Gabriela Davao holds picket vs VFA


Davao City


March 24, 2009


Bonus Tracks: Maritime protest vs VFA/Balikatan in Bicol



Gabriela Davao led the picket against VFA infront of Ateneo de Davao University, the virtual US Embassy, on March 24, 2009.

“Our protest is not only for Nicole…Nicole is the face of thousands of Filipino women whose human rights have been trampled upon by the American imperialists,” said Lyda Canson, tagapangulo ng Gabriela.


--- From a Gabriela statement


Photo at right shows student leader from the Ateneo de Davao University lambasting the Visiting Forces Agreement


Photos courtesy of Gabriela Davao


Arroyo Welcomes More US Participation in the "Killing Fields" of the Philippines in the Guise of Humanitarian Intervention
by E. San Juan, Jr.


A historic event worthy of the Guinness Book may have occurred in Washington in the last week of June.  The worst "torture" president that the United States has ever had met the most corrupt and brutal president ever inflicted on the Filipino people.  Grotesque or farcical?  Bush is now credited with the horrendous deaths of nearly a million Iraqis, over four thousand American soldiers, the cruelties of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, and a severe economic recession.  Arroyo claims the distinction of having scored several thousand victims of paramilitary violence (903 extra-judicial killings and193 enforced disappearances, according to the Philippine human-rights monitor KARAPATAN), open bribery of officials by raiding the public treasury,  unscrupulous cheating in elections, and untold kickbacks from government transactions (such as the ZTE Broadband scandal, among many) -- all with impunity.

Scourge of Human Rights

International groups, from Amnesty International and the World Council of Churches to the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the International Association of People's Lawyers, have all concurred on the outrageous truth of the "killing fields" in the US neocolony.  An editorial of The Philippine Star (6 June 2007) noted that the country is one of the "least peaceful countries in the world, ranking 100th among 121 in the first-ever Global Peace Index drawn up by the Economic Intelligence Unit."  United Nations Special Rapporteur Philip Alston reported to the 8th session of the UN Human Rights Council that Arroyo's "state security forces have been involved in many of the killings of left-wing activists, indigenous leaders, trade union and farm leaders and civil society organization members and that the military remains in a 'state of denial' over these killings" (see E. San Juan, US Imperialism and Revolution in the Philippines, New York, 2007).  "Not a single soldier has been convicted," Alston added, urging the Arroyo regime to end the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) policy of "systematically hunting down the leaders of [legal and open] leftist organizations" such as BAYAN MUNA and assassinating their members (see the Web site of UN Human Rights Council).

The Arroyo regime recently defied the UN's Universal Periodic Review session by rejecting the recommendation to strengthen the Witness Protection Program and approve the International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances.   In its comprehensive survey "Scared Silent: Impunity for Extrajudicial Killings in the Philippines,"   Human Rights Watch observed that in spite of public-relation ploys such as the Melo Commission and Arroyo's refrain that there is "no state policy of killing people," not one case has been solved, not a single military officer or soldier prosecuted for the murders and disappearances of activists such as Jonas Burgos, Luisa Posa Dominado, Shirley Cadapan, Karen Empeno, and thousands more ( 5 October 2007).

Last year the Permanent People's Tribunal concluded its meticulous appraisal of massive evidence with the judgment that the Arroyo regime and its sponsor, the Bush administration, were guilty of "gross and systematic violation of human rights, economic plunder and transgression of the Filipino people's sovereignty."  The first session of the Tribunal on the Philippines in 1980 unequivocally condemned "the dominant economic and political role of the US in the Philippines and in the region through the implementation of an imperial policy" (PPT Verdict 2007).  Arroyo's ritual obeisance to Washington may be cited as one more proof, falling in line with a tradition of subservience of the Filipino oligarchy since the time of Commonwealth president Manuel Quezon to the first president of the 1946 Philippine Republic Manuel Roxas up to presidents Ramon Magsaysay (sponsored by the CIA) and Diosdado Macapagal (Arroyo's father) to the notorious Marcos dictatorship and its unconscionable successors.  No wonder both McCain and Obama parroted worn-out clichés about "Asia's first democracy," the Philippines as a faithful client regime during the Cold War and the current crusade against terrorists personified by politically informed combatants of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and  the New People's Army.

