a new basing strategy.

“CSLs were developed to blunt political opposition to big military bases.”

The US maintains a number of CSLs, mostly in Africa, Latin America, and Asia. US officials claim that the CSLs particularly in Africa and Latin America exist for the purpose of combating the drug trade.

But this is just a cover, according to Simbulan. “The US has not been consistent in its fight against the drug trade,” he said. He noted that the US military, for instance, had colluded with drug syndicates in fighting revolutionary guerrillas and leaders in Colombia and Cuba.

In the Philippines, there are CSLs installed in Camp Aguinaldo, the General Headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP); as well as in Camp Navarro in Zamboanga City, in Cotabato City, and in Basilan.

Camp Navarro hosts the headquarters of the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P).

The JSOTF-P was established by the US Special Operations Command Pacific (SOCPAC). It began its work when SOCPAC deployed to the Philippines Joint Task Force (JTF) 510. Based on an item on GlobalSecurity.org, JTF 510 was deployed to the Philippines “to support Operation Enduring Freedom.”

Operation Enduring Freedom is the official name given to the US government’s military response to the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001 in New York City. It entails a series of anti-“terrorism” activities in Afghanistan, the Philippines, the Horn of Africa, Trans-Sahara, and Pakinsi Gorge.

“CSLs are off-limits to AFP personnel,” Simbulan disclosed. “I was able to talk with some AFP personnel at one time, and they told me they don’t really know what the US troops are doing in their offices within AFP camps.”

“The (main) purpose for these is for them to expand their operations so that when they have missions to Malaysia and Indonesia, they would have locations that are open to them,” he said.

Saimbulan also said that the CSLs in the Philippines are also used for “technical intelligence”, or surveillance, purposes. He said that the US troops conducting surveillance operations are particularly active in strategic areas like Southwestern Mindanao.

“They go around in civilian clothes,” he said. “Some of them disguise themselves as tourists.”

The immediate goal, he said, is for the US troops to consolidate their influence in Mindanao. “It follows that when they consolidate their influence there, US companies would have easier access to the area,” he said.

The long-term consideration, however, is that the US views China as a long-term threat, Simbulan said.

Simbulan said that between 100 and 500 US troops are deployed all year in the Philippines, working from these CSLs. These, he said, are apart from those who come to the Philippines periodically for the Balikatan military exercises.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita recently said that US troops come and go but they “all look alike,” so it is as though they never leave.

“They are replaced every now and then,” Ermita said. “They leave, contrary to the critics’ impression that they have not left.”

But this is not so, said Simbulan. “It is those who join the Balikatan who come and go, but those (in the CSLs) are deployed here for prolonged periods,” he said.

He recounted his conversation with the wife of a US official on one trip to Zamboanga, during which he learned that in the Camp Navarro CSL there is now a building for housing.

There is no treaty between the Philippines and the US which allows for the presence of CSLs on Philippine soil. (Bulatlat)

Lanao All-Youth Rally VS Mindanao War

September 27, 2008

Groups question presence of US troops in Mindanao

September 26, 2008

BAGUIO CITY ― Different groups are now raising questions on the presence of the United States troops in Mindanao amid the ongoing military operations in pursuit of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) under Commanders “Umbra Kato” and “Bravo.”

According to Atty. Neri Colmenares, secretary-general of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) the presence of US troops in Mindanao is a violation of the Philippine Constitution and the Terms of Reference (TOR) of both the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the Balikatan exercises.

“The continued stay of foreign troops in the Philippines is a violation of the Constitution especially since the ongoing presence of these troops are not mere ‘visits’ but is essentially permanent basing,” said Colmenares.

He also stressed the TOR of the VFA and Balikatan “limited the actions of the US troops to ‘training,’ and not for intelligence gathering.”

The government through Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Maj. Ramon Zagala recently admitted that the US troops in Mindanao are involved in intelligence gathering on the MILF besides “humanitarian purposes.”

“Despite the fact that there are no ongoing Balikatan Exercises, US troops were in various areas in Mindanao where there is fighting between government and MILF forces,” added Colmenares.

Colmenares also said US troops in Mindanao are now legitimate targets of attack by rebel groups because they are confirmed “combatants” under international law.

Beverly Longid, chairperson of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), the local chapter of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said in a phone interview, the presence of the US troops in Mindanao is clearly interfering with the internal affairs of the country.

Foreign intervention, she said, is a blatant disregard and disrespect of our sovereignty as a free nation.

According to Longid the main reason behind the presence of US troops in Mindanao is not for “humanitarian purposes” but for their own economic interest.

“It is very clear that the US is very much interested in Mindanao because of its economic potentials in terms of oil and its rich natural resources especially that the US is now in a deep economic recession,” said Longid.

“It is more understandable if foreign civic organizations are the ones doing humanitarian activities in Mindanao rather than US troops in full battle gear,” said Longid adding that the US troops are not neutral forces.

Meanwhile, Innabuyog-Gabriela through Acting Chairperson Vernie Yocogan-Diano is also adamant in their position that it is very likely the US troops would be involved in combat even if the government said that they are there for humanitarian purposes only.

“The mere presence of the foreign troops there would also increase the tension and would likely result in more violence,” said Diano adding that sexual violence by US troops against Filipino women is another story. # Cye Reyes (NorDis)

RP-US military uses movie propaganda vs Abu Sayyaf

September 25, 2008

By Bong Garcia

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THE Philippine and US military have initiated a program that instills patriotism thereby dissuading children from joining terror groups like the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group in the island province of Sulu.

The program dubbed as Movie Night highlights the learning of right values while having fun.

What’s your take on the Mindanao crisis? Discuss views with other readers

Movie night is being implemented by the Philippine military’s Joint Task Force Comet (JTFC) and America’s Joint Special Operation Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) in the province of Sulu, said to be a hotbed of the Abu Sayyaf bandits.

Major General Juancho Sabban, JTFC chief, said the Movie Night is being held every Sunday inside Camp General Teodulfo Bautista in the village of Busbus, Jolo, the capital town of Sulu. Show starts at 6:30 p.m.

Sabban said the movie night caters to both kids and grown-ups.

“The objective of the Movie Night is not only for children to get acquainted with the military, but more importantly to broaden their perspective and help shape them into individuals as assets to the society,” Sabban, who is in-charge of the campaign against Abu Sayyaf in Sulu, said in a statement.

He said what started as a small gathering of 20 children — the attendance of the Movie Night — has grown over the past few months into an assembly of kids with some grown-ups reaching up to around 400 who are eager to watch lesson-filled movies with the military personnel.

Sabban said each night has a different movie, citing they select a film that teaches powerful lessons and “the content and the aptness for the child’s age are considered.”

Sabban said the Movie Night is meant to provide wholesome entertainment with the objective of broadening their horizon.

“Movies are a rare glimpse into the outside world. It is a pastime that children love and a fun activity where they can use their imagination,” he explained.

“Viewers do not only enjoy an evening of fun and good movie, but also free pop corns and balloons too,” he added.

“It is a great time to have movie night with the kids… before the start of a busy week that’s why we make sure movie night is done right,” said Major Yuri Pesigan, JTFC’s Civil Military Operations (CMO).

The movie night begins with Philippine and US military volunteers escorting local children to the movie site where they line-up and get a squirt of antibacterial hand sanitizer and then move through the line to receive a small bag of popcorn and a bottle of water.

Once the seating and snacks are complete, the mood is set.

Before the movie starts, Philippine military volunteers talk to them about basic healthcare, their dreams, and various other topics intended to instill the principles of obedience, discipline, unity, patriotism, and other values.

“It gives the children a chance to see what’s on the other side of the gate — to see who the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) really is. We are here to help and educate them…and they see that we really care about them,” said Philippine Marine Sergeant John Paul Lacao, a Movie Night volunteer.

US Air Force Captain Vance Rothmeyer described the Philippines as a huge melting pot similar to America and “these kids all come from a wide variety of backgrounds.”

“When we bring all of them together by doing something that they can all participate in and identify with, it instills in them a broader sense of nationalism and pride,” Rothmeyer said.

Sabban said that after the education portion of the Movie Night, the lights are turned down in a way that the kids can still get up and move through the room safely.

He said the children are shown short films that highlight the importance of unity and patriotism, plus military’s various humanitarian undertakings meant to benefit the province of Sulu.

Following the short films, the Philippine National Anthem is played, followed by a child-friendly movie.

Sabban said Movie Night culminates with more social interaction between the children and the AFP and US military personnel and “together, they clean up popcorn spills and talk about plans for the next Movie Night.”

Sabban said he foresees that with the wholesome activity of the Movie Night, children — the usual target of recruitment — will be discouraged from joining the Abu Sayyaf group.(Sunstar)

===========

My Take:

There’s another term for this: brainwashing.

(Talinong Lansangan) Nakabalik na ang mga tropang US

September 24, 2008

Carol Pagaduan-Araullo

LABIMPITONG taon na ang nakakaraan, ibinasura ng Senado ng Pilipinas ang pagpapalawig sa RP-US Military Bases Agreement, na tumapos sa mahigit 40 taon ng presensya at aktibidad ng militar ng US sa Pilipinas. Sinalubong ang desisyon ng papuri mula sa halos lahat ng panig, patunay na may malawak itong suporta ng mga mamamayan. Sa loob ng isang taon, mulng nagdiwang ang sambayanang Pilipino nang pabilisin ng pagsabog ng Mt. Pinatubo ang pag-atras ng mga tauhang Amerikano at pagsasara ng Subic Naval Base at Clark Air Base.

Sa wakas. Iyon ang akala nating lahat noon.

Oo, malinaw na nakabalik na ang mga tropang US at ang kanilang mga kagamitang pandigma. Nalegalisa na ang kanilang pananatili sa bansa – nang may lubos na kalayaan sa pagkilos, pleksibilidad sa disposisyon at pagmamaniobra, isang malaking bungkos ng pinapahintulutang aktibidad na pwedeng magbigay-katwiran sa kahit ano, gayundin ng halos pag-abswelto sa anumang krimeng magagawa laban sa mga Pilipino sa teritoryo ng bansa – at isinantabi na ng Korte Suprema ang mga kwestyon sa konstitusyunalidad ng presensya nila.*

Pinapahintulutan ng Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA, 1999), Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA, 2003; pinalawig nitong 2008) at Security Engagement Board (SEB, 2006) ang: (1) pananatili nang walang limitasyon sa dami at saklaw na lupain at panahon ng mga pwersang militar ng US, kasama na ang mga sibilyang katuwang nila, sa teritoryo ng Pilipinas; (2) pagpapasok nila ng panggiyerang mga barko, aircraft, tangke at lahat ng klase ng kagamitang pandigma, kasama na ang mga armas-nukleyar na hindi nila kailangang ideklara sa kabila ng malinaw na probisyon ng Konstitusyon ng Pilipinas hinggil sa pagbabawal sa mga ito; at (3) pagbubuo, paggamit at pagkontrol nila sa pisikal na imprastrukturang kailangan para sa tuluy-tuloy nilang operasyon.

Isang grupong konsultatibo ang di-gaanong-kilalang SEB, na pinapamunuan ng hepe ng AFP at ng kumander ng US Pacific Command na nangangasiwa sa kooperasyong panseguridad ng US at Pilipinas batay sa pinalawak na pakahulugan ng salitang “seguridad.” Habang nakatuon ang Mutual Defense Treaty ng 1951 sa diumano’y “tradisyunal” na mga isyung panseguridad tulad ng mga banta ng pananakop ng dayuhang militar, sinasaklaw naman ng bagong kasunduan ang “di-tradisyunal na mga banta” tulad ng terorismo, pagtutulak ng droga, pamimirata at mga kalamidad tulad ng baha, bagyo, lindol at mga epidemya.

Sang-ayon sa doktrinang militar ng US, ikinaklasipika ang mga aktibidad ng mga tropang Kano sa Pilipinas bilang “mga operasyong pang-istabilidad” at ipinapaketeng mga operasyong nasa labas ng larangan ng digma – ibig sabihin, mga operasyong di nakikipaglaban (non-combat). Pero ang totoo, binibigyang-diin ng doktrinang militar ng US kung paano, lalo na sa mga operasyon sa ibayong dagat, maaaring magbagu-bago ang sitwasyon para pumihit mula sa isang sitwasyong di-giyera o di pakikipaglaban tungo sa isang sitwasyon ng giyera o pakikipaglaban.

Halimbawa, binabanggit ng mga field manual ng militar ng US ang Digmaang Pilipino-Amerikano bilang unang halimbawa ng operasyong pang-istabilidad ng US Army. Ayon dito: “Ang Army ay nagbigay din ng tulong sa panahon ng kalamidad, nagpatahimik sa mga kaguluhang lokal, at sumuporta sa patakarang panlabas ng Amerika (halimbawa, ang paglulunsad ng operasyong pang-istabilidad sa Pilipinas noong 1899-1904 at sa Haiti noong 1915-1934).” Pansining inilarawan ang mga operasyong pang-istabilidad ng US Army – na nagdulot ng pagkamatay ng mahigit kalahating milyong Pilipino – na “pagpapatahimik sa mga kaguluhang lokal.”

Binibigyang-katwiran ng rehimeng Arroyo ang presensyang militar ngayon ng US sa pamamagitan ng paggamit sa banta ng pandaigdig at lokal na “terorismo” at sa kung paano nakasandig ang kakayahan at pagiging epektibo ng AFP sa kontra-terorismo at kontra-insurhensya sa pagsasanay, pagbabahagi ng intelligence, pagpapahusay sa kagamitan at paggamit sa mga kagamitang high-tech ng US. Itinuturing na labis na kapaki-pakinabang ang paglahok ng militar ng US sa mga operasyong rescue and relief, civil works, misyong medikal, suportang panseguridad sa mga proyektong pangkaunlaran, at iba pa sa harap ng mga kakulangan at limitasyon ng gobyerno.

