Bishops, nuns back Duterte in slamming US drones in Davao

Aug. 14, 2013

Davao Today

DAVAO CITY– Bishops and Catholic nuns in Mindanao laud city Mayor Rodrigo Duterte for refusing to make Davao City as a launching pad for the United States military drones.

In a press conference Wednesday, the Ecumenical Bishops Forum (EBF) – Mindanao, Initiatives for Peace in Mindanao (InPeace) and Sisters’ Association in Mindanao (SAMIN) said Duterte’s stand should be emulated for standing for life and sovereignty.

The mayor on Monday revealed that the US government had repeatedly asked him and his daughter, former mayor Sara Duterte, to gain access to the old Davao international Airport and transform in into a station for its drone operations.  The Dutertes refused, saying it will only make the city prone to more danger and threats.

InPeace chairperson Bishop Felixberto Calang of Iglesia Filipina Independiente said Duterte’s revelation of the US military plans to station in Davao “speaks of a US military in Mindanao as part of the US pivot to Asia.”

He also criticized government for churning up “Christian-Moro conflict” and “third parties” as suspects.  “We don’t join that chorus.  If they say there are bad Moro people, why, there are also Christians who are corrupt,” the bishop added.

The bishop also criticized President Benigno Aquino, III for approving the access agreement with the United States government that will allow wider access of US troops to military and other facilities all over the country.

Calang said US drones used for surveillance and attacks have gained notoriety for violating International Humanitarian Law since “(they) do not have discernment, a fundamental flaw in war.  Drone warfare has killed so many civilians, most of them women and children.”

Sr. Noemi Degala SMSM, SAMIN’s executive secretary, supported Calang’s statement. “Drone strikes (by the US military) have killed as many as 3, 549 people, 197 of these were children— in Pakistan alone.”

Degala said they oppose “this new form of idolatry— the worship of instrument of death at the expense of people’s lives, lands, and human rights.”

She also said, “As Christians we should stand for life and as Pope Francis said, ‘We abhor instruments of death.'”

EBF Mindanao’s Bishop Beny Dapitan IFI said the US government “approached the wrong person” in Duterte, who is known for his nationalist stance against US military intervention.

“He, the Sangguniang Panlungsod (City Council) and majority of the barangay captains had previously declared Davao City as a No-Balikatan/ No US troops zone,” Dapitan said.

Calang said they would seek support from Mindanao government and church leaders to oppose US military intervention and to junk the Visiting Force Agreement, “through signature campaigns, letters and street marches, if necessary.”

“I call on churches to be like Duterte to defend our national sovereignty. I challenge this to President Aquino as well,” said Calang.  (Tyrone A. Velez,

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