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Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo: America’s New Ally in Asia-Pacific
by www.bulatlat.com
Sunday Jan 27th, 2002 10:50 PM
“Military cooperation” between the Philippines and United States will
try to harness a new spokesperson who will, a la Marcos, agitate for
renewed U.S. aggression in Southeast Asia.
Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts http://www.bulatlat.com
From Issue No. 49 January 27 - February 2, 2002 Quezon City, Philippines

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo: America’s New Ally in Asia-Pacific

“Military cooperation” between the Philippines and United States will
try to harness a new spokesperson who will, a la Marcos, agitate for
renewed U.S. aggression in Southeast Asia. Being fitted into this picture
is President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Reports said that the image of
the Philippine president is being refurbished from that of “Ate Gloria
Labandera” (laundrywoman) into a “strong warrior” who will espouse
America’s vital interests in the region. She is about to execute this grand
performance when she goes back to the United States this week.

BY BOBBY TUAZON
Bulatlat.com

Apologists for the renewed U.S. intervention in the Philippines are
missing the entire point when they argue that it is better than having an
Abu Sayyaf in our midst and that it is, after all, constitutional. It
is not entirely surprising that most of these rabid apologists led by
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo are also defenders of globalization.
They remain hostage to the colonial mindset – that anything that is
American, or what it represents, is fine for the Filipinos.

They also miss the entire point when they look at the U.S. intervention
as merely a boost to government efforts to eliminate the Abu Sayyaf
extremists from the jungles of Basilan in order to, henceforth, pave the
way for the development of that island province. Pursued further, this
kind of logic may as well work for the whole country: At the level of
economic and political instability the Philippines is in, a deeper and
far-reaching American intervention is warranted.

To look at this issue on the basis of doing away with an internal
menace – in this case, the Abu Sayyaf – is to look at reality in its
fragments or, to use a popular analogy, seeing the trees and not the forest.
The fact that a foreign country, the United States, is upgrading its
military intervention in the Philippines should incite us to seek more
answers far beyond what we see in Basilan. The answers, of course, lie
within the war room of the While House and in the secret corridors of
Pentagon.

When, in her state visit to Washington last November, Macapagal-Arroyo
forged a new military deal with President George Bush to support the
latter’s global counter-terrorism campaign, she in effect committed the
Philippines to be part of a new American crusade that dates back in the
early 1990s. In the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet revisionist
regime and its satellite states in Eastern Europe, the United States
which found itself the only superpower in a unipolar equation on earth,
undertook a new crusade that would provide endurance to Pax Americana.

The “communist demon” having been extirpated and with China dropping
socialism in favor of a mixed economy, America launched a new campaign –
the war against terrorists, regional insurgencies and organized drug
traffickers. “Rogue states” and “terrorist groups” replaced communist
states in America’s new order of battle.

New crusade

In this new crusade, U.S. forces were to be deployed for new missions,
a new nuclear missile system would be developed while the global
network of fixed bases would remain intact to be reinforced by a new scheme
of rapid deployment forces. As its financial capability to support the
global security network teetered owing to its inability to contend with
a periodic crisis of recession or stagflation, the United States forged
or renewed security alliances with its allies and emerging countries
throughout the world. In many of these new security pacts particularly
with Japan and South Korea, nations were asked to bear partly the
financial burden of maintaining U.S. installations or, in the case of other
nations, to provide logistical and other forms of support. Hence, the
birth of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the United States
and the Philippines.

This new global security framework gave the United States guarantees
not only for the entrenchment and expansion of its various military
installations but also for armed intervention whenever and wherever threats
to U.S. vital interests occur. It has also provided security
guarantees vital for the global free trade and U.S. economic hegemony under the
guise of globalization and economic restructuring.

In a wave of propaganda which has won some adherents in nations such as
the Philippines, the U.S. Pentagon and state department policy
strategists have arrogated unto themselves the right to define what
“terrorism,” “insurgency” and “rogue states” mean. Essentially, however, these
three terms mean the same to these strategists, i.e., any movement or
group that resorts to violence threatening the security not only of its
“allies” and “friendly governments” but, more importantly, that of the
United States.

It does not matter to them whether Muslim secessionist movements
threaten repressive regimes so long as the latter are America’s allies (such
as Indonesia during the regime of Soeharto and now under Megawati
Soekarnoputri). In the Middle East, “terrorism” applies to the Palestinian
liberation groups but not to Israel, even if the latter has been
assailed throughout the world for its own terror campaign against freedom
fighters. The ideologically-oriented New People’s Army (NPA) also falls
under the category of “terrorist,” based on a list of the U.S. state
department and the AFP’s own “CTs” (communist terrorists) list. North Korea,
Libya, Cuba, Iraq, the former Yugoslavia and, in some respects, China –
nations that have refused subservience to American policies – qualify
as “rogue states.”

Until the Sept. 11 bombings in New York and Washington, the U.S.
government, both internally and externally, was encountering constraints to
its decade-old crusade against global terrorism. Adding to these
constraints was the growing resistance to globalization on account of the
displacement of national economies that this U.S. capitalist paradigm has
caused, along with growing levels of poverty and unemployment. But the
bombings – precipitated by opposition to U.S. armed interventionism in
many Muslim-dominated countries such as Saudi Arabia - infused a fresh
ammunition and, no matter how misplaced, the “moral high ground” for
this crusade.

Abu Sayyaf

To recall, the Abu Sayyaf was founded by remnants of the Muslim
mujahideen who were trained, bankrolled and deployed by the Central
Intelligence Agency in Afghanistan during the war against Soviet occupation in
that central Asian country. Among these mujahideen was Osama bin Laden
and a Muslim-Filipino, Janjalani. Forfeited of a political goal as a
result of the Soviet withdrawal in the late 1980s and abandoned by the CIA,
the Abu Sayyaf pioneers took the route back to Mindanao where, some
reports would show, they were nursed back into the war by some Philippine
armed forces generals in a bid to infiltrate the Moro Islamic
Liberation Front (MILF). Not entirely surprising, the group would later engage
in kidnappings and other forms of banditry with some of the ransoms
going into the hands of their military and police handlers.

Although Philippine intelligence officials would later say that the Abu
Sayyaf has, and continues to be, financed by the al-Qaeda network, the
fact remains that since the early 1990s the group had been engaged
chiefly in criminal operations while maintaining liaisons with both
military and local officials. And this is partly the reason why the group
refuses to die.

If other analysts are to believe, Philippine defense and armed forces
officials, in collaboration with their American counterparts, are
simply playing up the Abu Sayyaf “monster” and its alleged connection to bin
Laden’s al-Qaeda network to justify bigger U.S. military assistance to
their modernization program and, ultimately, to renewed armed
intervention in the Philippines.