Bagamat patuloy na gumagana ang “terorismo” bilang panakot, signipikante nang nabawasan ang bisa nito pagdating sa paglikom ng suporta para sa diumano’y giyera kontra-terorismo dahil sa: (1) pagkakalantad ng bulgar na pagsisinungaling ng Presidente ng US kaugnay ng pagtatago ng rehimen ni Saddam Hussein ng mga pangmadlang kagamitang mapamuksa (weapons of mass destruction); (2) papataas na gastusin, brutalidad at kawalang-direksyon ng mga digmaan sa Iraq at Afghanistan; at (3) masaker, malawakang pangwawasak at pag-abuso sa mga karapatang pantao na ihinaplit sa buu-buong populasyong sibilyan, mga di-mandirigma, mga pinaghihinalaang “terorista” at mga detenido.

Kandahirap ang gobyerno ng US at Pilipinas na igiit na hindi porma ng interbensyong militar ang presensyang militar ng US dahil ang presensya at aktibidad ng US ay pawang “nakabatay sa pakiusap (request) ng gobyernong Pilipino.” Pero tiyak na may sariling adyenda ang US na higit pa sa mga “pakiusap” ng gobyerno ng Pilipinas.

Sadyang pinapalabo ng rehimeng Arroyo ang di-nagbabagong layunin ng estratehiyang geopolitical at pangmilitar ng US sa Pilipinas at sa iba pang lugar: ang pagsusulong ng sarili nitong mga interes bilang Superpower. Kasama na rito ang pag-angkin sa mga lugar na may estratehikong linyang pang-komunikasyon at pang-suplay at mga rekurso, pangunahin ang langis (tulad sa Gitnang Silangan, Gitnang Asya at Timog Silangang Asya), sa mga rutang pangkalakalan (tulad ng Timog Dagat Tsina), at sa iba pang eryang estratehiko ang heograpiya na paniyak na makakamit nito ang walang karibal na kapangyarihang pandaigdig. Sa loob ng bansa, may hibang na interes at mahabang kasaysayan ang US sa pakikialam sa internal na mga usapin ng bansa lalung-lalo na sa pagkontra sa lumalakas na pwersa at impluwensya ng lokal na kilusang kontra-imperyalista, makabayan at demokratiko.

Pinagtatakpan din ang paggamit ng US sa buong Pilipinas bilang sa esensya’y bahagi ng makinarya nitong pandigma sa rehiyon at mundo – na, muli, isang paglabag sa Konstitusyon na nagtatatwa sa giyera bilang patakarang pambansa at taliwas sa mithiin at interes ng sambayanang Pilipino. Patraydor at baliw na isinasantabi ang mga panganib at suliranin na iniluluwal nito para sa bansa.

Kailangang ulit-uliting ang US ay may mahabang rekord sa mundo at sa Pilipinas ng paggawa ng gusto nito kung kailan nito magustuhan, anuman ang pakiusap o intensyon ng bansang “host” nito. Kailangan ito, laluna’t tuluy-tuloy na pinapapanatag ng gobyerno ng US at Pilipinas ang sambayanang Pilipino na, dahil matagalan at pinaka-masasandigang alyado ito, hindi kailanman lalabagin ng US ang soberanya ng Pilipinas at hindi rin ito gagawa ng kahit anong makakasama sa interes ng sambayanang Pilipino.

Kailangan lang nating magbalik-tanaw sa isang siglong nakaraan para makita kung paano pumasok ang US sa sirkulo ng mga kapangyarihang imperyalista sa mundo sa pamamagitan ng “pagtulong” sa mga rebolusyunaryong Pilipino sa pagpapatalsik sa mga mananakop na Espanyol, at kung paano ibinaling nila pagkatapos ang kanilang mga baril hindi lang sa kanilang dating alyado kundi maging sa buong sambayanang Pilipino sa isang brutal na kampanya ng “pagpapatahimik sa sitwasyon” simula noong Digmaang Pilipino-Amerikano at umabot ng 1916.

Isa pang halimbawa nitong huli ang pag-atake ng mga pwersa ng US na nakabase sa Afghanistan sa mga komunidad na Pakistani na pinaghinalaang nagkakanlong sa Al-Qaeda o mga pinaghihinalaang militanteng Muslim nang hindi man lang hinihingi ang permiso ng gobyernong Pakistani, na diumano’y malapit na alyado sa giyera kontra-terorismo. Sa kabila ng protesta ng gobyerno at militar ng Pakistan, tila hindi natitinag ang US.

Sa harap ng mga datos na ito, masasabi ba nang may katiyakan ng kahit sino na pansamantala, kapaki-pakinabang at ligtas ang presensyang militar ng US?

_____________

*Muling nagsampa ang Bayan, kasama ng iba pang naghabla, at pati na si “Nicole” – ang dalagang Pilipinang nag-akusa sa apat na militar ng US ng panggagahasa sa kanya noong 2006 – ng isa na namang habla sa Korte Suprema, na humihiling ditong balik-aralan ang kwestyon ng konstitusyunalidad ng VFA.

Daniel Smith in US embassy custody —DILG

September 23, 2008

By Cecille Suerte Felipe
Tuesday, September 23, 2008

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Interior Undersecretary Marius Corpus maintained that there is no basis for the allegation of a lawyer that convicted rapist United States Marine Lance Corporal Daniel Smith is not in the custody of the US embassy.

Corpus confirmed the statement of Solicitor General Agnes Devanadera that he and other members of the inspection panel checked Smith’s quarters at the US embassy in Manila last Sept. 12.

“He’s there (US Embassy detention cell). I just visited him Sept. 12. He was transferred to a container van and not outside the US embassy. I even have pictures of my last visits,” Corpus told The STAR.

Corpus heads the Philippine government’s inspection panel tasked to conduct regular inspection in the US embassy to check if Smith remains under the embassy’s custody.

Corpus announced last July that Smith, who was convicted in 2006 of raping a Filipina in Subic in 2005, was transferred to a container van because the building where Smith’s cell was located was up for demolition.

The container van where Smith is detained has simple amenities, but it still looks and feels like a detention cell, said Corpus.

Smith was sentenced to 40 years in jail for the rape of a Filipina inside the Subic Bay Freeport on Nov. 1, 2005.

Lawyer Harry Roque had questioned the whereabouts of Smith, citing information from a US embassy official that the soldier had been moved out of the embassy and was staying somewhere in Quezon City. (PhilippineStar)

==========

My Take:

Pictures as evidence is not strong nowadays, with the Photoshop and other image-editing tools around.  Why the bright, educated, smart Undersecretary, did not employ a video camera to capture his “evidence”, is one smart, educated and bright question indeed.

Senators want US Embassy to prove Smith is still there

September 21, 2008

By Edson C. Tandoc Jr., Jerome Aning
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:48:00 09/21/2008

MANILA, Philippines—Senators on Saturday urged the US Embassy to open its doors so government agencies can check whether or not convicted rapist Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith is still detained at the embassy.

Lawyer Harry Roque had alleged before the Supreme Court on Friday that a US military official had told him during a wine tasting event that Smith was no longer detained at the embassy and had been staying somewhere in Quezon City.

Government lawyer Agnes Devanadera later said Roque’s allegations were not true and said Interior Undersecretary Marius Corpus had just visited Smith at the embassy compound last Sept. 12.

But Sen. Rodolfo Biazon, co-chair of the legislative oversight committee on the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) said (Roque’s) allegation “is a serious issue that merits the attention of the appropriate agencies of the government.”

“The only way to quell these doubts and pacify both sides is to show that these fears are not true. They can just simply allow a team to go there and look,” Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano added.

The Makati City Regional Trial Court convicted Smith in 2006 for raping a Filipino, identified in the media as “Nicole.” He was sent to the Makati City Jail but was transferred 26 days later to the US Embassy in line with the provisions of the VFA.

Majority Leader Sen. Francis Pangilinan also called on the high court to immediately resolve the custody issue on Smith.

“We urge the Supreme Court to swiftly resolve the pending petition before it on the matter of jurisdiction over the person of Corporal Smith,” Pangilinan said in a text message.

The counsel of the convicted American soldier denounced Roque for questioning the whereabouts of the convicted rapist during the oral arguments on the VFA before the Supreme Court.

“That’s hearsay. He has no a personal knowledge about it. It was improper for him to talk about that before the magistrates. Suppose they believe it? He just can’t say things that are never verified,” Smith’s lawyer Jose Justiniano told the Inquirer in a phone interview.

“If he has a witness, then let the witness make an affidavit,” Justiniano said.

“He (Smith) has always been in the US Embassy. The US has no facility in Quezon City. I can assure you that he is in the embassy. I have access to him,” the lawyer added.

He said Smith never left the embassy compound except on one occasion when he was rushed to a hospital for a stomachache, and had to undergo surgery to remove gallbladder stones.

Justiniano said he visited Smith a month ago and is in touch with him by phone.

He said that if Smith had been a party to the Supreme Court case, he, as Smith’s counsel would have asked that Roque be cited for contempt of court for baseless allegations that could harm Smith’s appeal of his conviction.

Congressional probe on US presence pushed

September 21, 2008

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Zamboanga City Representative Maria Isabelle G. Climaco has expressed support for his militant co-leagues’ resolution asking the Congress to look into the continued increasing presence of US troops in the country.

She said she even informed US Ambassador Kristie Kenney about this.

Climaco said she is even puzzled by the presence of DYN Corp., a private firm that is reportedly taking care of the US troops’ supplies.

Climaco also said that Belle helicopters and the American planes are occupying one side of the hangar as if they already owned a certain portion of the public airport.

She added that the US troops are now inside the Western Mindanao Command.

Militant bloc has already filed a resolution seeking the probe of the US presence in the coountry

Fil-Ams Join Rally at Republican Convention to Call for End to US Intervention in RP

September 17, 2008

Filipino-Americans under the banner of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan-New Patriotic Alliance) USA chapter joined protesters from United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ), the Troops Out Now Coalition (TONC), Latinos Against the War (LAW), Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), the American Indian Movement (AIM), the ANSWER Coalition, and various unions and labor groups during the Republican National Convention to call for an end to US intervention in the Philippines.

BY BULATLAT
Vol. VIII, No. 31, September 7-13, 2008

ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA, U.S.A—Filipino-Americans under the banner of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan-New Patriotic Alliance) USA chapter joined the protests surrounding the Republican National Convention (RNC) Sept. 2.

Kuusela Hilo, deputy secretary general of Bayan-USA, spoke before over 30,000 protesters to denounce US government intervention in the Philippines and to pressure the next US president to withdraw all forms of support to the US-backed regime of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Hilo also called for an ‘end to violent US-backed counter-insurgency in the Philippines, particularly in the southernbayan usa RNC region of Mindanao, where US troops are believed to be engaged in unlawful armed combat with armed groups.’

The Philippines is the fourth largest recipient of US military aid in the world.

A 2007 US Senate hearing in Capitol Hill examined how US tax dollars have contributed to the intensified pattern of extra-judicial killings and abductions across the country, as well as the character of the joint military training conducted by both US and Philippine troops. Bayan-USA members were part of the broad 2007 campaign to pressure legislators to hold the hearing.

Hilo also paid tribute to the hardworking Filipinos in the United States, the second largest immigrant group, and challenged the US government to pass a humane, just, and comprehensive immigration reform bill.

After rallying for hours in front of the Minnesota State Capitol building in St. Paul, protesters marched to the Xcel Center, the site of the RNC.

Hilo marched side-by-side with representatives of the United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ), the Troops Out Now Coalition (TONC), Latinos Against the War (LAW), Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), and the American Indian Movement (AIM).

Also present were the ANSWER Coalition and various unions and labor groups.

Demands printed on banners included US Out of Iraq Now; Money for Human Needs, not for War; and Peace, Justice and Equality for all.

With news of the approaching wrath of Hurricane Gustav on New Orleans’ Gulf Coast scaling down even George W. Bush’s attendance to the RNC, protesters marched in the tens of thousands undeterred, despite the violent brutality they met from the RNC’s security forces and local police.

Jess Sundin, representing the broad-based Coalition to March on the RNC and Stop the War, said, “We are here today, in the tens of thousands, because we refuse to be scared away [by police repression]. Because what we are marching for is too important to be silenced. Because this is the only way we can answer the Republican agenda, and demand and end to policies that wage war, deepen poverty, and fuel racism.”

Award-winning journalist Amy Goodman was one of the hundreds of marchers arrested during the opening salvo of the RNC protests. Goodman was thrown to the ground along with two of her Democracy Now producers after snagging a street interview with Hilo on the Philippine situation.

“Despite the fascism of the police, it was still a successful rally and march,” Hilo stated. “The two year battle to protest the RNC was well worth it. It was not just the hurricane deterring Bush from attending his own party’s convention. It was the political storm generated by the thousands of people descending on St. Paul from across the state, the country, and the world.” Bulatlat

Oral argument on Subic rapist’s detention at SC Sept. 19

September 10, 2008

Nicole’s lawyer worried about corruption in CA

By Veronica Uy
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 14:52:00 09/09/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court will be hearing the oral argument on a case on the transfer and detention of convicted rapist Daniel Smith on September 19, the lawyer of the American Marine’s victim said.

At the same time, Evalyn Ursua, the lawyer of the victim known publicly only as Nicole, acknowledged being worried about the unfolding bribery scandal at the Court of Appeals, where Smith’s appeal of his conviction for the November 1, 2005 rape at the Subic Bay Freeport is pending.

Ursua said the high court will hear the motion they filed to cite the government in contempt for whisking Smith out of the Makati City jail in December 2006, even before a court could decide on the issue, and transferring him to the American embassy in Manila, where he continues to be detained.

But Smith’s lawyer, Jose Justiniano, said the rape convict is not a party to the Supreme Court case, which is between Ursua and the Office of the Solicitor General. “We are a minor party there, if not a simple observer,” he said.