Subaltern Medicancy Forever

Winding down as a tiresome fiasco and farcical boondoggle, Arroyo's roadshow to the Empire's heartland this June may have been cursed by the sinking of the Philippine ferry MV Princess of the Stars and the ravages of the deadly typhoon Frank.  Thousands of victims and their families await her sycophantic pilgrimage with cries of help and anger.  After wasting at least $1.5 million of public funds and getting a promised aid of $100,000 from State Dept. bureaucrat John Negroponte, infamous for organizing mass carnage in Central America, the Arroyo entourage is returning a the feckless attempt at fanfare.  One episode of de facto president Arroyo's visit strikes this writer as particularly telling.  George W. Bush surpassed his father's "I-love-your-democracy" apologia for the despot Marcos when he praised "the great talent" of "Philippine-Americans" whenever he dines at the White House -- a nod to Filipina chef Chris Comerford.  Arroyo's pathetic "thank you" sums up over a century of gruesomely asymmetrical "US-Philippines" relations so beloved by US experts on the Philippines and their Filipino acolytes.  Sadly hilarious but also infuriating to those out in Manila streets demonstrating against the brutality and injustice of Arroyo-US neoliberal privatization program.

Meanwhile, we learn that on June 17, retired Maj. General Antonio Taguba (not one of Bush's talented 'Philippine Americans"), in his testimony to the US Senate Armed Services Committee, accused Bush and his henchmen of committing war crimes by authorizing the use of harsh interrogation techniques.  Taguba headed the committee that investigated the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.  Subsequent inquiries by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups have revealed the scale and depth of the current administration's violation of the US Constitution's Bill of Rights and the Geneva Convention on the treatment of what the US calls "unlawful" enemy combatants, otherwise considered political prisoners.

Arroyo's trip was ostensibly made to lobby for the passage of the Veterans Equity Bill -- Senate Bill 1315, approved by the Senate but pending at the House.  This bill would set aside $350 million (out of $1 billion) for ten years to pay for the basic needs of thousands of Filipino veterans of World War II, most of whom are now dead, who were denied their rightful veterans' back pay.  Without Arroyo's help, local organizers (such as the National Federation of Filipino American Associations) have mobilized enough support for the passage of the bill in the Senate.  So Arroyo's opportunistic appearance in Washington is clearly intended to prop up her severely damaged image after Senator Barbara Boxer, chair of the US Senate sub-committee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs, and several congressmen chided her last year for her intolerable record of flagrant human-rights violations.

Just as Arroyo's early trip in August 2005 was besieged with indignant protests, likewise her visit last week was met with numerous "lightning" demonstrations by outraged Filipino-Americans decrying her insensitivity to the plight of thousands of disaster victims, and the millions suffering from the rice shortage, fuel crisis, and unemployment brought about by the short-sighted neoliberal policies of the regime.  With over half of 90 million citizens subsisting on $2 a day, the Philippines exports daily 3,000 contract workers to 186 countries around the world, getting in return $10 to $12 billon in overseas remittances, enough to pay the heavy foreign debt.  In 2007 the US Congress allocated $30 million of citizens' tax dollars for the beleaguered AFP on condition that Arroyo implements UN rapporteur's Alston's recommendations, a condition still unfulfilled in deeds up to now.  The aid rocketed by 1,111% when Bush declared the Philippines the "second front" in his war after 9/11 (IBON Media Release, 21 Sept 2006).  Between 2000 and 2003, US loans and grants to Arroyo increased by 1,176%, primarily funding for counter-terrorist schemes in addition to USAID spending for livelihood projects and infrastructure -- activities that camouflage intelligence or special police operations in communities sheltering NPA or MILF partisans.

Pentagon to the Rescue

Less to pacify Arroyo's entourage and more to threaten Myanmar's junta, China, North Korea, and other recalcitrants -- Al Qaeda supporters -- in the Asia-Pacific region, Bush ordered the deployment of the strike group led by the nuclear-armed carrier USS Ronald Reagan to the Philippines.  The alleged task of this armada of aircraft carrier, cruiser, three destroyers, and a frigate is to assist in the rescue of the survivors of the capsized MV Princess of the Stars, now being attended to by the Philippine Coast Guard.  This may be the first time in military history that a nuclear-powered carrier has been assigned to perform distribution of relief goods in a situation far smaller in scope than the cyclone disaster in Myanmar or the earthquake destruction in China.  But again, it's a war against those unruly subjects, impoverished peasants and workers, including the Moros and the Filipino communists, that justifies this illegitimate intrusion.