Some apologists of this new U.S. intervention invoke the provisions of
the Mutual Defense Pact, unaware of the fact that this treaty was
forged in 1951, refers to an “external aggressor” and is a Cold War relic.
Ironically, Bush now wants to junk anti-missile treaties with Russia
because the pacts merely pertained to a cold war scenario that no longer
exists.

Visiting Forces Agreement

Others invoke the 1999 Visiting Forces Agreement unaware of the fact
that this pact, including arrangements about joint military exercises,
has itself been violated by the new military deal forged by
Macapagal-Arroyo with Bush. Contrary to previous agreements, the coming “Balikatan”
war games will use live ammunition, a live target (purportedly, the Abu
Sayyaf) and is, by timetable, open-ended.

Still, the VFA, which defines the post-bases military ties between the
two countries through exercises, ship visits, intelligence sharing and
policy dialogues, exists to pave the way for a deeper U.S. military
presence in the country.

Officially, only 160 of the some 1,000 American troops (660 plus the
advance party of 250 earlier sent on a secret mission last year) will
“train” Philippine troops on Basilan island. The rest – some 800 of them -
will be fielded in Nueva Ecija and in some other provinces nobody
knows, till now, where. Assuming that the U.S. special forces are here
mainly for training purposes, such training usually involves not only
counter-terrorism but also counter-insurgency.

Although it is where the remnants of Abu Sayyaf who had kidnapped an
American couple are reportedly hiding (some say, inside jungle tunnels
and caves), Basilan is not, militarily speaking, solely an Abu Sayyaf
turf. It is actually a part of the guerrilla zone of the Moro Islamic
Liberation Front (MILF). That being so, some intense fighting is expected
between the “Balikatan” forces – including American combat trainers and
advisers – and MILF guerrillas. MILF leaders have said they will fight
if attacked by these forces.

The new military deal clinched by Macapagal-Arroyo with Bush opens the
possibility for deeper American armed intervention not only in Mindanao
but throughout the country as well. Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes,
when asked in last week’s Senate hearing on the war games whether the U.S.
forces will eventually fight the Marxist-led NPA, said, “It’s
possible.” Perhaps caught off-guard by his own remark, the general tried to
recover himself by saying, “Oh, it’s just in the realm of possibilities.”

‘Communist insurgency’

There is no question whatsoever, that there is a continuing military
cooperation beween the Philippine and U.S. governments in
counter-insurgency. U.S. meddling in the country’s counter-insurgency program
continues to be ensured not only at the level of JUSMAG (Joint US Military
Advisory Group) talks, frequent visits of the CINCPAC (Commander-in-Chief
of the Pacific Command) but also through training of Filipino military
officials at various U.S. Army camps. Before the November talks in
Washington, the U.S. had been sending at least $10 million in military
assistance to the Philippines, albeit lower than what it used to receive.
Even with the surge in kidnapping activities of the Abu Sayyaf, defense
officials still agree that “communist insurgency” remains the major
security threat to government. And Washington agrees.

As far as the United States is concerned, the command in expanding
American security ties is its Pacific Command headed by Admiral Dennis
Blair. Since September last year, Blair has been in and out of the
Philippines trying to build and strengthen new defense deals with
Macapagal-Arroyo under the new security doctrine framed by Pentagon.

Speaking before the Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum in Honolulu on
Jan. 8 this year, Blair reiterated his call for the Philippines and other
governments in the region to “defeat separatist movements and
insurgencies.” The Philippines and other nations in the region, he said, must
use “international cooperation” to defeat terrorism and insurgency,
adding that “regional cooperation is the key to success against these
threats to security.” That cooperation, of course, gravitates around the U.S.
command which, in the region, is the Pacific Command. The American
troops that are deployed for the coming “war exercises” including Special
Forces, SEALS and Green Berets are under this command.

“Military cooperation” will also harness a new spokesperson who will, a
la Marcos, agitate for renewed U.S. aggression in Southeast Asia. Being
fitted into this picture is Macapagal-Arroyo. Reports said that the
image of the Philippine president is being refurbished from that of “Ate
Gloria Labandera” (laundrywoman) into a “strong warrior” who will
espouse the America virtues of “freedom” and “democracy” in the region. She
is about to execute this grand performance when she goes back to the
United States this week.

There is no question, therefore, that the so-called “war games” between
the U.S. and Philippine forces in Mindanao and elsewhere seek to
address not only the threat posed by the small band of Abu Sayyaf but also by
the NPA and MILF. As seen in many countries, including most especially
Colombia, alleged U.S. military advice and training has always been
followed by direct armed intervention in the fight against “terrorists,”
“drug traffickers” and “insurgents.”

The purported military aid, arms transfers and training that the
Philippine armed forces will acquire from the U.S. should not be used as a
lame excuse for deeper American armed intervention in the country and to
violate the nation’s sovereignty. To paraphrase the line of militant
people’s organizations, “puppetry” should not be made as a substitute for
a nation’s integrity and independence. Bulatlat.com

by Inang Bayan Movement
Wednesday Jan 30th, 2002 1:17 PM
FILIPINOS IN NEW YORK SAY NO TO WAR;PLANS FOR
DEMONSTRATION UNDERWAY
Contact: Robert Roy
Inang Bayan Movement
122 West 27th Street, 10th floor
New York, NY 10010
Tel. 212-741-6806
philforum [at] juno.com

NEW YORK- The coalition of social justice
organizations known as the Inang
Bayan Movement have announced plans for a mass
anti-war demonstration in
participation with the upcoming Anti-World Economic
Forum Counter Summit on
Saturday, February 2. The Inang Bayan Movement will
be convening at the
South West Corner of 59th Street, Columbus Circle and
joining the organized
rallies and demonstrations. Projected as a counter
effort in protest to the
upcoming annual World Economic Forum, to be held this
year in Manhattan's
posh Waldorf Astoria hotel, the demonstration will
call upon the local
Filipino community to highlight the ramifications of
the recent President
GMA-approved deployment of over 660 US military troops
to the Philippines.

"It is clear that this US-led war of aggression has
found a new target in
the Philippines," says Rusty Fabunan of Philippine
Forum, a member
organization of the Inang Bayan Movement. "Now is the
most critical of
times for compatriots all over the world to expose and
oppose this
military action and the consequences it will entail
for the ongoing
Filipino people's struggle for territorial integrity."