Ursua said the continuing bribery scandal at the Court of Appeals worried them because the alleged pressure the executive branch of government allegedly brings to bear on appellate judges is “common knowledge.”

“We are worried that, because of the Meralco case, it is not unlikely that it could happen here, given the interest in this case, which involves the United States and the Visiting Forces Agreement,” she said.

Ursua was referring to the petition filed by the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) against a cease and desist order (CDO) handed down by the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) on the election of the power firm’s board earlier this year.

The CDO had been sought by the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) as part of a bid to wrest control of Meralco.

The case has seen appellate justices accusing each other of corruption amid allegations of bribe offers from either Meralco or the government and even personal calls from government officials asking for a decision in favor of GSIS.

The Supreme Court created a panel of retired justices who investigated the allegations and are expected to release its findings soon.

“We are worried. We can only do our work, the rest is up to the process and the justices,” Ursua said even as she pointed out that the issue of Smith’s conviction and detention has gone beyond what he did to Nicole.

“To many people, Nicole is just collateral damage. In the context of Mindanao, where there is focus on the presence of US troops, the stakes have become higher,” she said.

Ursua recalled that Nicole testified that American troops have some form of base in the Zamboanga military camp where her mother ran a canteen.

“Remember, she talked in the beginning of her testimony about the US camp, about how they have always been there. That’s why it’s part of her life seeing American soldiers. They’re not just visiting,” she said.

Justiniano and Ursua both said that all pleadings have been submitted to the Court of Appeals since October last year. They said they are only awaiting the decision, which could either affirm the guilty conviction or reverse it.

===================

My Take:

The way the SC handled the CA controversy, and the kind of sentence they awarded to the guilty justices, Nicole’s camp has every right to be suspicious of whatever decision they’ get from the CA, specially if its against their crusade.

Presence of US Troops in Mindanao Faces Probe

September 7, 2008

The umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, through its lawyers, will question the presence of “overstaying US troops” during the scheduled oral arguments before the Supreme Court in the group’s petition against the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement. The petition questioning the constitutionality of the treaty was filed last year and is scheduled for oral arguments on September 19.

Apart from the issues of custody arising from the Subic Rape case, Bayan said that it also plans to question the “duration and scope of the seemingly permanent presence of US troops in Mindanao.”

“The continuing presence of US troops in various parts of Mindanao already goes beyond what the Philippine Senate contemplated as ‘temporary’ during its deliberations on the VFA in 1999. The Senate deliberations defined ‘temporary’ as being about six months. The US troops have been in Mindanao for six years,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

Bayan pointed to the VFA as the culprit on why US troops have overstayed in Mindanao.

“The problem with the VFA is that it does not define in clear and uncertain terms the scope, duration of stay and the extent of the engagement of US troops. In some ways, it is worse than the previous US bases agreement because of its vagueness. For all intents and purposes, an unlimited number of US troops can stay here for an unlimited period of time, even if there are no joint military exercises,” Reyes said.

“If that isn’t virtual basing, then what is?” Reyes asked.

The militant group looked back at the so-called Terms of Reference during the first Balikatan 02-1 which saw the first batch of US troops enter areas like Zamboanga and Sulu and paved the way for their continued stay in the region.

“Even the Terms of Reference of the Balikatan 02-1 was vague. It did not define the length of stay nor did it give assurances that the US troops will not engage in actual combat operations. That is why we have US troops embedded in AFP combat units who are involved in actual combat operations, in clear violation of the Constitution,” Reyes said.

Bayan also said that “informal basing structures” were being created under the RP-US Mutual Logistics Agreement, a complimentary arrangement with the VFA.

The MLSA allows US troop’s use of Philippine facilities for whatever purposes they have during their stay here. The agreement was renewed last year after five years in effect.

The establishment of the headquarters of the Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines (JSOTFP) inside Camp Don Basilio Navarro, the air asset facility inside the Zamboanga City International Airport, a docking area at the Majini Pier inside the Naval Forces Western Mindanao Command, and the training facility inside Camp Arturo Enrile in Malagutay village are all made possible under the “quasi-basing agreement” known as the MLSA according to Bayan.

Bayan said that its researchers in Mindanao complained that the areas and facilities occupied by the US troops are “off-limits to Filipinos”. Even the taking of pictures is not allowed, the researchers said.

“The VFA and the MLSA are twin agreements which re-established US military presence in the country after the US bases treaty rejection of 1991. It’s as if the Americans never left Subic and Clark. These agreements violate the Philippine constitution and the nation’s sovereignty,” Reyes said.

Bayan challenged the Senate to exercise its oversight functions and immediately probe the presence of the US troops in Mindanao. “We challenge the Senate to conduct an on-site inspection of the facilities being set up by the US troops to see if the sovereignty of the Philippines in still in effect over those areas,” the Bayan leader added. (pinoypress.net)

DND defends US presence in South

September 7, 2008

By Pia Lee Brago
Sunday, September 7, 2008

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Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro defended yesterday the continued stay of US military in Mindanao, saying the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) authorizes their presence and both countries have mutual obligations to provide assistance, including disaster response.

But the militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, (Bayan) vowed to question the alleged “overstaying US troops” during the scheduled Sept. 19 oral arguments before the Supreme Court of the group’s petition against the constitutionality of the VFA.

Teodoro said in the weekly radio program “Para Sa Iyo Bayan” of Vice President Noli De Castro that the US facilities being used by its troops here will be turned over to the Philippines when they leave the country.

“While there is a Visiting Forces Agreement every year, training and exchange of opportunities of the Americans and the Filipinos will continue,” Teodoro said.

US forces have reportedly set up camps, docking area and training facilities.

Teodoro cited the training for Philippine troops in South Western Mindanao for scene of the crime, crime fighting operation, and technical methods.

“It is beneficial. But in the Mindanao conflict, there is a directive of the chief of staff that they can’t go out of the camp without clearance from the area commander or from the chief of staff,” he added.

Teodoro noted that the VFA covers American troops in the Philippines and the Secretary of State and the US Foreign Affairs Secretary also approve their activities.

“What is prohibited for the Americans is to join in combat operation. But the rest – military assistance, disaster assistance, they are allowed. They are also allowed joint training, and to give aid to barangays, like what they are doing in Sulu,” he said.

Overstaying

In a statement, Bayan said the issues of custody arising from the Subic rape case will also be brought before the High Court.

“The continuing presence of US troops in various parts of Mindanao already goes beyond what the Philippine Senate contemplated as ‘temporary’ during its deliberations on the VFA in 1999. The Senate deliberations defined ‘temporary’ as being about six months. The US troops have been in Mindanao for six years,” said Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes, Jr.

Bayan pointed to the VFA as the reason why US troops have overstayed in Mindanao.

“The problem with the VFA is that it does not define in clear and certain terms the scope, duration of stay and the extent of the engagement of US troops. In some ways, it is worse than the previous US bases agreement because of its vagueness. For all intents and purposes, an unlimited number of US troops can stay here for an unlimited period of time, even if there are no joint military exercises,” Reyes said.  – With Perseus Echeminada

==============

My Take:

A friend of mine, a priest actually, recently shared to me about his little knowledeg on the US troops actual participation in combats in Mindanao.  That’s the reason why some priests are opposing the US military presence in Mindanao.

Junk VFA!!!!!

Editorial Cartoon: US Military Presence in Mindanao War

September 1, 2008

Bared

Critics Hit US ‘Intervention’ in Peace Talks

August 17, 2008

After a High Court justice branded as “patently illegal” the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain, the U.S. Ambassador was quick to deny any involvement in the aborted signing of the pact. But critics have pointed to the prominent role that the U.S. had played in the GRP-MILF peace negotiations.

BY RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 28, August 17-23, 2008

After a Supreme Court (SC) justice declared as “patently illegal” the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), United States Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney was quick to deny any involvement in the aborted signing of the agreement.

Based on news reports, Kenney said she was merely invited to witness the signing of the MOA-AD by the peace panels of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Lying

In a statement sent through email, Prof. Jose Maria Sison, chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), said that Kenney was “blatantly lying” when she said that the U.S. government had nothing to do with the GRP-MILF peace negotiations nor with the controversial MOA-AD.

Sison said that Kenney has worked closely with the Philippine Facilitation Project (PFP) of the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) in “steering the course of GRP-MILF peace negotiations for the sake of US interests.”

The USIP is a quasi-government institution funded by the U.S. House of Representatives. The chairman of the board is J. Robinson West who is chairman of PFC Energy, Washington. Members ex-officio are Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. The executive director of the Philippine Facilitation Project is G. Eugene Martin, a retired diplomat who once served as the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in Manila.

Sison said that the Special Report 202 by the USIP, titled “Toward Peace in the Southern Philippines” http://www.usip.org/pubs/specialreports/sr202.html proves that Kenney is lying. The said report is a summary and assessment of the USIP Philippine Facilitation Project (PFP). The report declares, “In 2003 the US State Department …engaged the USIP to facilitate a peace agreement between the GRP and the MILF.”

The report states, “Despite the challenges, USIP managed to build productive relationships with both the GRP and MILF, helped the parties come up with creative solutions to stubborn issues of ancestral domain, and started dialogue between disparate Moro ethnic groups… Through its activities, USIP introduced concepts and approaches that were useful to both government and MILF peace panels.”

In a separate statement, Renato Reyes Jr., secretary general of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance) said the USIP used examples of ancestral domain conflict resolutions of the Native American Indians, the Inuit tribes in Canada, the Maori in New Zealand and other experiences that did not require secession from an oppressive regime. He said, “The USIP advocated an ancestral domain arrangement that would remain friendly with U.S. interests.”

U.S. interests

Sison slammed the U.S., saying it is not interested in a just and lasting peace in either the Bangsamoro land or the entire Philippines. “It is interested solely or mainly in advancing U.S. interests amidst conditions of armed conflict. It merely pretends to facilitate the GRP-MILF peace negotiations when its sees big advantages in doing so.”

Sison noted that the USIP report is quite frank in admitting the selfish interests of the U.S. The report states, “Today’s complex diplomatic landscape increasingly requires new tools and techniques of conflict management, including quasi- and nongovernmental actors, to accomplish U.S. foreign policy goals. Because of its ability to deal with non-state actors and sensitive issues underlying civil conflict, USIP can be a useful instrument for advancing U.S. interests.”

Sison said that Kenney frequently travels to Mindanao and oversees U.S. interests there, including U.S. direct investments, military forces and pseudo-development projects. “The Filipino people know that the U.S. covets the oil and other natural resources of Mindanao and wants to establish U.S. military bases there to protect U.S. imperial interests,” he said.

Bayan’s Reyes cited the $100-million off-shore oil exploration in Sulu by American oil giant Exxon Mobil as an example of the interests being protected by the U.S.

Reyes also noted that the USIP report also states that the U.S. embassy coordinated with the U.S. Pacific Command in counter-terror training and in ensuring high visibility of US troops in Mindanao.

The report, Reyes said, describes U.S. policy instruments in Mindanao to include ‘diplomacy, conditionality of U.S. economic and military assistance programs, and more punitive measures on the counterterrorism front.’

The Bayan leader said that this could mean that the U.S. government is also open to direct military intervention.

Arroyo, liable

Reyes said that the Arroyo regime welcomed and fully-supported U.S. intervention in peace talks between the GRP and the MILF.

Reyes said, “Arroyo and her subalterns must be investigated and held accountable for their actions.”

Citing the USIP report, Reyes said Arroyo had three meetings with the USIP officials.

Based on the report, a PFP delegation met with Arroyo in August 2003. It also states that when Arroyo visited the United Nations in September 2003, several senior advisers and USIP staff members met with her and her delegation to review the status of the peace process and the role of the Institute.

The report also cites that Ambassador Frank Wisner and USIP representatives also met with Arroyo in California after her 2004 election “to encourage a renewed GRP-wide effort to conclude an equitable settlement with the Moros.”

”The Arroyo government is guilty of allowing such brazen intervention,” said Reyes.

Cha-cha

He deemed, “Arroyo and U.S. interests likely intersected on the issue of charter change and the prospect of U.S. investments in Mindanao.”

Reyes said the USIP report already anticipated the issue of charter change. The report states that some provisions in the MOA-AD might be declared as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Reyes said, “The Arroyo government pounced on the opening for cha-cha as an opportunity to advance its own self-serving agenda of term extension.” Bulatlat

MOA on ancestral domain meant to fail–communist leader

August 15, 2008

By Veronica Uy
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 11:19:00 08/15/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Self-exiled Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Ma. Sison said the unsigned Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MoA-AD) between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front was meant to fail because it was “too good and too generous to be true.”

Upon reading the document, which was to have been signed in Malaysia, Sison said: “I thought immediately that the contents which appeared to recognize and concretize the Bangsamoro’s right to self-determination and ancestral domain were too good and too generous to be true.”

“The MOA was so contrary to the greedy and brutal character of the GRP [government of the Republic of the Philippines], whose presumptions and actuations I have long known in the course of revolutionary struggle and the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations,” said Sison, who now carries the title chief political consultant of the National
Democratic Front of the Philippines, in an e-mail sent to media Friday.

Sison called for a united action and cooperation between the MILF and the NDFP.

“The pretense at generosity is full of malice. It is calculated to outwit and outflank the MILF and the Bangsamoro and to facilitate frontal military attacks against them. They are being left no choice but to wage revolutionary struggle in order to advance their cause of national self-determination. There is a heightened need for the unity, cooperation of the MILF and the NDFP in their distinct and common concerns and causes against the same adversaries,” he said.

Sison accused the government of insincerity in getting the MOA-AD signed. He said that if the government were sincere about granting Moros the right to self-determination, it would have released the document to the public way before the signing for more discussions on the issues contained in the MOA.

“It was almost predictable that the signing of the MOA would be aborted. The public release of the draft only a few days before the date of signing was clearly meant to stir up a controversy big enough to cause the abortion,” he said.