Senator Rodolfo Biazon questioned the utility of an aircraft carrier of that size (with 6,000 crew and numerous F-18 airplanes) designed mainly for combat and rescue of distressed airplanes.  As of this writing, the USS Ronald Reagan was moored near the coast of northwest Panay, clearly within Philippine territorial boundary (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 28 June 2008).  In addition, the US Embassy revealed that the USNS Stockham and US Navy P-3 planes are on standby to provide maritime surveillance and other security needs (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 26 June 2008).  This substantiates once more public suspicions of the sustained complicity of the US with the AFP campaigns against Moro insurgents, in particular the Moro Islamic Liberation Front  (MILF) -- including the notorious bandit-group with ties to local military and politicians, the Abu Sayyaf -- and the Communist Party-led New People's Army (NPA) guerillas active in Panay and Negros, the two islands that suffered the most from the typhoon Frank.  This intrusion of the USS Ronald Reagan is an outright violation of the Philippine Constitution and bilateral treaties with the US

A local group, PAMALAKAYA (Fishermen's Group of the Philippines), accused Arroyo of committing an impeachable crime: the Philippine Constitution expressly prohibits the entry of nuclear weapons into the country.  While Arroyo's spokesmen claimed that the USS Ronald Reagan is only "nuclear-powered," the US Embassy is silent on the presence of nuclear weapons in the possession of the task force group.  Fernando Hicap, PAMALAKAYA's chair, charged that the presence of the US naval group is intended not only "to warn and provoke the local armed resistance groups [NPA, MILF] but also to score a psywar victory against China and North Korea that Washington is capable of shifting and redeploying US troops at any given situation or time" (GMANews.TV, 26 June 2008).  At present, the US stations over 100,000 troops in Asia and the Pacific under its Pacific Command, with 80,000 troops based in Japan and Korea, and several hundreds at any one time in the Philippines.

Terms of Mutual Endearment?

How did this happen?  The peculiarity of the presence of US combat troops in the Philippines may be explained by the leech-like stranglehold of the US on the Filipino ruling class and its military/paramilitary establishment.  A series of unequal bilateral treaties sealed this toxic partnership.  Obama correctly pointed to the 1954 Manila Pact that "formed a cornerstone of U.S policy in Southeast Asia during the Cold War."  But that was only the beginning.

The real key to US control may be found in the Military Bases Agreement of March 14 and March 21, 1947 between the two governments.  The first allowed the US extensive military facilities in the Philippines for 99 years, chief of which were Clark Air Base (130,000 acres) and Subic Naval Base which housed nuclear-armed submarines for decades until both were scrapped in 1992.  Thereafter 14,000 US troops left the Philippines.  This agreement prohibited the Philippines from granting base rights to any other country.  It put no restrictions on the use of the bases or on the types of weapons the US could store or deploy in them.  Despite minor amendments, this agreement allowed the US to use the bases as springboards for unlimited US intervention in Asia, such as the aggression in Korea, Vietnam, and lately Afghanistan and Iraq (see Civil Liberties Union, A Question of National Security, Manila 1983).  The second agreement allowed the US to provide military aid to the Philippines on the condition that a US. military advisory group be assigned to supervise the AFP and that Filipino military personnel be sent to the US for training.  It also prohibited the Philippines from accepting military aid or advisers from any other nation without the consent of Washington.  In the context of the campaign against the Huks, communist-led peasants fighting for land and justice at the time, the weapons and advisors supplied by Washington were used to suppress and kill Filipino "subversives" and preserve oppressive oligarchic rule, as well as subsidize the Marcos dictatorship and its repressive sequels.  Under the framework of the RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951, the Joint RP-US Military Advisory Group (JUSMAG) continues to this day to be one crucial agency in perpetuating the reactionary, anti-people orientation of the AFP and its cognate institutions, the state security personnel of every administration up to Arroyo (see the relevant documents conveniently catalogued in Daniel Schirmer and Stephen Shalom, The Philippines Reader, Boston, 1987, including details of military aid to Marcos).  It may be added here that a JUSMAG/ CIA functionary, Col. Nick Rowe, was slain by rebel forces on April 21, 1989, while allegedly shadowing "Cuban" advisors helping the NPA in South-Central Luzon.

Although the bases were shut down in 1992, the US maintains its dominance through JUSMAG and the Philippines-US Mutual Defense Board (established in 1958), which operates as a "new bilateral defense consultative mechanism" to oversee military cooperation between the two countries.  These two mechanisms were reinforced by the Security Engagement Board (SEB) in 2006 designed to deal with nontraditional security threats such as terrorism, piracy, natural disasters (for example, the recent ferry sinking and typhoon), bird flu, and the like not falling under the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty that calls for battling external security threats in either countries.  This was supplemented by the Mutual Logistics and Support Agreement (MLSA) signed in November 2002.