Tailing the US military's war activities to root out
the terrorist network
Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, the deployment to the
Philippines marks the first
major effort to expand the "war on terrorism" to an
international operation.
Last week in Manila, American and Philippine military
officials signed for a
joint command, Operation "Balikatan", with the
objective to hunt down the Al
Quaeda-linked terrorist group Abu Sayyaf. But as this
new wave of US troops
continue to land on Philippine soil, the reception of
Filipinos remains
mixed. Many see the operation as more harmful than
helpful to the people's
immediate needs. Others, such as the New York-based
Inang Bayan Movement,
have taken a more pro-active stance in opposition to
it.

"Historically, the presence of US military on
Philippine soil has
never led to the best interests of the Filipino
people. In the past this
resulted in the mass movements to close down Subic
Naval and Clark Air
Base and terminate the long-standing dependency of the
AFP to the military
arm of the US," says Riya Ortiz, a coordinator for the
Inang Bayan Movement
demonstration. "The struggle continues now with
Estrada's legacy of the
Visiting Forces Agreement. Operation Balikatan
can only further reinforce this outright violation of
our national
sovereignty."

Not to mention the blatant violation of the Philippine
Constitution, which
explicitly forbids the entry of foreign troops to
engage in combat in the
country without the signing of a treaty. While the
whirlwind of critical
opposition quickly amasses, US-RP bilateral agreements
continue to boost
Balikatan as mere advisory operation, one in which US
troops will only act
as supervising consultants to modernize the AFP's
combat strategies in
capturing the small but media-exploited Abu Sayyaf,
who have garnered an
overexposed track record in ransom kidnappings and
victimizing civilians,
and currently hold two American missionaries hostage
in the southern island
of Basilan.

"While we condemn the terrorist activities of all
renegade extremist
groups, this should not be used as a convenient excuse
to justify this
massive intrusion of US forces," says Bernadette
Ellorin of the Filipino
Organization for Women's Advancement, Rights, and
Dignity (FORWARD). The
Pentagon has already promised a ten-fold increase in
military
assistance-from $1.9 to $19 million in the year 2002
alone. Helicopters,
advanced communication gear, surveillance capabilities
and even
bloodhounds have been shipped to lavishly equip the
growing military
activity. Central to the controversy remains GMA's
pledge of all-out
allegiance to Bush's crusade to weed terrorism on all
fronts by offering
to re-open Subic and Clarke Naval Bases. All this, in
the name of
squelching a group of bandits partly composed of
remnant fighters who
trained under US supervision in battling the Soviet
invasion of
Afghanistan during the sixties' Cold War.

"President Macapagal-Arroyo should learn more from the
mistakes of her
ill-fated predecessor," claims Ana Liza Caballes of
Philippine Forum's
Youth Initiative for Social Action (YOUTH IN ACTION)
Program. "Another
US-puppet regime cannot and will not be tolerated by
the Filipino people."
Indeed, frequent visits to Washington, D.C. have
already solidified Arroyo's
commitment to long-term cooperation with President
Bush, one that will
surely go beyond fighting the Abu Sayyaf. This
GMA-Bush relationship may in
fact work to strike against the growing people's
movement to oppose an
oppressive, anti-people regime under the puppet
strings of globalization-a
movement that tactically led the successful ouster of
yet another corrupt
leader of such a regime, Joseph Estrada.

On Thursday, January 31, a five-day summit convening
heads of the world's
largest transnational corporations, as well as
political leaders such as
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, will commence in New York
City. The World Economic
Forum is slated to increase global and corporate
support of Bush's war, and
is currently the target of a number of organized
demonstrations, including a
mass mobilization on February 2nd beginning on the
corner of Columbus Avenue
and 59th street and proceeding to march to the
heavily-guarded
Waldorf-Astoria. Representatives from the Inang Bayan
Movement are scheduled
to speak and shed a public spotlight on the situation
in the Philippines,
and will continue to actively organize events and
speaking engagements in
the upcoming weeks. "GMA needs to hear the voice of
the Filipino people,
even those as far away as New York," explains
Caballes. "We as a migrant
community cannot disconnect ourselves
to the community back home."

For more information on Inang Bayan, scheduled
activities, and speaking
engagements, please call 212-741-6801 x Philippine
Forum or contact Riya
Ortiz at riya_ortiz [at] hotmail.com
by Inang Bayan Movement
Wednesday Jan 30th, 2002 2:09 PM
Join the Inang Bayan Movement at a...

SPEAK OUT Against Global Poverty and Militarism!
Saturday, February 2
11am: assemble at 59th St. & 8th Avenue (Columbus Circle, near the
fountain at the SW corner of Central Park)
11:30: program
12:00: march to join the Another World is Possible Coalition (59th
St./5th Ave) until 1pm
Afterwards, the march will continue to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel

For more info, call: Inag Bayan Movement, 212-741-6806

***********************************************************
Why Protest the World Economic Forum and US Troops in the Philippines?
- a Q & A

What is the World Economic Forum?

From January 31st through February 4th, the World Economic Forum will
be meeting here in NYC, at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in mid-town
Manhattan. The World Economic Forum is a private member organization
comprising representatives from 1,000 of the world's
largest corporations including Boeing, Goldman-Sachs, Enron (until
recently), Ayala Land, The New York Stock Exchange, Pfizer, and
Chevron-Texaco. The exclusive meeting is open to members, who pay
upwards of $30,000 in annual dues, as well as selected politicians,
journalists and academics. George W. Bush and Philippine President
Gloria Arroyo are expected to be in attendance.

While the WEF helps set global economic and trade agendas that affect
the entire world, the group predominantly includes European and
American businesses. The upcoming meeting will celebrate war in
Afghanistan and the Middle East, attacks on civil liberties, and
corporate tax cuts.

What is the relationship between the WEF and the US "War on Terror?

The world's large corporations have created greater and greater
concentrations of wealth in the hands of a few, while the numbers of
the world's poor are growing. The political leaders of the US and
the few other dominant countries of the world (imperialist countries)
work hand-in-hand with these corporations to ensure their increased
profits. After all, it's the corporations that funded these leaders
when they were candidates, and the many of these leaders once worked
at these same corporations!

As the people of the world get poorer, and see the wealth of their
work and natural environments exploited and taken by million-dollar
CEOs, and as they and their children go increasingly hungry, they are
getting angry and organizing against the world's ruling elite. Thus
the ruling elite and their corporations arm themselves and repress
all opposition to their rule.

We see this in the current so-called "War on Terror." First the US
armed and funded fringe Muslim groups including Osama Bin Laden
himself and those who formed the Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines in
order to protect its interests in Afghanistan against the Soviets in
the 1980s. With US arms, training and money, these groups really
took off! Then when the US angered the monsters it had formed by
stationing its military throughout the Middle East and by funding the
terrorist Israeli government, these fringe groups began to plot
terrorist attacks on US targets.

