DAVAO CITY – Activists marking the first year since the deadly clash in Mamasapano warned that with the Supreme Court (SC) upholding a bolstered US-Philippine military alliance, such incident that caused the lives of 44 soldiers and civilians could likely happen again.
“With the Supreme Court joining the US-conducted chorus to legitimize the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), it is not a far likelihood that more US-directed Mamasapano-like incidents will victimize Filipinos at a nationwide scale,” Sheena Duazo, spokesperson of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) in Southern Mindanao Region, said on Monday, January 25.
On January 12, the Supreme Court declared the EDCA constitutional after 10 magistrates voted in favor, four disagreed and one inhibited.
EDCA is a agreement between the Philippines and the US, its former colonizer, that aims to strengthen their partnership in terms of military operations. The pact is to augment the Visiting Forces Agreement, which has been blamed to legitimize the immunity of American soldiers from prosecution over several cases.
“It dangles the assurance of security and peace, but many incidents such as in Mamasapano, many Balikatan exercises, as well as the murder of Gregan Cardeño, the rape of Nicole and the murder of Jennifer Laude have shown that this is the complete opposite with the injuries and casualties of civilian farmers and even their families,” she added.
Duazo said the SC decision will pave the way for the country “to open its land and ports in any place for the arrival of US military vessels, aircraft, and personnel.”
“The Mamasapano operation was planned and trained by US counter-terrorism personnel stationed in Central Mindanao. The tragedy that happened led to admission from a retired US special ops commander, Col. David Maxwell, that the operation was bungled,” said Duazo.
Meanwhile, Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate said the US involvement and culpability should be revealed to attain justice for the victims and their families.
Protesters gathered here on Monday to commemorate the lives lost in a 2015 police operation meant to neutralize high-ranking terrorists Zulkifli Abdhir and Abdul Basit Usman. They marched from Mini Forest Gym in Barangay Bucana here to Freedom Park.
During the protest action, the group called for justice and pressed the government to be accountable.
“The government has not learned the folly of serving the US military and imperial interests at the expense of Philippine sovereignty,” said Duazo.
The operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, codenamed Oplan Exodus, killed 44 Special Action Force (SAF) members, 23 civilians and Moro insurgents, and a 5-year-old child. Human rights groups have previously pointed out that there were several victims of extrajudicial killing and indiscriminate firing while the said police operation took place in 2015.
Around 1,500 people were also displaced in Mamasapano, Maguindanao during the incident, according to Kawagib Moro Human Rights Alliance.
Meanwhile in Manila, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) released a statement in support to the efforts among non-government sectors who push for peace in Mindanao.
“Religious officials, civil society leaders, business persons, academicians who live and work in Mindanao have spoken out,” said OPAPP Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles.
“They know how destructive war is, and how fragile peace is. That is why, to a person, they have issued calls for peace very early on when thick haze still hung over Mamasapano,” she added.(davaotoday.com)