The communist in exile echoed the concerns of the opposition that the MOA-AD was a “sneaky” way for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to effect Charter change so that she could extend her term beyond 2010.

At the same time, Sison accused the United States, together with Japan and Australia, of trying to ingratiate itself to the MILF so that it could exploit its human and natural resources if and when a peace agreement has been finalized.

“It is obvious that the US has been out to sidle up to and ingratiate itself with the MILF and the Bangsamoro in order to further strengthen its position in exploiting the human and natural resources of the Bangsamoro and deploying US military forces in Mindanao,” he said.

Sison said that under the direction of the US State Department, the US Institute of Peace has been busy in carrying out the Philippine Facilitation Project since 2003 in order to help produce a document like the MOA.

To the MILF, Sison said, the MOA could be used as a standard or minimum for negotiating with the government. To the government, it can be used to put off the formal peace talks which would have followed immediately after the signing of the agreement.

“Unilaterally or in cahoots with the GRP, the US can use the high expectations raised by the MOA among the MILF and Bangsamoros to justify US military presence and advance US hegemony in Mindanao,” he said.

He warned that the document would be used “as a device of pretended generosity” to advance the government and the United States’ public standing.

This in turn will “prolong GRP-MILF informal talks and ceasefire and to deploy larger US and Philippine military forces against the MILF and the Bangsamoro,” he said.

Sec. Garcia to Abp. Valles: ‘I’m sorry, it was a costly mistake.’

August 14, 2008

DAVAO CITY, August 14, 2008 –No less than the Government Peace Panel Negotiator Secretary Rodolfo Garcia who said sorry to Zamboanga Archbishop Romulo Valles for what he termed as “ a very costly mistake” in the inclusion of Barangays Zone 3 and 4 in the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE).

“We did what we could. We have tried our best to come up with this sub-agreement on the third substantive aspect identified by the parties under the GRP-MILF Tripoli Agreement on Peace of 2001. I’m sorry if it felt short of your expectation, Bishop, and the expectations of your people in Zamboanga,” said Garcia.

Valles, during the open forum of the high level briefing on the Memorandum of Agreement on ancestral domain (MOA-AD) between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) made a strong comment on the government’s failure to consult the people on the areas to be placed under the self-governance system of BJE.

He questioned the GRP panel for inadequacy of dialogue and consultation especially the people of Zamboanga in the proposed MOA–AD which now contains the general principles concerning, among others, Bangsamoro identity and rights, the establishment of a genuine self-governance system appropriate for the Moro, the areas to be placed under this self-governance system, and the protection and utilization of resources found therein.

“For what you (GRP) have done, you (GRP) have lost the people of Zamboanga City. You missed to conduct consultation and dialogue which are very important,” Valles sturdily said in public during the forum.

Garcia admitted that the two barangays Zone 3 and 4 were never discussed to be part of those areas to be placed under the BJE.

“It was a very costly mistake that Barangays Zone 3 and 4 [were] included in the MOA –AD,” he told Valles.

In Zamboanga City, at least eight villages are included in the proposed BJE namely: Barangays (Villages) Zone 3, Zone 4, Landang Gua, Busay, Landang Laum, Manalipa, Pasilmanta and Tigtabon. Covered also are Lobregat’s ancestral home, the Fort Pilar Shrine, the Ateneo de Zamboanga University, the City Hall and the entire city center.

While Garcia recognized the need to consult the people, he was quick in saying, “it is not always at all times that we have to consult the people, otherwise, the process will become interminable.”

But, Valles who was so disgusted declared, “I have strong disagreements of what Garcia, Press Secretary Jesus Dureza and Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Sec. Hermogenes Esperon Jr., said.”

In a separate interview, Valles told CBCPNews that the MOA- AD was crafted with so much haste and lack of consultation.

“I will still stand by what I have said in public that I have strong disagreements with the statements of the GRP panel,” said Valles.

He also said the BJE would be divisive and only sow confusion among the people for lack of proper consultations.

“The BJE instead of gaining the trust of the people, breeds mistrust for the people of Zamboanga City,” added Valles.

“Had not the proposed MOA-AD between GRP-MILF made public, we would never have known that Barangays Zone 3 and 4 have been included in the BJE,” said Valles, adding:

“We have nothing against peace process. We don’t want to breed hatred and mistrust between Muslims and Christians. What we need are transparency, proper consultation and dialogue.” (Mark S. Ventura)(CBCPNews)

Quevedo appeals: Clarify US role, GMA intention in the MOA

August 14, 2008

DAVAO CITY, August 14, 2008 – Admitting that many things cannot be negotiated in public, Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo, however made a personal appeal to clarify the role of the United States of America (USA), the intention of President Gloria Macapagal–Arroyo and other issues hounding the controversial memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MoA-AD).

Quevedo said the public should know what really is the genuine intention of Arroyo in pursuing the MoA-AD, to reflect whether there is participation by the US government in the drafting of the agreement, and the questionable gross inadequacy in the consensus.

“The need for consensus is as important as for the GRP. It is wisdom to consult, ask questions, and secure assistance regarding directions and goals from stakeholders. For the government, consult with the different branches of government and with the people directly affected by conflict,” said Quevedo.

“We have to clear first many things. It seems that the MoA- AD has many complexities. It fails to reach proper consultations, the language used in the agreement is vague and it was done in haste,” added Quevedo.

He also said that there is certainly a need to educate all the various constituencies and stakeholders as to the contents of the MoA-AD, their bases in history and in law, the steps to be taken, the recognition of mutual rights as well as the mutual sacrifices needed by both Bangsamoro and non-Bangsamoro people.

“The key to acceptability of the MoA–AD is consultation and dialogue, information and education, and building a constituency supportive of the general goals and specific objectives as well as the processes and contents of the peace negotiations,” said Quevedo.

Meanwhile, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Hermogenes Esperon Jr., said that the US government has no participation in the drafting of the MoA-AD.

Esperon added that the US government only extends help in the rehabilitation programs especially in the war-torn areas of Mindanao.

But, he said that in terms of fighting against terrorism it cannot be denied that the US government is helping the country.

“There is a global fight against terrorism and for that the US government is helping us in our thrust to end terroristic activities,” said Esperon.

Like Esperon, Press Secretary Jesus Dureza also said that the MoA-AD is intended by Mrs. Arroyo in order to solve the decades old problem in Mindanao.

“The president wants that rebellion in Mindanao should come to an end for after all we have already sacrificed a lot and many lives and properties have been wasted,” said Dureza. (Mark S. Ventura)(CBCPNews)

Editorial Cartoon: GRP-MILF MOA, Red Carpet for US

August 6, 2008

I think the US is behind this all.  They will benifit the most from this piece agreement.

From VAT, VAW to VFA: GWP Takes on Women’s Struggles

August 5, 2008

As Congress opens, the only women’s party-list group in the House of Representatives continues to uphold women’s rights and welfare through legislation.  The Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP) shares with Bulatlat its priority bills and resolutions, which include scrapping the Value-Added Tax and the Visiting Forces Agreement, tackling human trafficking, working for maternity leave extension, legislating against violence against women, and for divorce.

BY RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat
Volume VIII, Number 26, August 3-9, 2008

The Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP) is the only women party-list in the House of Representatives. Founded on October 28, 2000, the GWP aims to advance women’s interests by legislating bills, sponsoring resolutions and by voicing out women’s views on significant national issues.

Its two representatives, Liza Maza and Luzviminda Ilagan, were leaders of the progressive women’s group GABRIELA before they were elected as GWP nominees.

Economic issues

In an interview, Cristina Palabay, GWP secretary general, said that the GWP, along with other progressive party list groups, will push for the repeal of the value-added tax (VAT) on oil and other basic commodities.

As early as January this year, GWP has filed a bill for the repeal of the reformed value-added tax (R-VAT). She said that the GWP representatives will demand for a hearing by either the Committee on Ways and Means or the Committee on Revision of Laws.

The GWP will also actively support the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill and the bill for the legislated P125 across the board wage increase. Both bills were sponsored by the late Anakpawis Representative Crispin Beltran. Palabay said, “Being the most burdened in times of economic crisis, women are primary stakeholders in these issues.”

Migrants

As women comprise 70 percent of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), the GWP takes on the issues of migrants.

A resolution was filed to conduct an investigation on the excessive collection of fees from OFWs by the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA), the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Overseas Workers Welfare Assistance (OWWA).

According to Migrante International, OFWs are paying an average of  P15,400.00 each ($348 at an exchange rate of $1=PhP44.23)  in government fees, including $25 mandatory OWWA membership fee, $100 POEA processing fee, PhP 924 (more than $22)  for Medicare, PhP 650 ($14.69) for passport and other charges including mandatory training and assessment even for domestic workers.

Human trafficking continues to be a major concern for the GWP. Maza is the main author of the Anti-Human Trafficking Act of 2003.

The GWP’s House Resolution 649 calls on the Committees on Women, Foreign Affairs and Overseas Filipinos to look into allegations of trafficking using consular privileges.

Palabay cited the cases of Filipino domestic workers Marichu Baonan and Arlene Gado, who were both employed by diplomats.

On June 24, Baoanan filed charges of trafficking, forced labor, peonage and racketeering against former Philippine ambassador to the United Nations Lauro Baja Jr.

Gado arrived in the US in 2005 after signing a contract in the Philippines to work for Anthony Mandap, then vice consul in the Consulate General of the Philippines in San Francisco. She was, however, transferred to the household of Angelita Reyes, Mandap’s mother-in-law where she served as the Reyes’ domestic helper and caretaker for two years, getting a meager $250 to $325 a month for her services. In May 2007, Gado was rescued by New Jersey labor officials from the Reyes’ household, while Reyes was investigated and subsequently charged with involuntary servitude. Reyes pleaded guilty to charges of third degree criminal restraint and was ordered by the courts to pay $78,000 in back wages to Gado.

Palabay said that the point of inquiry would be to investigate how government officials use their positions and privileges to “legally” traffic women.

Another house resolution filed by Masa, HR 643, aims to investigate the incidents of trafficking of women from Central Luzon to Sandakan, Malaysia.

At least 200 women went to Malaysia via the Diosdado Macapagal Airport in Clark. These women were allegedly taken to brothels and prostitution dens.

Palabay said that the GWP will also file a resolution to inquire on the government’s plan for undocumented migrant workers who are targets for deportation in Malaysia and European Union countries.

She said that while government officials say that they will ensure an orderly deportation and the protection of the migrants’ human rights, the experiences of deportees in Sabah prove otherwise.

Palabay said, “Many Filipinos in Sabah are languishing in jail. May nanganak pang babae sa kulungan.” (A woman delivered her baby inside the detention cell.)

The group would also want to investigate the alleged criminal neglect of government officials. The resolution is pending at the Committee on Overseas Filipino Workers.

Labor

Women comprise 50 percent of the labor force in the Philippines. Besides the bill on the proposed wage hike, the GWP also filed House Bill 3973 seeking to extend the maternity leave for women workers.

Women workers are given 60 days or eight weeks for maternity leave. The bill intends to increase it to 120 days or 16 weeks to allow mothers to breastfeed for at least the first four months after delivery.

The Philippines ranks lowest in South East Asia, along with Malaysia in providing for maternity protection as indicated by the length of period of maternity leave benefits granted to women workers.

Vietnam                   4 to 6 months or 120 to 180 days
Thailand                   90 days
Cambodia                 90 days
Indonesia                 3 months or 90 days
Laos                        90 days
Myanmar                  12 weeks or 84 days
Singapore                 12 weeks or 84 days
Philippines                 60 days
Malaysia                   60 days

The GWP also filed a resolution to conduct an investigation on the alleged labor rights violations by Korean firm K&Y Apparel.

Women workers complained that the company violated the minimum wage law, implemented unfair labor practices and denied the workers’ right to organize.

The GWP also filed House Bill 4734 or the Public School Teachers’ Additional Compensation Act. Eighty percent of the public school teachers are women.

The bill aims to increase the salary of public school teachers by P9,000 ($203). According to the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), the present entry level salary of public school teachers is only PhP10,933 ($247). This accounts for only 56 percent of the family living wage of PhP 882 ($20) per day or PhP 19,404 ($438) per month as determined by the National Wages and Productivity Commission (NCPW).

Pinoy-style divorce

Addressing the issue of violence against women, the GWP will file a “Pinoy-style divorce bill.”

Palabay explained, “It’s different from the known kind of divorce, the no faults-divorce where you can just divorce each other without any reason, just because you want to…[the bill has provisions to] establish, review bases for divorce, it accommodates irreconcilable differences.”

Palabay said that legal separation and annulment are too costly for women. “You need to spend a minimum of P200,000 ($4,521) to avail of those remedies. You also have to wait for three to five years.”

Palabay said that existing laws on nullification and legal separation do not give immediate and long-term relief for women in violent and abusive marriages. She said that the divorce bill will not seek to repeal the laws on legal separation and annulment but will only give women another option.

She said that the Philippines and Malta are the only countries without a law on divorce.

Palabay further said, “By having annulment as recourse for women in violent marriages, the Church recognizes that some marriages do not work. The divorce bill is not anti-family because it aims to strengthen quality marriages and relationships. How can you prolong the agony of spouses, especially women, in violent, abusive relationships? That would be detrimental to women and their children.”

The 2003 report of the Philippine National Police shows that wife-battering accounted for 53.6 percent of the total 8,011 cases of violence against women. About three out of 10 perpetrators were husbands of the victims. Husbands accounted for 28 per cent of the crimes of violence against women.

Palabay said that divorce will be more easily facilitated and hopefully less expensive. She said there will be no need to hire psychologists, as required in most cases of legal separation and annulment.

Increasing women’s participation

The GWP also filed a bill seeking to increase women’s participation in various levels of politics and governance by as much as 50 percent.

Palabay said, “This hopes to empower women and to provide venues for the full exercise of women’s rights to participate and include the women’s agenda in politics and governance.”