The ruling elite and multinational corporations are overjoyed as they
now have a pretext to use repression and violations of civil
liberties to defend their continued exploitation and superprofits
against the people who are organizing to challenge them. And the US
arms manufacturers are also overjoyed that now there is a reason for
even greater military spending.

What is the US military doing in the Philippines?

The US is mobilizing at least 660 troops to the Philippines to back
up thousands of Philippine troops that are already "fighting" the Abu
Sayyaf, a group of little more than 100 people. Seem a little crazy?
It is! The Abu Sayyaf were founded in the first place by CIA-trained
fighters who returned from the US war in Afghanistan. Then the
Philippine military facilitated the group's formation in the early
1990s in order to undermine another Muslim separtist group, the Moro
National Liberation Front. The Abu Sayyaf has taken some
hostages including two Americans now in its custody. The group has no
clear objectives or plan, no support among the people, and it mostly
operates as a gang.

If the Abu Sayyaf is so small, why can't the Philippine military deal
with the issue on its own?

Based on accounts of the hostages and other evidence, elements in the
Philippine military are known to be working with and supporting the
Abu Sayyaf. Why? Then it can count on a steady flow of arms, money
and training from the US!

Both the US and Philippine ruling elite are using this occasion as a
pretext to target non-terrorist progressive liberation
struggles that seek to bring genuine democracy and freedom to the 75%
of the population mired in poverty. The strength of these stuggles
and the advanced awareness of the people can be seen right now in the
numerous actions around the Philippines protesting the stationing of
US troops in their country.

Why should we in New York protest US troops going to the Philippines?

The US military has a long and sordid history in the Philippines.
From the Philippine-American War of 1899-1916 where one-eighth of the
Filipino population was murdered by US troops- to the toxic wastes
still left by the US bases that the US refuses to clean up. And now
our tax dollars are going to fund a virtual Asian "School of the
Americas" where US troops will supposedly "train" Philippine troops.
The entry of these troops is in violation of the Philippine
Constitution. We should also remember that the Vietnam war began this
way: first with advisers and trainors, then combat troops.

In the end, the aims are not to protect the Filipino or the American
people, but to protect the business interests of multinational
corporations and the US's self-claimed right to station its military
wherever it wants (now in 140 countries).

Why should we protest the World Economic Forum?

Multi-national corporations and political leaders have protected
their interests over the interests of the people. When the attacks
on the World Trade Center occurred, in a flash the US government was
there to bail out the large airlines and corporations that suffered.
Now Bush has allocated another $38 billion in military spending to
fight "terrorism." Obviously the world's elite does not
care about distributing the wealth, even when it knows that millions
die due to lack of adequate nutrition and health care.

Nothing good will come to the world's people unless we struggle for
it. It is our duty to register our opposition to unjust policies
committed in our name, to build public opinion, and oppose US plans
to expand the war to the Philippines and other countries.

Will protesting really do anything? Isn't it dangerous for us to
speak out?

By protesting on February 2, we will not cause the end of the World
Economic Forum or the pull-out of US troops from the Philippines the
next day. However, we are part of a large movement of people who are
educating themselves and others and organizing global justice.
By doing nothing, we give our consent for the status quo. By doing
something, we have the power to educate and challenge the public so
that they will someday join us. And we register our voice against
injustice, inequality, and the plunder of the world's resources.

The US elite claim that this is a democracy where anyone can speak
their opinion. While we know that this is frequently violated, we
must hold them to the fire and challenge their violations of their
own laws. The more we speak out and support one another against their
hypocrisy, the more we will educate, grow in numbers, and the
stronger our movement will become. We must speak out before we lose
our rights altogether. This time is critical. ##

For more information, contact Inag Bayan Movement at 212-741-6806




Congress of Teachers/Educators for Nationalism and Democracy
University of the Philippines (CONTEND-UP)
c/o Siao Campoamor, Rm 3009, Bulwagang Rizal (Faculty Center)
University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City

31 Enero 2002

Kapwa guro:

Malugod naming iniimbitahan kayo at ang mga estudyante ninyo na dumalo
sa isang forum at paglulunsad ng kampanya laban sa Balikatan Exercises
at panghihimasok ng tropang U.S. sa Pilipinas. Pinamagatang U.S. TROOPS
OUT! umaasa kami na sa tulong ng pakikisangkot at pakikipagtalastasan
ng mga guro, estudyante, at mga piling tagapagsalita, mabibigyang-linaw
ang mga krusyal na usapin hinggil sa pagpasok at pananatili ng mga
tropang Amerikano sa ating bansa. Kabalikat namin sa proyektong ito
ang Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) at ang Portia Sorority ng U.P.
College of Law.

Sa kasalukuyan, meron nang halos isandaang sundalong Amerikano sa
Mindanao at 400 sa Nueva Ecija. Inaasahang papasok sa iba’t ibang
bahagi ng bansa ang mahigit 600 hanggang 1,000 sundalong Amerikano
bilang pagtugon sa tinaguriang Balikatan Exercise (War Games) na
magtatagal nang anim na buwan hanggang isang taon. Tinatayang
pinakamalaking pagtatalaga ito ng pwersang Amerikano labas sa
Afghanistan. Mahalagang usapin ito dahil malaki ang implikasyon nito
sa ating pambansang soberanya at teritoryal na integridad.

Gaganapin ang talakayan sa darating na 1 Pebrero 2002, Biyernes, sa
ganap na 8:30 ng umaga hanggang 12 ng tanghali, sa Malcolm Theater,
U.P. College of Law. Inaasahang dadalo bilang mga pangunahing
tagapagsalita sina Vice President at DFA Secretary Teofisto Guingona at
Senator Sergio Osmeña. Magsisilbi namang reaktor sina Sister Mary John
(Tagapangulo ng Gabriela), Cong. Apolinario Lozada, at Capt. Danilo
Vizmanos PN (Convenor ng Junk VFA Movement at ng Justice not War
Coalition). Nakatalagang maging modereytor si Teodoro Benigno.

Lubos kaming umaasa sa inyong pakikiisa sa napakahalagang talakayan at
paglulunsad na ito.

Maraming salamat po!


Gumagalang,

GONZALO A. CAMPOAMOR II
Campaign Officer



Prepared by the
Congress of Teachers/Educators for Nationalism and Democracy
(CONTEND)
January 31, 2002

This discussion guide aims to provide basic information on and analysis of the issue of the Balikatan 02-1 (Shoulder to Shoulder) joint US-RP military exercise in Mindanao. It is necessary to know its nature and context since this is a concrete ramification of the US-RP Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the Mutual Defense Treaty. A historical context of US-RP military cooperation is also provided.


