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a call to terminate inequitable 'unli' military treaties between the philippines and the united states
Speech Posted on March 12th, 2012.
Honorable lady speaker, distinguished colleagues-- women and men of the House of Representatives, good afternoon.
I rise today on a matter of personal and collective privilege in behalf of Filipino women, children and our families.
Last March 8, 2012 women all over the world marked the 101st anniversary of International Women’s Day. In the Philippines, over 20,000 women led by Gabriela marched in militant protests in Metro Manila and in at least 10 other urban centers all over the country calling for an end to imperialist domination in the oil industry and an end to US military intervention and aggression.
As we commemorate International Women’s Month, here at the House of Representatives, allow me to bring your attention the growing restlessness and climate of unpeace among Filipino women that comes with the heightened presence and operations of US military troops in the country.
It is an irony indeed that Women’s Month this year marked the start of a series of US military activity and encroachment in the country. It is an outrage that on Women’s Month that the US military, with their increasing numbers in the country is given this virtual presidential license to plunder, rampage and rape.
Last week, from March 5 to 10, the United States Armed Forces and the Armed Forces of the Philippines jointly conducted Operation Pacific Angel 12-1. It was the first of a series of joint military operations and humanitarian and disaster relief operations in Sto. Domingo, Daraga and Legaspi City in Albay. The CRS-AFP explains Operation Pacific-Angel’s components supposedly included medical missions, engineering civic action programs and training for humanitarian and disaster operation skills.
In one of the trainings, the AFP revealed that participants will include at least 81 US personnel, 20 doctors from the AFP, 16 from the Philippine National Police and 5 from the Department of Health and non-governmental organizations. Take note that the Filipinos account for only one-third of the participants in this specific medical training. The total number of participants is undisclosed.
This is not the first time for the Bicol region to host this US-led Operation Pacific Angel. In 2009, the province of Sorsogon also in the Bicol region, hosted US troops in their supposed conduct of civil military operations in the town of Juban. Bagong Alyansang Makabayan – Sorgogon in its assessment of the 2009 Balikatan said:
“Isang kaputol na bahagi ng lansangan ang pinatungan ng garaba sa Guruyan, Juban at isang araw na medical mission ang isinagawa sa Tughan Elementary School sa bayan din ng Juban. Liban dito ay wala nang iba pang nagawa ang isang buwang civil military operations ng Balikatan.”
Also in 2009, the US military reportedly launched spy drones from the base of the AFP’s 9th Infantry Division in Masbate province. The unmanned aerial vehicles or military drones flew over the towns of Pio V. Cruz and Esperanza.
At the height of the supposed US military exercises in 2009, Bicolana-GABRIELA reported indiscriminate bombings in Balanac, Ligao City in Albay.
Next month, from April 16-27, the Philippines will yet again host an unspecified number of US troops in Balikatan military exercises in Palawan. In preparation for the said exercises, the Western Command of the Philippine Army already conducted trainings to “ensure deeper understanding of the reservists’ role for Balikatan 2012 and to provide them with updates on the current AFP Campaign on Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) Bayanihan.”
Distinguished lady speaker, dear colleagues, we in Gabriela Women’s Party raise questions and alarm over the real motive behind these so-called humanitarian missions.
Clearly, Operation Pacific Angel and the US-RP Balikatan military exercises are schemes geared towards concealing the heightened intrusion of US military combat and intelligence operations in the country. That Filipino participants need to be appraised on Oplan Bayanihan—the Aquino government’s counter-insurgency program, patterned after the US Counter Insurgency Guide of 2009—before their actual involvement in the Balikatan exercises betrays the US government’s intent to further integrate into and dictate local counter insurgency operations.
Thus it is not surprising that the US exercises, since 2002 bring with it a string of human rights violations.
Gabriela Women’s Party also fears that through these military exercises, the US government also effectively maps and surveys Philippine natural resources. Interestingly enough the Bicol region and Palawan island, this year’s sites for Balikatan exercises are rich in mineral resources and are venues of growing local protests against the plunder of multinational mining corporations. Honorable speaker, dear colleagues, it is no coincidence that the US soldiers never left the oil and mineral rich shores of Mindanao.
With these intensified Balikatan exercises, women and children will again be targets of the sugar-coated military campaign in our country.
These military exercises will cause the displacement of communities, forcing women and children to leave behind their homes, farms and livelihood.
These military exercises inevitably highlight the vulnerability of women and girls to abuse. The experience of Nicole, a 22 year old woman gang-raped by U.S. service men in Clark, Pampanga speaks clearly of the sexual violence that could be inflicted on Filipinas by U.S. soldiers.
The distribution of condoms to US troops in Palawan in 2009 and the increasing number of prostituted women in urban centers in Mindanao where US troops are stationed since 2002 depict the social ills that their presence brings.
These are clear and harrowing illustrations of how our sovereignty and justice system can be trampled upon by the US through the Visiting Forces Agreement, the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement and the Mutual Defense Treaty.
These agreements which legitimize US military presence, allowing the unlimited number of US troops, their unlimited length of stay and their unlimited number of exercises make the entire Philippines a huge US military base. This UNLI treaties are all in violation of provisions in the Constitution barring military base operations, criminal accountability of American soldiers to Philippine Courts, nuclear weapons and accountability for damages to the environment caused by toxic wastes. These conveniently circumvent the termination of the US-RP Military Bases Agreement in 1991.
The question is: Do all these serve the national interest?
Honorable lady speaker, distinguished colleagues, let our commemoration of Women’s Month go beyond these ceremonial gestures. Let us mark our commemoration of Women’s Month with action on women’s appeals for justice and peace. Let us mark Women’s Month by rising in defense of one very important woman—our motherland.
Let the House of Representatives spearhead calls for the protection of women and children, our resources, patrimony and sovereignty from the onslaught of US imperial dictates and move for the immediate termination of all these inequitable treatises with the US government.
Good afternoon. #