Foreign troops, sovereignty

On the issue of national sovereignty, the party list group filed separate bills for the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement and of the Philippine-Australia Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).

Other resolutions sought to investigate abuses by American troops in Panamao, Sulu.

Palabay said that in spite of a resolution calling for support for Hazel, a Filipina allegedly raped by an American soldier in Okinawa, Japan, Congress has yet to take concrete action. The resolution was unanimously adopted in March.

In a separate interview, Maza said that she will take up Hazel’s case anew and look into several angles of the case, including the U.S. government’s trampling upon the sovereignty of states. Bulatlat

US shies away from ARMM polls debate

July 25, 2008

The United States government will leave to Manila the decision on whether to postpone scheduled elections in an autonomous region in southern Mindanao.

“I think that [delaying or not the regional polls] is an issue that should be decided by Philippine authorities,” US Ambassador to Manila Kristie Kenney said Friday at the sidelines of the launching of a judicial project that is assisted by the US Agency for International Development.

“I think they, the relevant authorities, have to determine whether postponing the elections is the right way,” she added.

On August 11, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) will hold the voting in Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi provinces.

During the launching of the Supreme Court’s Management Information System project, Kenney said the US government fully supports the Philippines’ quest for lasting peace in southern Philippines, a hotbed of communist and Muslim insurgencies for almost four decades.

“We are hopeful and eager to see a comprehensive peace agreement in Mindanao,” the US ambassador told reporters, apparently referring to the possible pact between Manila and the Muslim separatist group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Kenney said the search for peace in Mindanao must be pushed forward as it is crucial to the economic prosperity of the Philippines. Mindanao, the country’s second-biggest group of islands, has been called “Land of Promise” for its rich agricultural and mineral resources. The Muslim insurgents there, including the MILF rebels, claim that economic development has only marginalized them.

“What we are able to do is to help both parties [the government and the separatist rebels] to move forward and make progress. We’re eager to look at top communities develop so that Mindanao can reach its economic potential, as can the rest of the Philippines,” the US ambassador added.

According to Kenney, the United States will always be a “dedicated partner” of the Philippine government in its effort to end the insurgencies in Mindanao.

The MILF last week sought the postponement of the ARMM elections. It said the deferment paves the way for the smooth entry of the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity in Mindanao that would be established by a final peace agreement between the two sides. Bangsamoro refers to the Muslim minority in Mindanao.

President Gloria Arroyo earlier last week endorsed delaying the regional polls, a move that drew criticism from senators, who said only Congress can reset elections.

Sen. Richard Gordon said the proposal to postpone the elections in the autonomous region was a move aimed at amending the Constitution. He warned that he will block both moves.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines will not call off joint military and police security preparations for the ARMM polls despite President Arroyo’s endorsement, its chief, Alexander Yano, said also on Friday.

Yano added that the military will only call off the security preparations if the elections are scrapped.

The military has readied for deployment around 5,000 soldiers and 2,000 policemen.

Five lawmakers from Mindanao have filed House Bill 5832 seeking to reset the ARMM elections from August 11 and hold them simultaneously with the presidential elections in 2010.

The bill was authored by Rep. Faysah Dumarpa of Lanao del Sur, Rep. Simeon Datumanong of Ma­guin­danao, Rep. Munir Arbison of Sulu, Rep. Mujiv Hataman of the Anak Mindanao Party-list and Rep. Panga­lian Balindong of Lanao del Sur.

According to the five lawmakers, the postponement will allow peace talks between the government and the MILF to proceed at the formal level. In a breakthrough, both sides also last week reached agreement on “ancestral domain,” or territory that will constitute an Independent Islamic homeland in Mindanao. The talks were suspended last year over disagreement on the issue of the ancestral domain.
– William B. Depasupil and Jefferson Antiporda(ManilaTimes)

==============================

My Take:

The US clearly sends a message here that they’re okay to the postpnement of the ARMM elections.  After all, they are in favor of a situation where they can plunder the natural wealth of Mindanao with less blood spilled and less attention from the media.

Arroyo Welcomes More U.S. Participation in the ‘Killing Fields’ of RP

July 11, 2008

A historic event worthy of the Guinness Book of World Records may have occurred in Washington in the last week of June. The worst “torture” president that the United States has ever had met the most corrupt and brutal president ever inflicted on the Filipino people. Grotesque or farcical? George W. Bush is now credited with the horrendous deaths of nearly a million Iraqis, over four thousand American soldiers, the cruelties of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, and a severe economic recession. Arroyo claims the distinction of having scored several thousand victims of paramilitary violence (903 extra-judicial killings and 193 enforced disappearances, according to the Philippine human-rights monitor Karapatan, or Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights), open bribery of officials by raiding the public treasury, unscrupulous cheating in elections, and untold kickbacks from government transactions (such as the ZTE Broadband scandal, among many) – all with impunity.

BY E. SAN JUAN, JR.
Monthly Review
HUMAN RIGHTS
Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 22, July 6-12, 2008

A historic event worthy of the Guinness Book of World Records may have occurred in Washington in the last week of June. The worst “torture” president that the United States has ever had met the most corrupt and brutal president ever inflicted on the Filipino people. Grotesque or farcical? George W. Bush is now credited with the horrendous deaths of nearly a million Iraqis, over four thousand American soldiers, the cruelties of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, and a severe economic recession. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo claims the distinction of having scored several thousand victims of paramilitary violence (903 extra-judicial killings and 193 enforced disappearances, according to the Philippine human-rights monitor Karapatan, or Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights), open bribery of officials by raiding the public treasury, unscrupulous cheating in elections, and untold kickbacks from government transactions (such as the ZTE Broadband scandal, among many) – all with impunity.

Scourge of Human Rights

International groups – from Amnesty International and the World Council of Churches (WCC) to the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the International Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL) – have all concurred on the outrageous truth of the “killing fields” in the U.S. neocolony. An editorial of the Philippine Star (6 June 2007) noted that the country is one of the “least peaceful countries in the world, ranking 100th among 121 in the first-ever Global Peace Index drawn up by the Economic Intelligence Unit.” United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur Philip Alston reported to the 8th session of the UN Human Rights Council that Arroyo’s “state security forces have been involved in many of the killings of left-wing activists, indigenous leaders, trade union and farm leaders and civil society organization members and that the military remains in a ‘state of denial’ over these killings” (see E. San Juan, U.S. Imperialism and Revolution in the Philippines, New York, 2007). “Not a single soldier has been convicted,” Alston added, urging the Arroyo regime to end the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) policy of “systematically hunting down the leaders of [legal and open] leftist organizations” such as Bayan Muna and assassinating their members (see the website of the UN Human Rights Council).

The Arroyo regime recently defied the UN’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) session by rejecting the recommendation to strengthen the Witness Protection Program and approve the International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances. In its comprehensive survey “Scared Silent: Impunity for Extrajudicial Killings in the Philippines,” Human Rights Watch observed that in spite of public-relation ploys such as the Melo Commission and Arroyo’s refrain that there is “no state policy of killing people,” not one case has been solved, not a single military officer or soldier prosecuted for the murders and disappearances of activists such as Jonas Burgos, Luisa Posa Dominado, Sherlyn Cadapan, Karen Empeño, and thousands more (Inquirer.net, 5 October 2007).

Last year the Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT) concluded its meticulous appraisal of massive evidence with the judgment that the Arroyo regime and its sponsor, the Bush administration, were guilty of “gross and systematic violation of human rights, economic plunder and transgression of the Filipino people’s sovereignty.” The first session of the Tribunal on the Philippines in 1980 unequivocally condemned “the dominant economic and political role of the U.S. in the Philippines and in the region through the implementation of an imperial policy” (PPT Verdict 2007). Arroyo’s ritual obeisance to Washington may be cited as one more proof, falling in line with a tradition of subservience of the Filipino oligarchy since the time of Commonwealth President Manuel Quezon to the first president of the 1946 Philippine Republic Manuel Roxas up to Presidents Ramon Magsaysay (sponsored by the Central Intelligence Agency) and Diosdado Macapagal (Arroyo’s father) to the notorious Marcos dictatorship and its unconscionable successors. No wonder both John McCain and Barack Obama parroted worn-out clichés about “Asia’s first democracy,” the Philippines as a faithful client regime during the Cold War and the current crusade against terrorists personified by politically informed combatants of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the New People’s Army.

Subaltern Medicancy Forever

Winding down as a tiresome fiasco and farcical boondoggle, Arroyo’s road show to the Empire’s heartland this June may have been cursed by the sinking of the Philippine ferry MV Princess of the Stars and the ravages of the deadly typhoon Frank. Thousands of victims and their families await her sycophantic pilgrimage with cries of help and anger. After wasting at least $1.5 million of public funds and getting a promised aid of $100,000 from State Dept. bureaucrat John Negroponte, infamous for organizing mass carnage in Central America, the Arroyo entourage is returning a the feckless attempt at fanfare. One episode of de facto president Arroyo’s visit strikes this writer as particularly telling. George W. Bush surpassed his father’s “I-love-your-democracy” apologia for the despot Marcos when he praised “the great talent” of “Philippine-Americans” whenever he dines at the White House – a nod to Filipina chef Chris Comerford. Arroyo’s pathetic “thank you” sums up over a century of gruesomely asymmetrical “U.S.-Philippines” relations so beloved by U.S. experts on the Philippines and their Filipino acolytes. Sadly hilarious but also infuriating to those out in Manila streets demonstrating against the brutality and injustice of Arroyo-U.S. neoliberal privatization program.

Meanwhile, we learn that on June 17, retired Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba (not one of Bush’s talented ‘Philippine Americans”), in his testimony to the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, accused Bush and his henchmen of committing war crimes by authorizing the use of harsh interrogation techniques. Taguba headed the committee that investigated the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Subsequent inquiries by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other groups have revealed the scale and depth of the current administration’s violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights and the Geneva Convention on the treatment of what the U.S. calls “unlawful” enemy combatants, otherwise considered political prisoners.

Arroyo’s trip was ostensibly made to lobby for the passage of the Veterans Equity Bill – Senate Bill No. 1315, approved by the Senate but pending at the House. This bill would set aside $350 million (out of $1 billion) for ten years to pay for the basic needs of thousands of Filipino veterans of World War II, most of whom are now dead, who were denied their rightful veterans’ back pay. Without Arroyo’s help, local organizers (such as the National Federation of Filipino American Associations) have mobilized enough support for the passage of the bill in the Senate. So Arroyo’s opportunistic appearance in Washington is clearly intended to prop up her severely damaged image after Senator Barbara Boxer, chair of the U.S. Senate sub-committee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs, and several congressmen chided her last year for her intolerable record of flagrant human-rights violations.

Just as Arroyo’s early trip in August 2005 was besieged with indignant protests, likewise her visit last week was met with numerous “lightning” demonstrations by outraged Filipino-Americans decrying her insensitivity to the plight of thousands of disaster victims, and the millions suffering from the rice shortage, fuel crisis, and unemployment brought about by the short-sighted neoliberal policies of the regime. With over half of 90 million citizens subsisting on $2 a day, the Philippines exports daily 3,000 contract workers to 186 countries around the world, getting in return $10 to $12 billon in overseas remittances, enough to pay the heavy foreign debt. In 2007 the U.S. Congress allocated $30 million of citizens’ tax dollars for the beleaguered AFP on condition that Arroyo implements Alston’s recommendations, a condition still unfulfilled in deeds up to now. The aid rocketed by 1,111 percent when Bush declared the Philippines the “second front” in his war after 9/11 (IBON Media Release, 21 Sept 2006). Between 2000 and 2003, U.S. loans and grants to Arroyo increased by 1,176 percent, primarily funding for counter-terrorist schemes in addition to USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development) spending for livelihood projects and infrastructure – activities that camouflage intelligence or special police operations in communities sheltering NPA (New People’s Army) or MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) partisans.

Pentagon to the Rescue

Less to pacify Arroyo’s entourage and more to threaten Myanmar’s junta, China, North Korea, and other recalcitrants – Al Qaeda supporters – in the Asia-Pacific region, Bush ordered the deployment of the strike group led by the nuclear-armed carrier USS Ronald Reagan to the Philippines. The alleged task of this armada of aircraft carrier, cruiser, three destroyers, and a frigate is to assist in the rescue of the survivors of the capsized MV Princess of the Stars, now being attended to by the Philippine Coast Guard. This may be the first time in military history that a nuclear-powered carrier has been assigned to perform distribution of relief goods in a situation far smaller in scope than the cyclone disaster in Myanmar or the earthquake destruction in China. But again, it’s a war against those unruly subjects, impoverished peasants and workers, including the Moros and the Filipino communists, that justifies this illegitimate intrusion.

Sen. Rodolfo Biazon questioned the utility of an aircraft carrier of that size (with 6,000 crew and numerous F-18 airplanes) designed mainly for combat and rescue of distressed airplanes. As of this writing, the USS Ronald Reagan was moored near the coast of northwest Panay, clearly within Philippine territorial boundary (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 28 June 2008). In addition, the U.S. Embassy revealed that the USNS Stockham and U.S. Navy P-3 planes are on standby to provide maritime surveillance and other security needs (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 26 June 2008). This substantiates once more public suspicions of the sustained complicity of the US with the AFP campaigns against Moro insurgents, in particular the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) – including the notorious bandit-group with ties to local military and politicians, the Abu Sayyaf – and the Communist Party-led NPA guerrillas active in Panay and Negros, the two islands that suffered the most from the typhoon Frank. This intrusion of the USS Ronald Reagan is an outright violation of the Philippine Constitution and bilateral treaties with the U.S.