Balikatan 02-1 Chronology of Significant Events

January 12, 2002 --- Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo approves a joint proposal by the Department of National Defense (DND), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the US Pacific Command for “Balikatan 02-1” or “Kalayaan-Aguila 2002.” The Balikatan is headed by Brig. Gen. Emmanuel Teodosio (AFP Deputy Chief of Staff for Education and Training) and Brig. Gen. Donald Wurster (commander of the US Special Operations Command).

January 15 --- Facilities for the billeting of visiting US soldiers as well as training structures are constructed in military camps in Zamboanga and Basilan.

January 16 --- Former Senate President Jovito Salonga exposes the secret signing of the Mutual Logistics Support Arrangement (MLSA) between the Philippines and the United States. The MLSA seeks to facilitate the reciprocal provision of logistics support, supplies and services between the two countries. This expose validates initial media reports about the issue during President Arroyo’s US state visit in November 2001.

January 17 --- Arrival of US soldiers at Clark Airport in Pampanga.

January 23 --- An undetermined number of American soldiers arrive at the Zamboanga International Airport on board a C-17 cargo plane for the Balikatan military exercise. About 660 American soldiers and 1,200 Filipino troops are expected to participate in Balikatan 02-1 that could last from six months to one year.

January 23 --- The Philippine National Security Council (NSC) is convened to discuss Balikatan. The NSC stresses that the 1999 Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) provides the legal framework for Balikatan 02-1. President Macapagal-Arroyo also announces in that meeting that two “social components” are included in Balikatan, namely: (1) economic assistance from the US government called Task Force Gentle Wind; and (2) reactivation of the Presidential Human Rights Committee chaired by Justice Secretary Hernando Perez.

January 27 --- President Macapagal-Arroyo issues a 10-point guideline for the conduct of Balikatan 02-1, to wit:
Balikatan will be purely an exercise, involving military training of professional troops from the US and the Philippines, and primarily designed to strengthen the AFP. US Forces are not authorized to conduct offensive military operations.
Balikatan is a facet of the global fight against terrorism.
Balikatan is sanctioned by the Constitution and the VFA.
Balikatan is backed by the National Security Council (NSC) that includes the leadership of both Houses of Congress as it is an exercise to strengthen both national security and political will.
The command structure of Balikatan consists of separate US and RP units under the overall command of the AFP, and at no point in time will the US forces be allowed to operate independently in Philippine territory, meaning American soldiers will be getting orders from the Philippine commander.
The AFP Chief of Staff will have complete control of all the forces with the Balikatan, which is understood at the political and operational level of both sides.
The Balikatan is time-built, meaning it will last six (6) months with about 600 US troops involved. The bulk of them to be composed of support service personnel, and 203 US troops will go to Mactan, Cebu to train Filipino personnel.
Only a total of 160 trainers from the US Special Operations Forces (SOFs) will be deployed in Basilan as observers, and of this, only two (2) American trainers will accompany each AFP company. The Americans will not be involved in combat operations but they will stay in tactical headquarters.
Human rights violations during the exercises will be severely sanctioned.
Socio-economic projects will be conducted in the second half of the exercises because Balikatan has military and community development aspects.

January 27 – As interviewed on television, VFA Commission Executive Director Jaime Yambao discloses that there is another joint US-RP military exercise called “Balance Piston 02-02” in Pampanga from January 27 to February 15. He says it is different from the Balikatan 02-1 in Mindanao, since “ours (Balance Piston) is part of the regular series of VFA exercises.” About 400 US soldiers are taking part in this particular military exercise.

January 28 --- The Balikatan, scheduled to start with a formal ceremony on January 30, is postponed “until further notice.” The AFP claims that the terms of reference are not yet agreed upon by both parties, and that postponement has nothing to do with the nationwide protest of various cause-oriented groups like the Junk VFA Movement and BAYAN. This postponement, the AFP adds, could just be a matter of days.

January 30 --- Public hearing of the House of Representatives begins on the Balikatan. Concerned legislators recommend that this military exercise be postponed indefinitely pending the findings of the congressional inquiry.

January 31 --- START of Balikatan 02-1.


Nature of the Balikatan 02-01 Military Exercise

The venues for the joint military exercise (i.e., Zamboanga and Basilan) are areas where military operations are taking place against the Abu Sayyaf. It may be recalled that the ASG still holds hostage American couple Martin and Gracia Burnham who were kidnapped last May 2001 at the Dos Palmas Resort in Palawan.

Interestingly, this also marks the first time that military exercises will be held in Mindanao, and in places where the chances of encounter with armed groups are possible. The duration of this exercise is indefinite since government claims that it could be from six to 12 months. In the past, military exercises are only for a month.

As announced by Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes, Balikatan 02-1 is a three-stage exercise that would include “live-fire operations” against a so-called “live test” or “field test.” In other words, the Balikatan will use live ammunition unlike in the past military exercises. There is also the possibility of actual combat operation, though the government claims that American soldiers will only be “at the rear end.”

On January 17, Vice President and Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Teofisto Guingona was reportedly bypassed in relation to the Balikatan 02-1. Under the 1999 Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), all military exercises have to be approved by the Council of Foreign Ministers, of which the Vice- president and US Secretary of State Collin Powell are members.

On the rationale behind the Balikatan, mass media attributed the following statement to Powell (as released by the US embassy in Manila):

“(I)n reality, the Filipino people have been fighting against terrorism, and they have some terrible organizations in the Philippines that kidnap people, that threaten Filipinos, and so as we expand our campaign against terrorism, we want to offer support to nations who are fighting terrorists in their land.

And in this case, in cooperation with the Philippine government and with the permission of the President, we are sending in American trainers to work alongside the Philippine Army and to see if we can help them do a better job of dealing with their problem.”

US Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas also announced on January 17 that it appears that “the Philippines is going to be the second, the next target, after Afghanistan on the war on terrorism.”

US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, while also stressing that the visiting US soldiers are only meant to train their Filipino counterparts, nevertheless admitted the US concern for the problem with “terrorists and terrorism” in the Philippines and the failure to rescue the American hostages held by the Abu Sayyaf:

“The Philippines has a problem with terrorists and terrorism. They have a terrorist network…that still has some American hostages. The government of the Philippines has been addressing it. And the United States, through the combatant commander in the Pacific Command, Admiral Dennis Blair, has been working with the government of the Philippines.

“At the present time we have…something like 240 or 250 Americans, military personnel, in the country. They are located in several locations in the country. More are going in. They are there for training purposes, they are there for logistics purposes, they are there for an exercise with the Philippine government…And I expect that there will be several hundred more people going in for these exercises and for the training that's taking place.” (DoD News Briefing, Jan. 16, 2002, downloaded from <http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Jan2002/t01162002_t0116sd.html>

He adds, “If we have to go into 15 more countries, we ought to do it to deal with the problem of terrorism so we don't allow this problem to damage and kill tens of thousands.”

