Statement on the 17th anniversary of the rejection of the US Military Bases Treaty
Seventeen years since historic “Magnificent 12” vote; Senate should curb US military’s unconcealed, uninterrupted presence in Mindanao
The Out Now! Mindanao Coalition condemns American insolence towards Philippine national sovereignty with the unconcealed and uninterrupted presence of US military forces and their obvious involvement in local counterinsurgency operations.
We call on the Senate to live up to the nationalist stance of the Magnificent 12 senators who voted to oust the US Bases in September 16, 1991 by moving to abrogate the Visiting Forces Agreement and the US-RP Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951.
There is more than enough evidence of US transgression of Philippine sovereignty especially in Mindanao. These involve engagement in combat operations, intelligence-gathering, and “social reconnaissance”, not to mention US meddling in the government’s peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). These evidences should lead to the scrapping of the VFA, ten years after it has legalized the reentry of American forces on Philippine soil.
The US-led joint special operations Task Force-Philippines holds headquarters in Camp Navarro , Zamboanga City . US military forces have special infrastructure there to cater to its personnel, war equipment and vehicles.
Scores of human rights violations perpetrated by US troops have also been reported since the shooting of Buyong-buyong Isnijal in 2002 in Basilan. The most atrocious of these is the incident in Maimbung, Sulu last February 4, 2008 where four US soldiers were sighted joining an operation that killed eight civilians in a fishing community that included two children and a pregnant woman.
These violations have been kept under the rug either because victims were no longer interested to litigate or they entered into amicable settlements to avoid prolonged and costly litigation.
US military vessels have had limitless access to Philippine territorial waters. The USS Vandegrift made port calls in Cotabato City, General Santos City, and Cagayan de Oro City. They were closely guarded in these ports and media access was limited. The Arroyo government never disclosed the terms of reference governing these port calls.
US civilian and military officials themselves have uttered policy remarks that verify US troops operations on the ground that go beyond the nature of war exercises.
Francis Ricciardone, then US ambassador, had claimed in 2005 that the US is involved in ‘intel-ops fusion,’ an operation which has all the marks of espionage. A paper by Astrid Tuminez, senior research director at the US Institute of Peace, also pointed out US military intelligence support to the AFP during airstrikes against MILF forces in the Butilan Marsh on three separate instances in 2004 and 2005.
The Arroyo government has tried to exhibit so much bravado to defend Philippine sovereignty in relation to the GRP-MILF Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD). But it shrugs its shoulders with the wanton display of arrogance of American forces with their patently illegal basing on Philippine soil. Secretary Eduardo Ermita justifies the continued stay of US military forces with the most trivial reasons. But Ermita’s levity only belies the gravity of violations on the national sovereignty committed by American troops with the approval of the Arroyo government.
Such double-speak points to the unconscionable subservience of the Arroyo government to the United States. And Arroyo’s approval to the unabashed operations of US troops in Mindanao and the rest of the country is a disservice to the Filipino people’s historic struggle to oust foreign troops in 1991.
Bishop Felixberto Calang
Out Now! Mindanao Coalition
Mobile # 0918-929-4244