A local group, Pamalakaya, accused Arroyo of committing an impeachable crime: the Philippine Constitution expressly prohibits the entry of nuclear weapons into the country. While Arroyo’s spokesmen claimed that the USS Ronald Reagan is only “nuclear-powered,” the US Embassy is silent on the presence of nuclear weapons in the possession of the task force group. Fernando Hicap, Pamalakaya’s chair, charged that the presence of the U.S. naval group is intended not only “to warn and provoke the local armed resistance groups [NPA, MILF] but also to score a psywar victory against China and North Korea that Washington is capable of shifting and redeploying US troops at any given situation or time” (GMANews.tv, 26 June 2008). At present, the US stations over 100,000 troops in Asia and the Pacific under its Pacific Command, with 80,000 troops based in Japan and Korea, and several hundreds at any one time in the Philippines.

Terms of Mutual Endearment?

How did this happen? The peculiarity of the presence of U.S. combat troops in the Philippines may be explained by the leech-like stranglehold of the U.S. on the Filipino ruling class and its military/paramilitary establishment. A series of unequal bilateral treaties sealed this toxic partnership. Obama correctly pointed to the 1954 Manila Pact that “formed a cornerstone of U.S policy in Southeast Asia during the Cold War.” But that was only the beginning.

The real key to U.S. control may be found in the Military Bases Agreement of March 14 and March 21, 1947 between the two governments. The first allowed the U.S. extensive military facilities in the Philippines for 99 years, chief of which were Clark Air Base (130,000 acres) and Subic Naval Base which housed nuclear-armed submarines for decades until both were scrapped in 1992. Thereafter 14,000 U.S. troops left the Philippines. This agreement prohibited the Philippines from granting base rights to any other country. It put no restrictions on the use of the bases or on the types of weapons the U.S. could store or deploy in them. Despite minor amendments, this agreement allowed the US to use the bases as springboards for unlimited U.S. intervention in Asia, such as the aggression in Korea, Vietnam, and lately Afghanistan and Iraq (see Civil Liberties Union, A Question of National Security, Manila 1983). The second agreement allowed the US to provide military aid to the Philippines on the condition that a US. military advisory group be assigned to supervise the AFP and that Filipino military personnel be sent to the US for training. It also prohibited the Philippines from accepting military aid or advisers from any other nation without the consent of Washington. In the context of the campaign against the Huks, communist-led peasants fighting for land and justice at the time, the weapons and advisors supplied by Washington were used to suppress and kill Filipino “subversives” and preserve oppressive oligarchic rule, as well as subsidize the Marcos dictatorship and its repressive sequels. Under the framework of the RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951, the Joint RP-U.S. Military Advisory Group (JUSMAG) continues to this day to be one crucial agency in perpetuating the reactionary, anti-people orientation of the AFP and its cognate institutions, the state security personnel of every administration up to Arroyo (see the relevant documents conveniently catalogued in Daniel Schirmer and Stephen Shalom, The Philippines Reader, Boston, 1987, including details of military aid to Marcos). It may be added here that a JUSMAG/CIA functionary, Col. Nick Rowe, was slain by rebel forces on April 21, 1989, while allegedly shadowing “Cuban” advisors helping the NPA in South-Central Luzon.

Although the bases were shut down in 1992, the U.S. maintains its dominance through JUSMAG and the Philippines-U.S. Mutual Defense Board (established in 1958), which operates as a “new bilateral defense consultative mechanism” to oversee military cooperation between the two countries. These two mechanisms were reinforced by the Security Engagement Board (SEB) in 2006 designed to deal with nontraditional security threats such as terrorism, piracy, natural disasters (for example, the recent ferry sinking and typhoon), bird flu, and the like not falling under the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty that calls for battling external security threats in either countries. This was supplemented by the Mutual Logistics and Support Agreement (MLSA) signed in November 2002.

Very few know the details of this notorious MLSA. Its salient provision is its mandating the Philippine government to supply all the logistical support and supplies needed by the Pentagon during its exercises and redeployment. Pretty much a bargain compared to the costly Clark and Subic bases of the good old days. Of course, the humanitarian services performed by the troops are only a pretext for the U.S. to interfere in local civil wars in the region, labeling them “international terrorism.” This agreement with the client regime thus insures a virtually un-evictable presence of the U.S. military as police watchdog to promote and secure US economic and geopolitical interests – from profits in oil, energy, and mineral resources to safeguarding the Malacca Straits where 25 percent of all globally traded oil passes.

Immediately after 9/11, the U.S. Department of State promptly labeled the NPA as a terrorist organization so that Arroyo can call on U.S. troops to help her counterinsurgency campaign, even though the Philippine Constitution (Art. II, Sec. 3) prohibits foreign troops’ involvement in internal security matters. Aside from infringing on Philippine sovereignty, the SEB allows the US (to quote IBON, 26 May 2006) “to maintain a prolonged military presence in the country which suits the U.S. military’s current strategy of seeking temporary access to facilities in foreign countries that enable U.S. forces to conduct training and exercises” rather than spending for permanent physical bases. Moreover, the Philippines functions as an important link in the security chain of the U.S. in the Western Pacific. The SEB enhances the U.S.’s limited infrastructure for refueling and logistics needed in its operations in the Arabian Gulf and Western Pacific areas. Mindanao and Sulu islands have been considered strategic locations for monitoring developments in Muslim countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, etc. where there is a rising trend of “Islamic revivalism,” of which the MILF is an instance.

There are also numerous clandestine partnerships allowed by executive “understandings” and philanthropic channels. But it is primarily the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) that legitimizes unrelenting U.S. intervention in the Philippines. Initiated by former president Fidel Ramos under the rubric of “Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement” drawn up by the Pentagon, the VFA was finally approved during the Estrada administration (Daniel B. Schirmer, Fidel Ramos: The Pentagon’s Philippine Friend, 1992-1997, Cambridge, MA, 1997).

Made fully operational after Sept. 11, 2001, the VFA makes up for the loss of Subic and Clark in a much more efficient way. It allows the Pentagon to land anywhere in the country without entailing the cost of maintaining physical structures and insuring environmental safety. It also has no responsibility in whatever damage it can cause by its joint exercises with the host country. While the MLSA (renewed for another 5 years) permits the U.S. to use the Philippines as a launching pad for wars of aggression through the pre-positioning of war material in “virtual bases,” the VFA allows the unhampered entry of U.S. troops for covert operations in the course of “Kapit-Bisig” war games and “Balikatan” joint exercises with its surrogate army, the AFP. Sara Flounders’ sharp analysis of this new Pentagon concept of “Cooperative Security Locations” – 5,458 discrete military installations around the world – highlights its key features: facilities with rotational U.S. presence, containing prepositioned equipment, rapidly scalable and expandable, offering bilateral and regional training. One virtue is the overwhelming influence gained by the U.S. on smaller and developing nations, verified by former U.S. Pacific commander Admiral Thomas Fargo who explained in March 2003 that “relationships built through exercises and training are ‘our biggest guarantor of access in time of need'” (Sara Flounders, “Expansion of U.S. Bases Spurs Philippine Resistance,” International Action Center, 29 March 2008).

The virtually permanent presence of U.S. troops in the Philippines can be accounted for by the VFA, MSLA, and other instrumentalities enforced by a subservient government parasitic on U.S. military aid and political sponsorship. The Arroyo regime easily fits the bill. Because other countries in the region (Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia; Myanmar has rebuffed U.S. humanitarian offers) cannot tolerate U.S. ships or troops stationed in its territory, the U.S. has no alternative but to support authoritarian rulers like Marcos and Arroyo if it wants to curb Al-Qaeda influence, check China’s expansion, and project its military might in the Asia-Pacific geopolitical sphere. Surely, the splintered tiny Abu Sayyaf always used to rationalize U.S. troops in the Philippines is no threat to U.S. global hegemony. U.S. military basing in the Philippines can only be explained by the long-range global strategy of preserving U.S. superpower status by preventing the rise of competitors such as China (Herbert Docena, “In the Dragon’s Lair,” Foreign Policy in Focus, 26 February 2008).

Carnage and Mayhem All Around

Immediately after 9/11, the Pentagon announced that it would be sending 3,000 troops to the Philippines for joint operations against the Abu Sayyaf. Over 1,000 troops were eventually sent to participate in “Balikatan 2002″ that took place in the combat areas of Basilan and Zamboanga where guerillas of the MILF were operating. This differed from previous exercises since it was now located in war zones, with soldiers using live ammunition, with no time constraints.

In July 2002, an International Solidarity Mission conducted a thorough fact-finding mission that led to three important conclusions: “1) American soldiers were directly involved in the raiding and shooting of an unarmed civilian in his house; 2) human rights abuses are continuing unabated under the Arroyo regime and are abetted by US military forces; and 3) the U.S. military support operations that displace and violate the rights of Moro people and other Filipinos, including women and children” (Solidarity Mission Statement, July 2002). Because of such incidents, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel accused the regime of “treason,” turning the country into a deadly laboratory for the testing of the effectiveness of U.S. troops, tactics and weaponry against the so-called terrorists” (Ellen Nakashima, “Philippines Debates U.S. Combat Role against Rebels,” Washington Post, 23 Feb. 2003).

Another involvement of U.S. troops in counterinsurgency plots may be cited here. In 2004, US troops made the University of Southeastern Mindanao as their temporary camp, an area claimed by the MILF as their territory. The U.S. in effect converted civilians into human shields, potential collateral damage, in the event of armed confrontation between known antagonists in the region. This was part of the annual “Balikatan” exercise, this time in Carmen, North Cotabato. The humanitarian medical missions, distribution of toys, and building of Gawad Kalinga homes all serve as cover for U.S. military intelligence-gathering and other tactical operations. In 2006, the “Balikatan” exercise from February to March was the biggest, involving 5,500 U.S. troops and 2,800 Filipinos. This took place in the hotly contested regions of Jolo, Maimbung, Patikul and Panamao, Sulu, and North Cotabato.

A recent incident reveals how deeply entangled the U.S. is in local counterinsurgency programs of the neocolonial state. In the town of Ipil, Sulu, last Feb. 4, the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) killed eight non-combatants (women and children), including a soldier on vacation. The widow of the slain soldier testified that she saw four U.S. soldiers in a Navy boat. Subsequently, General Ruben Rafael, commander of Philippine troops in Jolo, stated in an interview that “a U.S. military spy plane circling high above the seaside village provided the intelligence that led to the Feb. 4 assault” and that “the crew of the P-3 Orion turboprop, loaded with a sophisticated array of surveillance equipment pinpointed the village as a stronghold and arms depot for the radical Islamist Au Sayyaf movement” (Paul Watson, “U.S. Role in Philippine Raid Questioned,” Los Angeles Times, 9 March 2008). This same P-3 Orion spy planes was mentioned by the US Embassy as ready to be used for the disaster relief in Panay and Negroes where the NPA guerillas are vigorously challenging AFP terrorism. U.S. embassy spokesperson Karen Schinnerer in Manila admitted that “an aerial reconnaissance vehicle” gathered intelligence over Sulu “at the request of Philippine forces.”

Heavy saturation bombings in Barangays Buansa and Cagay, a camp of the MILF in Indanan, Sulu, were carried out for five hours on April 30. Early last year, U.S. troops participated in attacks on the Moro resistance fighters in this region. Witnesses of this latest genocidal foray attested to US-supplied “smart bombs” dropped by OV-10 airplanes, slaughtering many members of the 360 families who fled the area. Based on the research of Alexander Martin Remollino, U.S. troops in Sulu belong to the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines that employs U.S. Special Forces, Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations personnel “to conduct deliberate intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in very focused areas, and based on collection plans, to perform tasks to prepare the environment and obtain critical information requirements” (Bulatlat, 4-10 May 2008). In lay idiom, this means clearing the area of enemy forces by spying and utilizing all weapons and logistics necessary to “neutralize” hostile elements. Although the AFP claims that those attacks were aimed at the Abu Sayyaf and the Jemayah Islamiyah, an Indonesian-based group, the MILF has responded by declaring that the territory involved is theirs and that no other group is allowed to operate from within the premises.

What is happening in the southern Philippines is clearly a carefully designed war to occupy and sanitize a whole region rich in natural and human resources, as well as a potential strategic base for military adventures. The problem is that it is inhabited by Moros, aboriginal peoples, and other Filipinos resisting U.S. imperial conquest and oligarchic despotism. Prodded by the International Monitoring Team headed by Malaysia that helped enforce a ceasefire, the MILF and the Arroyo government were close to signing an agreement last February on wealth-sharing and ancestral domain. But the U.S.-Arroyo attacks have worsened the displacement of 75,000 Moro civilians – the loss of property, farmland, and livelihood, not to speak of innocent lives – and permitted more extra-judicial killings, illegal detentions, and torture of Moro dissenters and ordinary citizens (Sandra R. Leavitt, “Pressure Brings Continued Progress in Mindanao Peace Negotiations,” Shigetsu Newsletter No. 912, 18 Feb. 2008).

Approaching the Endgame

What is the future for Arroyo’s brutal authoritarian rule? Collaborating with the torture president in the White House and his deceptive “iron fist and hand of friendship” policy, Arroyo has dug herself a grave deeper than all her corruption and ruthless political maneuverings can. If U.S. troops succeed in building infrastructure – presumably better roads, schools, clinics, ports, which testifies to the failure of local governance – will that wipe out Moro separatists, local civilians who demand jobs, dignity, social services, and a measure of communal autonomy that are due them under Philippine laws and the UN Charter? A BBC reporter displayed her ignorance of the fraught history of U.S. colonial domination of the Philippines – its civic culture, social practices, and institutions – when she reduced the whole complex fabric into a question-begging dilemma: “If Philippine government bodies could manage their resources to shelter and assist their own people, maybe all those special forces [U.S. troops] could go home” (“U.S. Plays Quiet Role in the Philippines,” 28 March 2008).