Rumsfeld has been very careful in answering questions about the extent of US activities in the Philippines, particularly in trying to rescue the American missionary couple still held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf. This may be gleaned from this partial, unedited transcript of his January 20 interview with NBC’s Meet the Press:

Q: Will we seek to rescue the missionaries?
Rumsfeld: Who's "we"?

Q: The United States and the Philippines.
Rumsfeld: The Filipinos have four (thousand) or 5,000 troops on Basilan Island, trying to rescue the missionaries.

Q: Will the United States assist them in that effort?
Rumsfeld: We will be participating in training with them in various ways, yes. We certainly are anxious to have those missionaries released or recovered. (emphasis ours)

Increased US-RP military cooperation is done in the name of the so-called global war against terrorism. Shortly after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack against the US, the Arroyo administration was among the first countries to heed US President Bush’s call for all-out war against Osama bin Laden (the alleged mastermind) and his Al Qaeda network.

Balikatan 02-1 is important for this US-led global campaign especially in the situation where the venue is the stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf, a bandit group believed to have links with bin Laden and the Al Qaeda network.

In her official trip to the US in November 2001, President Arroyo clearly said, “We have a strategic framework for fighting terrorism…that our officials are discussing with officials of the United States … both countries are looking at this framework and looking at where the partnership in fighting terrorism, domestically, regionally and globally can become more effective.” (Gerry Gilmore/American Forces Press Service, US, Philippines United Against Global Terrorism, Nov. 20, 2001, downloaded from <http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Nov2001/n11202001_200111203.html>)

Not surprisingly, she discussed with US President George W. Bush "an integrated plan including a robust training package, equipment needed for increased mobility, a maintenance program to enhance overall capabilities, specific targeted law enforcement and counter terrorism cooperation and a new bilateral defense consultative mechanism." (Jim Garamone/American Forces Press Service, US Forces to Help Philippines Fight Terrorists, Jan. 16, 2002, downloaded from <http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Jan2002/n01162002_200201164.html>)

In the process, Bush promised to increase the Foreign Military Financing program with the Philippines from $1.9 million to $19 million for 2002, and to continue these levels in fiscal 2003.

That there is the promise of more US funding for military expenditures in the country is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, in analyzing the reasons behind the Arroyo administration’s support for Balikatan 02-1.

Arguments against the Balikatan 02-1

In a statement, Junk VFA Movement Spokesperson Ret. Navy Capt. Dan Vizmanos stressed that the most plausible explanation for Malacañang’s approval of US combat operations in Mindanao are the following:

It was in consideration of a promise of an undisclosed amount of US financial and material assistance from President Bush;
The Abu Sayyaf and Burnham rescue missions are merely peripheral and transitional factors;
In furtherance of US economic interests in Mindanao and the Southeast Asian region; and
In furtherance of US geopolitical interests in the Asia-Pacific region. (Three Proposals Pushed In Lieu of US Intervention, Junk VFA Movement, January 24, 2002)

He clarified that “the last two are not mere speculations.” He quoted the 1995 East Asia Strategy Report of the US Department of Defense to support his claim:

“This report reaffirms our commitment to maintain a stable forward presence in the region at the existing level of about 100,000 troops for the foreseeable future… for maintaining forward deployment of US forces and access and basing rights for US and allied forces… If the American presence in Asia were removed, our ability to affect the course of events would be constrained, our markets and our interests would be jeopardized.”

In other words, even the US Defense department admits that military presence in Asia is closely connected to economic and other interests of the US in this part of the globe, and that forward presence (i.e., pre-positioning or forward deployment of US troops) are absolutely necessary to protect them.

The problem with the Abu Sayyaf should just be considered internal to the country.

No less than National Security Adviser Roilo Golez admitted that there are only 100 Abu Sayyaf members in Basilan. AFP troops there number 5,000. That the Abu Sayyaf members are still at large and holding hostages may be explained by accusations of collusion between the bandits and the military and some local officials. Basilan parish priest Fr. Cirilo Nacorda already testified to this but the concerned parties are yet to be formally charged.

The Balikatan 02-1 is clearly not just simple military exercise since this compromises the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Government claims that the Balikatan is constitutional, but it is clear from Art. XVIII, Sec. 25 of the 1987 Constitution that upon the expiration of the Military Bases Agreement (MBA) in 1991, foreign military bases, troops or facilities shall not be allowed in Philippine territory, except under the following conditions:

Under a treaty concurred in by the Senate;
When Congress requires, ratified by the people in a national referendum held for the purposes; and
When such treaty is recognized as such by the other contracting State.

The VFA is not considered a treaty by the US. While the Philippine Senate ratified the VFA in 1999, the US Senate did not do the same. It was treated only as an executive agreement by the Americans and was thus signed only by then President Bill Clinton.

In addition, the VFA only contemplates military exercises from four days to four weeks. This may not be explicit in the agreement itself, but this was the argument made by government representatives when the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the VFA.

It is only the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) that provides for the entry of US troops in the Philippines, but this is only during times of external aggression. While Art II of the MDT provides for the maintainance and development of “individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack,” this does not cover capacity building for internal concerns like the presence of the New People’s Army (NPA), Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and even the bandit group Abu Sayyaf.

In the final analysis, the Balikatan 02-1 is proof of the Arroyo administration’s subservience to US interests. It exposes the nature of this administration as a US puppet similar to the previous dispensations.

The puppetry is also seen in the secret signing of the MLSA with the US. This draws parallelism from past efforts by the Ramos administration to seek approval of the Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) that, like the MLSA, seeks to reciprocity in logistics, supplies and equipment.


Historical Context of US-RP Military Cooperation

At this point, it is important to have a sense of history in order to understand the nature and context of US-RP military cooperation. This relationship, after all, spans more than 60 years.

As early as 1933, the Hare-Hawes Cutting Law was rejected by the Philippine legislature mainly because it empowers the US president to identify areas of the Philippine territory that the Americans would retain as “military bases and other reservations.”

The Americans then asked that they be provided only “naval reservations and fueling stations” through the Tydings-McDuffie Law of 1934. Such facilities would be negotiated by the Philippines and the US two years after the former’s independence. This law, also known as the Independence Act, was accepted in a referendum.

Consequently, President Manuel Roxas stressed in his inaugural address in 1946 the importance of having “closest cooperation with the United States in all matters concerning our common defense and security.”

