MANILA, Philippines – As people recall the day when American military bases were kicked out from the Philippines on September 16, 1991, thousands of Lumad and Moro people who joined the Lakbayan of National Minorities protested outside the US Embassy in Manila on September 15 to oppose the increasing US interventions and presence in the country under the Duterte administration.
The Lakbayanis (as what the delegates of the caravan call themselves) never made it near the US Embassy as state forces, particularly from the Philippine National Police blocked their way.
Lumad and Moro delegates under Sandugo, an alliance of Moro and indigenous peoples criticized how the state forces curtailed their wish to air out their concerns to the US Embassy.
In a statement, Sandugo said: “Under the pretext of the so-called war on terror and using the ISIS phantom, the US has justified its growing role in Mindanao and provided the Duterte regime enormous military assistance for its counterterrorism operations in Marawi.”
They also questioned the promise of President Rodrigo Duterte that he will pursue an independent foreign policy.
The Moro delegates also said that the US forces are planning to build permanent military structures and facilities in Marawi to pave the way of the extension of its troops in the region and eventually gain economic control over the rich lands and resources of the Moro and Lumad people in Mindanao. Sandugo said that the US government is currently providing the Armed Forces of the Philippines with billions of military aid, tactical weapons, bombs, unmanned “deadly” surveillance drones and attack aircraft.
The US has recently announced the deployment of its Gray Eagle Drone in Mindanao, a known notorious US aerial killing machine.
Sandugo said the increasing US support to the AFP will worsen the cases of human rights violations in Mindanao, considering that martial law is still in effect and even in the whole country as US interests target the areas and lands of national minorities.
But leaders of Sandugo said the national minorities are not intimidated with the continuing repression being imposed by the Duterte administration and vowed the Lumad and Moro people will continue their struggle for self-determination, justice, and peace. Sandugo said: “It is foolish for him (the Duterte administration) to believe that martial law will stop the struggle of the Moro, Lumad and Filipino people. We are forced to further fight the injustice, and are more determined to defend our rights.”