But how can this moribund state apparatus controlled by U.S.-loving oligarchs and their self-serving intelligentsia and bureaucrats manage to do that? The economic crisis gripping the country seems irresolvable by Arroyo’s handouts and paltry rhetoric. The undefeatable MILF is withdrawing from peace talks with the Arroyo regime, just as the National Democratic Front or NDF (together with its “terrorist” affiliate, the NPA) has postponed negotiations unless the U.S.-decreed stigma of “terrorist” is repudiated and extra-judicial killings halted. Surely, 90 million Filipinos, with their long tradition of fierce insurrections, will not allow the shameless puppetry of the Arroyo regime, with her generals and kowtowing officials, to continue for another hundred years. As a UPI Asia Online forecast puts it, the decrepit Arroyo band-wagon faces “bigger, bolder insurgency” in the years to come, despite the super-power’s “humanitarian” schemes and grotesque patronage. Posted by Bulatlat

E. San Juan, Jr. was recently a visiting professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City. His recent books are In the Wake of Terror (Lexington Books) and US Imperialism and Revolution in the Philippines (Palgrave Macmillan). He will be a fellow of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute, Harvard University, in Spring 2009.

Moro group hits Balikatan

July 6, 2008

GENERAL SANTOS CITY — The United States has been allegedly probing resource-rich Mindanao in the guise of the Balikatan military exercises, a proof of this is the planned exploration of Exxon Mobile Corp in Sulu Sea, a progressive Moro group has asserted.

“The affirmation of Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes that “Exxon Mobile will not go into any area unless the reserves are large scale or there is a large amount of quality oil” is a proof that the United States of America has long been probing the vastness and productiveness of the Philippines soil in the guise of Balikatan exercises and humanitarian missions,” Bai Ali Indayla, Suara Bangsamoro secretary general, said.

Arroyo Watch: Sun.Star blog on President Arroyo

But Philippine and American military officers said that the Balikatan (shoulder-to-shoulder) exercises are simply meant to enhance each other’s tactical or operational capabilities.

Earlier, Reyes announced that Exxon Mobile, a giant in the oil industry based in the United States, is set to explore the resource-rich Sulu Sea for crude oil deposits this year.

Sulu Sea is home to Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park, considered one of the world’s best heritage sites. Sulu Sea connects the South China Sea and Celebes Sea, which serves as route for tuna and other varieties of fishes going in and out the Pacific Ocean.

Indayla assailed the imminent effects of the looming exploration to the people of Sulu, whom she said “have had enough of never-ending wars, kidnaps, hamlets and killings since the American occupation.”

She said her group is strongly opposing the exploration of Exxon Mobile in Sulu Sea “because it would not only affect and devastate the environment and people’s livelihood but also because it is a testament to the long-list of documents that Filipino people vend their natural resources to foreign countries.”

Exxon Mobile will reportedly shell out $110 million for its exploration activities alone.

Suara Bangsamoro raised fears that Exxon Mobile’s exploration in the Sulu Sea will mark the onset of large-scale explorations in other oil-rich areas in the country.

Indayla chided the government’s concession to foreign oil companies to explore the Philippines, noting the country is continuously importing oil and experiencing oil price increases.

Reyes has said that Exxon Mobile will be farmed into service contract 56 in the Sulu Sea, which is currently being held by Malaysian exploration company Mitra Energy Ltd.

He said Exxon Mobile will be the 50 percent owner of the contract, and will be allowed to operate this project in Sulu.

Indayla lamented that the country’s natural resources are benefitting foreigners, especially those from the United States, rather than Filipinos.

“We are putting our hands to a tiger’s mouth by allowing them to utilize and exploit our own reserves,” she said.

Indayla asked the government to safeguard the welfare of its people first before the interest of foreign corporations. (BSS)

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My Take:

US is so addicted to oil it will invade any nation just to have a grasp of that sticky black gold.

US vows continuous aid to RP

July 6, 2008

UNITED States Ambassador Kristie Kenney said they will continue to give help to the country, especially to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Armm).

The aid, she said, is a sign of the US commitment to further the strong ties between the two countries.

Arroyo Watch: Sun.Star blog on President Arroyo

In an interview after the celebration of the centenary of the First Teachers Assembly in commemoration of the “Thomasites” in Baguio City, Kenney said Mindanao will continue to be their focus in development aid as she referred to the resource-rich but conflict-driven region as the “least developed and most in need.”

The Department of Education (DepEd) earlier cited the support being given by the US Agency for International Development (Usaid) in education projects in the region hobbled by armed conflict between separatist groups and the government.

With Usaid support, DepEd has intensified government efforts to improve access to quality education and provide livelihood opportunities for children and the youth in the southern Philippines, particularly in areas most affected by conflict and poverty like the Armm.

“There is an urgent need for a stronger public-private sector alliance to meet the education needs of Mindanao, especially in the Armm,” said Education Secretary Jesli Lapus.

He said, “A framework to pool various initiatives into one program assures efficiency and effectiveness.”

The US government’s Equalls project has helped improve the quality of education of nearly 500,000 public elementary students in Mindanao.

The project has trained nearly 10,000 teachers in core subjects like English, Science and Mathematics and has provided almost two million books to schools in the region, Lapus added.

Equalls is short for Education Quality and Access for Learning and Livelihood Skills.

Aside from the Armm, the program also focuses on war-torn communities in the Zamboanga Peninsula (Region IX) and the Cotabato area (Region XII).

Launched in 2004, Equalls is a five-year US$30.1-million initiative that combines the efforts of Usaid partners from government, civil society and the corporate sector.

The aid agency has allocated US$85 million for Phase 2 of the project (2006-2011), which aims to “increase learning opportunities for children and youth through community support for education,” the official said.

It also aims to strengthen capacity for teaching English, Math and Science and improve relevance and training for out-of-school children and youth.

Equalls has offices in Manila, Cotabato City and Zamboanga City.

The Education Development Center, Inc., a US-based international non-profit organization, coordinates all Equalls projects.

It also provides technical support to development organizations like the Assistance for the Comprehensive Educational Development of Mindanao (Ascend Mindanao)-Save the Children, Books Across the Sea (Bets), Dagyawang Igpaw sa Wastong Agkataw (Diwa), Education and Livelihood Skills Alliance (Elsa), Improving English Language Teaching and Learning in Mindanao (IELTLM), Television Education for the Advancement of Muslim Mindanao, and Tudlo Mindanao (Teach Mindanao)-US Peace Corps.

According to the Usaid, “the private sector partners (of Equalls) are matching and in nearly all cases exceeding funding amounts by the Usaid. (AH/Sunnex)

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My Take:

Especially to the ARMM huh?  Hmmm… The US is indeed protecting its interests there.  Mining, logging, prestine scenery (potential tourist spot), realty, cheap labor, and of course the control to the long-dreamed BIMP:Brunie-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines circle of trade.

Streetwise: Human Rights and the U.S. ‘War on Terror’

June 11, 2008

In the light of increasing revelations about the horrendous violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by the U.S. military, U.S. government-contracted private security agencies and such state investigative arms as the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the course of the U.S. war of occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan and while rounding up suspected “terrorists” in the U.S. and other countries, it is not surprising why the Bush administration and the Arroyo regime find themselves mutually reinforcing each other’s fascist mindset and policies.

BY CAROL PAGADUAN-ARAULLO
Streetwise / Business World
Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 18, June 8-14, 2008

“The (U.S.) strategy which is keyed on military stealth and might had trampling effects on the basic liberties of suspected terrorists for laws are silent when the guns of war do the talking. The war on terrorism has inevitable spillover effects on human rights all over the world, especially in countries suspected as being used as havens of terrorists.” — The Old Struggle for Human Rights, New Problems Posed by Security, Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno

At the 8th session of the UN (United Nations) Human Rights Council, during which the Philippine human rights record is being reviewed, UN Special Rapporteur Prof. Philip Alston stood by his findings on the alarming spate of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines in the last six years.

According to the non-government organization, Philippine UPR (Universal Periodic Review) Watch, Mr. Alston stated that so many of the cases remained unexplained; only a few cases, prosecuted; and to date, there had been no conviction of military personnel involved. Mr. Alston underscored his finding that, in so far as the number and characterization of the killings, the methodology used by the Philippine government was defective.

Fr. Rex Reyes, head of delegation of the Philippine UPR Watch, said that after Alston’s report, the Philippine Mission in Geneva submitted a six-page statement lambasting the report as “inaccurate, highly selective and biased” and vilifying Mr. Alston himself.

It is not at all out of character for the Philippine government to stick to its denial mode as far as extra-judicial killings (EJKs) and other human rights violations are concerned. The regime of Mrs. Gloria Arroyo, while continuing to understate the gravity and extent of the killings, washes its hands of any culpability, accuses its detractors of exaggerating the problem and of politicking, and then proudly proclaims that it has significantly reduced the incidence of EJKs and human rights violations in general.

Mr. Alston was reported to have “happily note(d) the drop in the number of extrajudicial killings since he began his mission in the Philippines.” But he also wryly added, “The decrease in number while a cause to congratulate, is likewise a cause to condemn because it merely shows clearly who are behind the extrajudicial killings.”

The Arroyo regime’s bloody human rights record was close to being universally criticized by the international human rights community, including such institutions as the International Parliamentary Union as well as certain countries in the European Union known for their consistent defense of human rights. Yet most recently, Malacañang issued a press release welcoming the 2008 report of the U.S. State Department “hailing the Philippine government’s adherence to democracy and freedom, respect for human rights and stepped up efforts to end extrajudicial killings and disappearances.” Presidential Spokesperson Bunye added, “(The report) reiterates the commitment of the American government to assist and stand by us.”

The U.S.-backed Arroyo regime, facing serious challenges to its political survival, has courted the support of the U.S. and ensured the loyalty of the U.S.-trained Philippine military by escalating military actions not only against the CPP-NPA-NDFP (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines) but against legal progressive organizations and personalities under the guise of countering “terrorism.” Hence the rise in extra-judicial killings.

Moreover, the regime has been emboldened by the U.S. “war on terror” to rely mainly on a military solution to the armed conflict rather than address the roots of the armed conflict by instituting basic social, political and economic reforms. Thus, one of the first victims of the U.S. “war on terror” in the Philippines is the quest for a just and lasting peace through peace negotiations between the government and the NDFP.

In the light of increasing revelations about the horrendous violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by the U.S. military, U.S. government-contracted private security agencies and such state investigative arms as the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the course of the U.S. war of occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan and while rounding up suspected “terrorists” in the U.S. and other countries, it is not surprising why the Bush administration and the Arroyo regime find themselves mutually reinforcing each other’s fascist mindset and policies.

It behooves human rights advocates exposing and opposing the brutal Arroyo regime to pay particular attention to the U.S. own bloody human rights record everywhere and the particular role that the U.S. continues to play in encouraging and sustaining state terrorism by its neo-colonial client regimes. The indisputable and documented trail of U.S. war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, and crime of aggression against sovereign countries must be unmasked and fought against.

Specifically, the U.S. refusal to sign on to the Rome Statute mandating the International Criminal Court (ICC) and its use of arm-twisting measures, e.g. a cut-off in military and economic aid, against countries that ratify the Rome Statute, is a virtual admission of guilt and the intent to continue violating human rights (HR) and international humanitarian law (IHL). The ICC is widely considered to be a historic and major breakthrough in human rights protection because it provides international mechanism for prosecution of grievous violations of HR and IHL. The Philippines signed but did not submit the treaty to the Senate for ratification due to such U.S. pressure.

The official U.S. post-9/11 “Guidelines for Interrogation” of suspected “terrorists” include methods considered as torture by international law standards. Even U.S. courts have ruled these to be unconstitutional. The U.S. also signed but “with reservations” the International Convention on Torture. Severe, inhuman and dehumanizing torture has been inflicted by US forces in Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and other US-run detention facilities all over the world. Evidently the practice of torture by U.S. security agents and armed forces is systematic and to a certain extent institutionalized.

Human rights groups and several public inquiries in Europe have found the U.S. government, with the help of numerous governments worldwide, to be engaged in the illegal practice of extraordinary rendition, secret detention and torture. The U.S. government-sponsored program of renditions is an unlawful practice in which numerous persons have been illegally detained and secretly flown to third countries, where they have suffered additional human rights abuses including torture and enforced disappearance.

The latest scandal surrounding the U.S.-led war of terror is the emergence from a number of sources such as statements from the U.S. military, the Council of Europe and related parliamentary bodies and the testimonies of prisoners, that the U.S. is operating “floating prisons” in an attempt to conceal the numbers and whereabouts of those detained as “terrorist” suspects.

Indeed, Mrs. Arroyo’s upcoming meeting with U.S. President Bush in the U.S. this month shows just how much she still admires and follows the lead of her fascist, if lame-duck, role model. Business World / Posted by Bulatlat

We Did Not Attack Gov’t Troops in Basilan – MILF

June 3, 2008

MILF welcomes ceasefire violation rap by AFP, says they will also protest

The MILF through its chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal, denied taking part in a May 25 attack on a Marine outpost in Ungkaya Pukan, Basilan that left two Moro fighters dead and 17 Marines wounded. The Moro revolutionary group also “welcomed” the filing of a ceasefire violation complaint against it by the AFP, and announced that it will file its own protest.

BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 17, June 1-7, 2008

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), through its chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal, denied taking part in a May 25 attack on a Marine outpost in Ungkaya Pukan, Basilan that left two Moro fighters dead and 17 Marines wounded. The Moro revolutionary group also “welcomed” the filing of a ceasefire violation complaint against it by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and announced that it will file its own protest.

Marine commandant Lt. Gen. Ben Dolorfino had pointed to both the MILF and the bandit Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) as the instigators of the May 25 firefight. According to Dolorfino, the MILF’s 3rd Brigade and the ASG attacked the Marine detachment in Barangay (village) Tongbato, Ungkaya Pukan at around 5:45 a.m. on May 25. Ten Marines were wounded in the first attack, Dolorfino said, while another was wounded when a V150 commando vehicle was fired at in Brgy. Materling, Ungkaya Pukan.