The Military Bases Agreement (MBA), signed in Manila on March 14, 1947, was ratified by the Philippine Senate on March 26. This agreement formalized the use of 23 installations in the country by the American military forces.

It is clear that the “requested” naval reservation and refueling station have become more than just that, since the Philippines granted the Americans the right “to retain the use of bases in the Philippines for a period of 99 years (i.e., until 2046), to permit the United States to use such bases as the latter may determine according to military necessity, and to enter into negotiations with the United States concerning the expansion of such bases.”

On the other hand, the Military Assistance Agreement (MAA) was concluded on March 21, 1947, under which the United States would furnish arms, ammunition, equipment and supplies to the AFP. It also created a Military Advisory Group composed of Filipinos and Americans whose function was to provide advice and assistance to the Philippines as is necessary to accomplish the purposes of the agreement.

Incidentally, the MAA prohibits the Philippines from buying non-US equipment without permission from the United States. The Philippines is also not allowed to buy non-surplus US equipment even with its own funds if there is no approval of the US government. In other words, the Philippines depends on what the US classifies as surplus materials.

It was initially meant to last for five years, but it was extended through an exchange of notes in 1953, whereby the MAA’s effectivity will only end if terminated by either party.

The Mutual Defense Treaty was signed on August 30, 1951 with the end-goal of joint defense of the US and the Philippines against external armed attack.

The 1958 Serrano-Bohlen Memorandum of Agreement, on the other hand, established a permanent RP-US Mutual Defense Board which would function under the US-RP Council of Foreign Ministers established under the MDT.

The MBA through the years was subjected to numerous amendments, most significant of which was the reduction of its effectivity from 99 years to only 25 years beginning September 16, 1966 through the Ramos-Rusk Agreement.

Coincidentally, September 16, 1991 (i.e., expiration of the MBA) was the exact date when the Philippine Senate rejected the extension of the US bases under the proposed new Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Security.

The US government, with support from Malacañang, has attempted to regain its influence on Philippine soil with the removal of the US bases.

In November 1994, the proposed Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement (ACSA) sought to expand the Americans’ limited access to include military rights to supply, refueling and repairs, storage, certain services on the part of the Philippine military, and the use of Philippine territory as a launching pad for possible US intervention.

Indeed, the ACSA attempted to reintroduce the functions of the dismantled US bases into Philippine territory. The widespread protest that followed resulted in the dying down of the proposal.

By November 1997, the draft agreement on the legal treatment of US armed forces in the Philippines was completed. Popularly known as the status of forces agreement (SOFA), it outlines the rights and privileges of US armed forces visiting the Philippines.

When strong public pressure against it became apparent once more, the government was forced to put it in the backburner since insisting on the SOFA would not be politically viable given the Asian financial crisis which started in July 1997.

This US-RP agreement was later retitled as the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) whose February 10, 1998 final draft only had minor revisions. This was submitted to the Philippine Senate on October 6. The counterpart agreement (a.k.a. VFA 2 which provides for the legal treatment of RP troops visiting the US) was signed on October 9. According to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), VFA 2 need not be ratified because it did not create obligations on the part of the Philippine government.”

The Philippine Senate ratified the VFA with a vote of 18 in favor and five against on May 27, 1999.

The Mutual Logistics Support Arrangement (MLSA) meanwhile, was secretly signed by Philippine and US defense officials. As early as President Arroyo’s US state visit in November 2001, there have been media reports about this agreement which sources claim to be just “a revised name for the ACSA.”

The AFP claims that the MLSA only covers the ongoing re-fuelling of US aircraft and recreation of US troops before they move on to other destinations." It adds that apart from outlining the policies governing transit operations by US aircraft and vessels in the Philippines, the proposed agreement would mean added equipment for the military. (“Accord allowing US access to RP bases in the works,” INQ7.net, November 18, 2001, downloaded from < http://www.inq7.net/nat/2001/nov/18/text/nat_3-1-p.htm>)

(At that time, it was then called an “Agreement,” but the complete draft leaked to the public in early January 2002 already used the term “Arrangement.” The latter is apparently a less binding term than the words “agreement” and “treaty.”)

At present, therefore, the bases of continued attempts by the Americans to regain expanded military access to the country are the MDT, MAA, VFA and MLSA. These arrangements provide the pillars of US military domination in the Philippines.

The VFA In a Nutshell

The VFA clearly shows that the US has special and extraordinary treatment as regards the treatment of US military personnel entering the country. Many questionable provisions may be gleaned from this agreement.

Among these is the duty-free entry of US military supplies and equipment, passport and visa exemption for American military personnel, as well as toll-free entry of US armed forces vehicles, vessels and crafts.

Criminal jurisdiction of American military offenders is also one-sided, to the point where a commanding officer’s certification that an offense was committed in the line of duty already constitutes “sufficient proof of performance of official duty.”

The VFA also provides for the automatic waiver of the Philippines’ primary right to exercise jurisdiction upon the request of the US “except in cases of particular importance to the Philippines.”

It even requires the Philippine government to recognize an American driver’s license. The US even wants its vehicles to go unregistered to the Land Transportation Office (LTO).

Vehicles, vessels and aircraft of the US armed forces are subjected to payment of landing or port fees, navigation or overflight charges, or tolls or other use charges, including light and harbor dues.

The same is true for US government equipment materials and supplies which are exempted from duties, taxes and other similar charges.

US armed forces personnel entering the country may also bring in “reasonable” quantities of personal property which are also free from all government-imposed charges. Even the exportation of such property, as well as those acquired in the Philippines, are not subjected to payment of fees.


Manifestations of Imperialism and Lessons of HIstory

The VFA, MLSA, MAA and MDT perpetuate and strengthen US military hegemony in the country. Whatever clout the US may have lost with the rejection of the MBA’s extension will be restored with the physical presence of visiting American troops in the Philippines.

The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) argues that Malacañang’s revelation that there is indeed an MLSA “confirms beliefs that US forces are here to stay.” It asserts that the MLSA is “a most one-sided agreement even worse than the RP-US Military Bases Agreement”.

“The US will be authorized to build basing infrastructure throughout the country. The taxpayers will be shouldering the expenses pending ‘reimbursement’ from the US government,” BAYAN stresses. “The MLSA also assures the US that they can come back to the Philippines to conduct more war games in the future because we would already have base facilities.” (BAYAN Warns More War Games, US Covert Actions Under Arroyo, Jan. 25, 2002)

Indeed, their access to the more than 20 ports of the country, not to mention their indefinite stay and indeterminate number of places they can travel to, already provide much elbow room for the Americans to do what they want.

