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Manifestation on the Increased US Military Presence and Intervention
Speech Posted on February 8th, 2012.
Mr. Speaker, distinguished colleagues:
Over the weekend, the AFP reported successful airstrikes in Sulu which led to the deaths of three suspected leaders of the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) terror network and their supporters.
I was alarmed however, to read an article by the Zamboanga-based publication, Mindanao Examiner which reported the airstrike to have been “US-led” and that an unmanned US drone supposedly helped track down the targets. Yet another article quoting the Wall Street Journal reports US defense plans to increase the US fleet of armed unmanned aircraft by 30% in the coming years.
If reports are true, then US troops are participating in and conducting operations beyond what is allowed in the Visiting Forces Agreement and directly transgress our sovereignty.
Mr. Speaker, distinguished colleagues these developments come at the heels of President Benigno Aquino III’s decision allowing heightened US military presence in the Philippines. This also coincides with reports of the US government’s plan to send about 4,500 U.S. Marines stationed in Japan to Guam and to rotate an additional 4,000 through Australia, Subic Bay and perhaps a smaller base in the Philippines and Hawaii.
The Philippine government’s decision to kowtow to the US government’s militarist plans in the region has sparked disquiet on the part of our neighbor, China who views this move as an attempt by the US government to interfere in the Spratly territorial dispute. This decision likewise sparked disquiet among our constituents, women, who have witnessed how US military presence translates to increased violence, prostitution and human rights abuses.
We in Gabriela Women’s Party believe that President Aquino has made this decision without the benefit of a review or study of the impact of US military presence in the Philippines. Certainly, the decision to escalate US military presence and activity is an ill-timed and imprudent decision reflective of this administration’s failure to learn from lessons past.
Early into the President’s term, he supposedly ordered a review of the Visiting Forces Agreement. We have yet to hear from the Departments of Foreign Affairs and National Defense. The Presidential Commission on the VFA has yet to give its recommendations following a supposed review of the VFA. Meanwhile the House Joint Resolution 7, which this representation co-authored with my colleagues from the Makabayan progressive bloc, calling for the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement has been pending with the Committee on National Defense and Security since August 2010.
Higit na kapahamakan kaysa kapakinabangan ang ihahatid ng karagdagang presensya ng mga sundalong Amerikano sa ating bansa. We have long witnessed the social ills that come with their presence, including increased prostitution, sex trafficking and sexually transmitted diseases; as well as the countless cases of human rights violations ranging from the deaths of individuals, the rape of women and the closure of public facilities leading to the denial of much needed social services.
Since the VFA was approved in 1999, several violations of US soldiers have been reported. These include the shooting of Buyong-buyong Isnijal by American soldier Reggie Lane in Basilan in 2002, the closing of the Panamao District Hospital in Sulu allegedly ordered by US soldiers led by a Master Sergeant Ron Berg in 2007. We have witnessed injustice with the acquittal of the Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith after an obvious manipulation between the Philippine and US governments. Yet again in 2009, a 21-year old Filipina came forward after having been raped by a US military personnel from Joint US Military Assistance Group (JUSMAG)/ Balikatan. These are just the reported cases and probably many more remain hidden from public's knowledge.
Let us be reminded that there have been countless violations, including their active combat participation yet no sanctions have been imposed. There is no question that the VFA is not a mutually beneficial agreement. Pursuing its implementation certainly poses more harm than good.
Thank you and good afternoon.