Soldiers on the way to Tongbato as reinforcement were also attacked, Dolorfino said. Six Marines were wounded and two Moro fighters were killed in the ensuing encounter.

“They (MILF) always join (ASG attacks) so indeed that’s a violation of the ceasefire agreement,” Dolorfino told reporters on May 25. “They are supposed to help us against the Abu Sayyaf.”

But Iqbal denied that the MILF took part in the attack on the Marine outpost in Brgy. Tongbato.

“There were two separate firefights last May 25,” Iqbal said. “The first was between Marines and the ASG at Brgy. Tongbato; the second from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. between MILF forces and Marines, which took place in Brgy. Materling. The first was initiated by the ASG, while the second took place right inside an MILF territory. The Marines were the ones who started the second firefight.”

He also denied Dolorfino’s claim that the MILF “always joins” ASG attacks. “ASG is a separate group, their ways of doing things are mostly contrary to our ways,” Iqbal said.

“The MILF has a very clear and legitimate agenda to pursue,” Iqbal also said. “We do not resort to anti-people or ‘terroristic’ methods of pursuing our cause.”

The AFP filed a ceasefire violation complaint against the MILF before the Joint Committee on Ceasefire and Cessation of Hostilities (JCCCH) on May 26.

“The reasons why the protest was filed are the following: one is to know the reason why the attack was carried out, and second is to determine the perpetrators of the incident,” said Lt. Col. Ernesto Torres, AFP information chief, at a news briefing on May 26.

Iqbal said the MILF “welcomes” the filing of the protest. “We welcome the filing of the protest in order to ferret out the truth of the incidents, especially the second,” Iqbal said. He added that the MILF would be filing its own protest before the JCCCH.

First clash after Malaysia pullout from IMT

The May 25 encounter is the first firefight between government troops and MILF fighters since Malaysia started pulling out its contingent from the International Monitoring Team (IMT), which is tasked to observe and monitor the cessation of hostilities between the two parties to the negotiations as well as the implementation of socio-economic projects in the areas of conflict.

The IMT – which is composed of delegates from Malaysia, Brunei and Libya – was deployed to several areas in Mindanao in 2004. Malaysia, which facilitates the GRP-MILF peace negotiations, had the biggest contingent in the 60-member IMT.

An initial group of 29 Malaysian delegates left Mindanao on May 10. The remaining 12 are set to follow by August.

Malaysian facilitator Othman Abdul Razak was reported as saying on May 3 that the GRP-MILF peace negotiations “will not move forward” if the GRP kept insisting that the talks be conducted in accordance with “constitutional processes.”

Last December, the GRP-MILF peace negotiations reached a deadlock over the ancestral domain issue.

The ancestral domain issue, which was first discussed only in 2004 or some eight years after the talks started, has turned out to be the most contentious issue in the GRP-MILF peace negotiations.

The MILF last year was proposing a Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) that would be based on an ancestral domain claim of the Bangsa Moro over Mindanao, Sulu, and Palawan.

The GRP had insisted that areas to be covered by the BJE other than the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) should be subjected to a plebiscite. This repeatedly led to an impasse in the peace negotiations.

The impasse was broken only in November last year, when the GRP and the MILF reached an agreement defining the land and maritime areas to be covered by the proposed BJE.

Things seemed to be looking up after that, causing lawyer Eid Kabalu, then MILF spokesperson, to make media statements to the effect that they expected a final agreement to be signed by mid-2008.

But all hopes for forging a peace pact between the GRP and the MILF were dashed last December, when the peace talks hit a snag following the government’s insistence that the ancestral domain issue be settled through “constitutional processes” – a phrase which, according to Iqbal, had been inserted into the agreement without their consent.

Roots of conflict, prospects for peace

Moro historian Salah Jubair traces the roots of the present conflict in southern Philippines to the U.S. annexation of Mindanao and Sulu into the Philippine territory in 1946. Jubair argues that the Bangsa Moro is a people with a socio-political, economic, and cultural system distinct from that of the Filipino people.

The inclusion of Mindanao and Sulu in the scope of the 1946 “independence” grant to the Philippines paved the way for large-scale non-Muslim migration to the two islands. This large-scale migration, which began in the 1950s, brought with it the problem of land grabbing.

At some point the government even instituted a Mindanao Homestead Program, which involved giving land parcels seized from Moro peoples to landless peasants from the Visayas islands and Luzon and also to former communist guerrillas who availed of amnesty.

This was intended to defuse the peasant unrest and the revolutionary war that was staged in the late 1940s and early 1950s by the communist-led Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan (HMB or People’s Liberation Army), which was basically a peasant army.

The Jabidah Massacre triggered widespread outrage among the Moros and led to the formation of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) that same year. The MNLF, led by former University of the Philippines (UP) professor Nur Misuari, waged an armed revolutionary struggle against the GRP for an independent state in Mindanao.

The Marcos government, weighed down by the costs of the Mindanao war, negotiated for peace and signed an agreement with the MNLF in Tripoli, Libya in the mid-1970s. The pact involved the grant of autonomy to the Mindanao Muslims.

Conflicts on the issue of autonomy led to a breakdown of talks between the GRP and the MNLF in 1978, prompting a group led by Dr. Salamat Hashim to break away from the MNLF and form the MILF. Since then, the MILF has been fighting for Moro self-determination.

In 1996, the MNLF signed the Final Peace Agreement with the GRP, which created the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) as a concession to the group. That same year, the MILF began peace negotiations with the GRP.

While the peace agreement with the MNLF supposedly holds, armed skirmishes between the AFP and MNLF did not stop. On Nov. 19, 2001, Misuari declared war on the Arroyo government for allegedly reneging on its commitments to the Final Peace Agreement. The MNLF then attacked an Army headquarters in Jolo. Misuari was subsequently arrested in Sabah, Malaysia for illegal entry and was turned over to the Philippine government by Malaysian authorities. He is currently under house arrest in New Manila, Quezon City.

Meanwhile, the recent armed encounter between government troops and MILF rebels seems to confirm what Iqbal said earlier that with the pull-out of the IMT, the peace talks are “shaky on the ground.”

When asked whether the May 25 fighting could lead to a renewed escalation of fighting between government forces and the MILF, Iqbal said it depends on the government. Bulatlat

Corruption, weak rule of law roots of RP problems — US

June 1, 2008

By Cynthia Balana
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:16:00 06/01/2008

DESPITE A LONG TRADITION of democracy, the Philippines remains “vulnerable to political turmoil, recurring attempts to use extraconstitutional means to resolve leadership crises, human rights abuses and concerns about credibility of elections,” according to a United States state department report.

In “Advancing Freedom and Democracy Reports 2008” released on May 23, the US Department of State said corruption and weak rule of law continued to be the underlying factors exacerbating this vulnerability.

It said that while the Philippine government generally respected the human rights of its people, there continued to be serious problems in certain areas, particularly extrajudicial killings (EJKs) and forced disappearances.

In 2007 the government intensified its efforts to investigate and prosecute these cases, and there has been a significant decrease in the number of killings and disappearances, the report noted.

It said high voter turnout in the 2007 national and local elections, which was marred by violence and fraud, demonstrated the country’s continuing commitment to the democratic process as 99 percent of the 17,000 seats available nationwide were filled without controversy.

It commended civil society monitoring groups in the country for playing an active role as poll watchers to ensure fairer election counts.

To counter these problems, the report said, US-funded programs currently support civil society initiatives that monitor election tabulation; allow NGOs to monitor campaign finance in selected electoral contests and media reporting, and assist electoral modernization efforts in preparation for local and national elections.

It said the US Embassy in Manila coordinated and deployed a multi-agency team of 86 American officials to observe the May 2007 national elections, an initiative that clearly demonstrated to the Philippine electorate the US government’s strong support of a free and fair democratic process.

“The Philippines has struggled with EJKs and forced disappearances for most of its modern history. US government officials use every opportunity to convey the message that these killings and disappearances must cease and must be thoroughly investigated and prosecuted,” the report said.

In support of this priority, assistance programs are underway to build the capacity of journalists to report credibly, accurately and professionally on human rights violations; to strengthen the justice sector’s effectiveness in prosecuting cases of extrajudicial killings and disappearances, and to professionalize the security forces, the report said.

Other points the paper made were:

The US government also provides assistance to law enforcement agencies, prosecutors and the courts to investigate, prosecute and convict human rights abusers and to devise strategies to prevent future abuses.

To encourage respect for due process among members of the armed forces, various US military assistance programs help to strengthen the professionalism, commitment to human rights and discipline of the Philippine military.(PDI)

US joins Zambo blast probe; MILF-Abu blamed

May 31, 2008

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines–The US government is helping Philippine authorities investigate Thursday’s explosion in Barangay Sta. Maria that killed two people and wounded more than 20 others.

“Certainly, [we are extending help],” US Ambassador Kristie Kenney said Friday. “For us, we share any information [we have gathered], and our experts could help look at the crime scene.”

The Philippine Daily Inquirer on Friday saw a number of US soldiers at the explosion site–the Air Materiel Wing Savings and Loan Association building, which is across from Edwin Andrews Air Base and which houses the offices of the US-funded Alliance for Mindanao Off-Grid Renewable Energy (Amore) and of Zamboanga Rep. Ma. Isabel Climaco.

Chief Supt. Jaime Caringal, police director of Western Mindanao, said the assistance of US forces was speeding up the investigation: “That’s why we were able to gather much data from the blast site.”

He said the unnamed man arrested shortly after the explosion was still being investigated.

Caringal reiterated what he had earlier said–that separatist rebels were behind the bomb attack.

He said it was “clear” that “the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s Special Operations Group which merged with the Abu Sayyaf Group in Basilan was making a strong, powerful and loud statement.”

He named those purportedly behind the explosion as MILF leader Malista Malangka and Abu Sayyaf leader Puruji Indama, but did not say how the police had come to that conclusion.

MILF deputy information chief Khaled Musa denounced Caringal for his remarks.

“This is a serious allegation against the MILF. This is an irresponsible statement. The MILF is a partner of the government in the search for genuine peace in Mindanao,” Musa said.

According to Caringal, the improvised bomb was made of TNT.

“It was the same type of explosive used in previous bombings here, including the simultaneous attacks at the Mega Cathedral and the office of the Department of Foreign Affairs [in April],” he said.

Caringal aired the suspicion that the target of the attack was the Amore office.

“Amore is a US government project which is helping in the development of some areas, particularly conflict-affected areas. And we know that some groups are rejecting the presence and projects of Amore for the reason that these are encroaching on their places,” he said.

Caringal said another possibility was that the attack was aimed at soldiers milling around the air base. He said this was borne out by the fact that the bomb had been placed among the baggage of people waiting to hitch a ride to Manila on a military transport plane that was to take off from the base.

He said it might even be possible that the bomb was meant for the C-130 itself.

Asked whether the target was the Amore office, Ambassador Kenney said: “I don’t know. It’s impossible to speculate, [but the act is] inconceivable. I don’t know the motive or the details.”

She said the US government was hopeful that “very quickly, the long arm of the authorities will find those responsible so that we will be able to get on with our work.”

‘Isolated case’

The bomb attack occurred while Kenney was visiting an Amore-funded project in Tigbao, Zamboanga del Sur. Among the wounded were four Amore engineers, all Filipinos.

On the phone with reporters in Manila, Col. Darwin Guerra, the commander of Task Force Zamboanga, said the bomb attack was nothing to worry about.

“Zamboanga City is still safe and secure. This is just an isolated case,” he said.

To stress his point, Guerra said that only the other weekend, a summit on global warming and food security with 14,000 participants was held in the city without a hitch.

He said the police investigation was still ongoing, but reiterated that it was a terrorist attack aimed at inflicting “maximum damage” regardless of who would be hurt or killed.

Guerra said that in view of the attack, Task Force Zamboanga would review and strengthen existing security measures.

He said the city was “a unique area” in that the military and the police had to “share” some of its security forces in guarding vital installations.

Guerra also said a coordinating conference with the task force, the police and other major military units in the area was to be held Friday, with Lt. Gen. Nelson Allaga, the head of the Western Mindanao Command, presiding.

But MILF civil military affairs chief Eid Kabalu called on the military and the police to look deeper into the bomb attack “instead of issuing baseless allegations.”

Kabalu described Caringal’s remarks against the MILF as the “height of irresponsibility,” adding that what the latter could have done was to “wait for the result of the investigation.”

He also wondered how the police and the military could have determined the perpetrators so soon.

Kabalu said the bomb attack could be part of the plot of a certain party that did not want the peace talks between the government and the MILF to resume.

“We have been warning the government about this,” he said.

The peace talks hit a snag in December over the issue of ancestral domain.

The government insists that the future of the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity will be determined by a plebiscite to be held for the purpose. But the MILF disagreed with that position, and pulled out of the negotiations.

Lately, Kuala Lumpur withdrew from the International Monitoring Team because of dismay over the slow progress of the peace talks.

Al-Khobar

In General Santos City, Col. Benito de Leon said the al-Khobar extortion gang, an alleged ally of the regional terror network Jemaah Islamiyah, remained a potent and immediate threat to the peace and security of the city and other parts of Central Mindanao.

De Leon, commander of the Joint Task Force Gensan, said that from being a kidnap-for-ransom gang, al-Khobar had metamorphosed into a dreaded extortion group.

“However, we consider it not a problem but a bigger challenge. Neutralizing and preventing this group from entering the city is among our priorities,” he said.

Al-Khobar is being blamed for the series of bomb attacks on bus companies and commercial establishments in the region, which is made up of the provinces of South Cotabato, Sarangani, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat, and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, Kidapawan and Cotabato.

Among the deadliest attacks attributed to al-Khobar was the June 2007 bus bombing in Bansalan, Davao del Sur, where about 12 people were killed and scores of others wounded.

With reports from Nikko Dizon in Manila; Aquiles Zonio, Inquirer Mindanao


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