The lessons of history must be clear. The Americans managed to establish the US bases in the Philippines despite the non-passage of the 1933 Hare-Hawes Cutting Law. It only moved “one step backward” by merely requesting for naval reservations and refueling stations in 1934, and then negotiated for better terms by 1947.

A repeat may be seen, as the ACSA --- which is supposed to provide stockpiling and pre-positioning of US equipment and troops --- was put in the backburner in the mid-1990s. The Americans obviously settled for lower terms when it sought ratification of the VFA in 1999 since the latter only defined the legal treatment of visiting US forces.

It got its way, however, with the MLSA by the turn of the new millennium.

As the events mirror what transpired in the past, it is not surprising that previous arguments against continued US military intervention must be reaffirmed.

1. Upholding national sovereignty and patrimony

“Special relations” with past colonial masters have no place in a country that claims to be independent. Diplomatic courtesy should be extended to all friendly countries, and friendly relations must be established on the basis of mutual benefit and the non-compromise of each other’s sovereignty.

The country has had various onerous agreements in the economic, cultural and political field with the US.

The US-RP military agreements clearly trample upon the country’s “internal sovereignty” which refers to the State’s ability to control its domestic affairs. Ironically, even the legislature also unwittingly compromises a political power it wields (i.e., power of taxation) given the provisions of the VFA.

Of course, more important than the loss of potential revenue, our sovereignty must not be compromised all the more.

2. Protecting the country’s territory
The framers of the 1987 Constitution boast of Filipino control over the economy and the exclusivity of land ownership has been maintained.

But as in the arguments against the retention of the US bases, the already limited access to land and the marginalized people’s opportunity to own one becomes all the more compromised.

While, for example, the VFA only focuses on the treatment of “visiting” US armed forces, it cannot be denied that they will be using resources like land during their stay, which is indefinite if one were to analyze the Balikatan 02-1. Even the land space they will occupy is unlimited, which makes things even worse.

That the territory must be protected is very important, but the Americans should not enter the equation. Besides, isn’t it incumbent upon a sovereign nation to remain steadfast in defending the territory and avoid depending on others in fighting its own war?


3. Resisting any open invitation to war

The presence of US armed forces may put our country in a compromising situation with interventionist US policy and the Americans’ aggressors. The country may be unwitting participants to a war it should not be involved in, as in the case of the Vietnam War in the 1970s where the Clark Air Base became the launching pad of US air attacks.

As a result, the US-RP military agreements become “walking time bombs” which could explode unexpectedly.


4. Opposing the entry of weapons of mass destruction

Cause-oriented groups argue that there is nothing in the US-RP military agreements that prevents the entry of weapons of mass destruction (nuclear, chemical and biological) into the country. Furthermore, the provisions against inspections would facilitate the entry of these weapons.

And with the US policy of neither confirming nor denying the presence of such weapons, the country will once again face the problems which are supposedly non-existent since the removal of the US bases in 1991.

The official primer states that as a basic policy, the “Philippines bans nuclear weapons from its territory. However, an exception to this policy is allowed only when it is `consistent with national interest.’ It is for the President and the Senate to implement this policy and to decide on such exception, insofar as it involves the conduct of foreign relations or national defense and security.”


5. Social cost of the US-RP military agreements

As experienced during the time when the US bases were still in the country, Filipinos could once again be at the receiving end of human rights violations and abuse committed by US armed forces personnel.

Since the ratification of the VFA in 1999, there have been media reports about abusive US soldiers who commit human rights violations against Filipinos.

This is what happens when the VFA provides that a commanding officer’s certification that an alleged action was committed “in the line of duty” could exonerate US soldiers of a crime. It becomes probable for this country to bear witness to more abuses that will be euphemistically called “official military action.”

In a congressional inquiry last January 30, former VFA Commission Executive Director Elmer Cato revealed that there were several instances in the past where US troops engaged in unlitateral exercises in violation of the VFA.

During the time of the US bases, scavengers were mistaken as wild boars as they were hit by bullets. Poor women and children were forced to engage in the flesh trade due to extreme economic difficulty. The presence of American soldiers, indeed, resulted in the mushrooming of brothels, nightspots and other “entertainment centers.”


6. Myth of economic benefits due to US-RP military agreements

The economic benefits which would accrue to the country as a result of the US-RP military agreements is a myth if one were to look at how the Americans treated its “little brown brother” in the past.

The former Subic Naval Base, it may be recalled, was the largest US warship repair and refueling facility in the Pacific located on 14,400 hectares. The former Clark Air Base, on the other hand, was the biggest US military installation outside the US which occupies 52,000 hectares.

This notwithstanding, the Philippines did not get much military assistance in return for the use of the bases. It only ranked seventh largest recipient among 13 countries hosting US military facilities as of 1981. India, Pakistan and Yugoslavia --- all non-aligned states at that time --- have been recipients of larger amounts of aid than the Philippines.

US assistance, whether it be called “rent” or “aid,” is done on a “best efforts” basis and pales considerably when compared to US commitments to Israel and Egypt, among others. This simply means that the Philippines, despite hosting the biggest US facilities and becoming exposed to the concomitant danger of being caught in the crossfire, is at the mercy of American benevolence as far as economic assistance is concerned, among others.


Conclusions

In analyzing the Balikatan 02-1 and the presence of US troops in the Philippines, the age-old arguments as to why the US bases should be removed in the past tend to resurface.

History, indeed, is repeating itself and it is unfortunate that the Philippine government has continually refused to learn and unlearn its lessons.

It is also necessary to appreciate joint US-RP military exercises in the context of the US global military agenda. Not contented with the fact that there exists a unipolar sociopolitical configuration globally, the US is still beefing up its military arsenal to quell any threat, using “terrorism” as an excuse to wreak havoc on its perceived enemies.

At this point, it must be clear that the country’s real external aggressor is the very same industrialized country that pretends to seek mutually beneficial terms by appearing to be benevolent.


US Troops Out Now!

Junk VFA, MDT, MAA!

Reject the MLSA! No the Return of the US Bases!

Uphold Philippine Sovereignty!

Down with US Imperialism!







Sources:

Primer: The Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines. Prepared by The Constitutional Commission of 1986.
Bulatlat Online Magazine <http://www.bulatlat.com/>
US Department of Defense website <http://www.defenselink.mil/>
US Pacific Command website <http://www.pacom.mil/>

Note:

The discussion on the historical context of US-RP military cooperation and the VFA draws heavily from the author’s previous studies, which are:

“The Myth of Reciprocity,” IBON Special Release (No. 39), October 15, 1998
“What Special Relationship?” IBON Special Release (No. 37), September 1998
“The US-RP Visiting Forces Agreement,” IBON Special Release (No. 34), April 1998

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