Very few know the details of this notorious MLSA.  Its salient provision is its mandating the Philippine government to supply all the logistical support and supplies needed by the Pentagon during its exercises and redeployment.  Pretty much a bargain compared to the costly Clark and Subic bases of the good old days.  Of course, the humanitarian services performed by the troops are only a pretext for the US to interfere in local civil wars in the region, labeling them "international terrorism."  This agreement with the client regime thus insures a virtually un-evictable presence of the US military as police watchdog to promote and secure US economic and geopolitical interests -- from profits in oil, energy, and mineral resources to safeguarding the Malacca Straits where 25 percent of all globally traded oil passes.

Immediately after 9/11, the US State Dept promptly labeled the NPA as terrorist organization so that Arroyo can call on US troops to help her counterinsurgency campaign, even though the Philippine Constitution (Art. II, sec. 3) prohibits foreign troops' involvement in internal security matters.  Aside from infringing on Philippine sovereignty, the SEB allows the US (to quote IBON, 26 May 2006) "to maintain a prolonged military presence in the country which suits the US military's current strategy of seeking temporary access to facilities in foreign countries that enable US forces to conduct training and exercises" rather than spending for permanent physical bases.  Moreover, the Philippines functions as an important link in the security chain of the US in the Western Pacific.  The SEB enhances the US's limited infrastructure for refueling and logistics needed in its operations in the Arabian Gulf and Western Pacific areas.  Mindanao and Sulu islands have been considered strategic locations for monitoring developments in Muslim countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, etc. where there is a rising trend of "Islamic revivalism," of which the MILF is an instance.

There are also numerous clandestine partnerships allowed by executive "understandings" and philanthropic channels.  But it is primarily the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) that legitimizes unrelenting US intervention in the Philippines.  Initiated by former president Fidel Ramos under the rubric of "Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement" drawn up by the Pentagon, the VFA was finally approved during the Estrada administration (Daniel B. Schirmer, Fidel Ramos: The Pentagon's Philippine Friend, 1992-1997, Cambridge, MA, 1997).

Made fully operational after September 11, 2001, the VFA makes up for the loss of Subic and Clark in a much more efficient way.  It allows the Pentagon to land anywhere in the country without entailing the cost of maintaining physical structures and insuring environmental safety.  It also has no responsibility in whatever damage it can cause by its joint exercises with the host country.  While the MLSA (renewed for another 5 years) permits the US to use the Philippines as a launching pad for wars of aggression through the pre-positioning of war material in "virtual bases," the VFA allows the unhampered entry of US troops for covert operations in the course of "Kapit-Bisig" war games and "Balikatan" joint exercises with its surrogate army, the AFP.  Sara Flounders' sharp analysis of this new Pentagon concept of "Cooperative Security Locations" -- 5,458 discrete military installations around the world -- highlights its key features: facilities with rotational US presence, containing prepositioned equipment, rapidly scalable and expandable, offering bilateral and regional training.  One virtue is the overwhelming influence gained by the US on smaller and developing nations, verified by former US Pacific commander Admiral Thomas Fargo who explained in March 2003 that "relationships built through exercises and training are 'our biggest guarantor of access in time of need'" (Sara Flounders, "Expansion of U.S. Bases Spurs Philippine Resistance," International Action Center, 29 March 2008).

The virtually permanent presence of US troops in the Philippines can be accounted for by the VFA, MSLA, and other instrumentalities enforced by a subservient government parasitic on US military aid and political sponsorship.  The Arroyo regime easily fits the bill.  Because other countries in the region (Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia; Myanmar has rebuffed US humanitarian offers) cannot tolerate US ships or troops stationed in its territory, the US has no alternative but to support authoritarian rulers like Marcos and Arroyo if it wants to curb Al Qaeda influence, check China's expansion, and project its military might in the Asia-Pacific geopolitical sphere.  Surely, the splintered tiny Abu Sayyaf always used to rationalize US troops in the Philippines is no threat to US global hegemony.  US military basing in the Philippines can only be explained by the long-range global strategy of preserving US superpower status by preventing the rise of competitors such as China (Herbert Docena, "In the Dragon's Lair," Foreign Policy in Focus, 26 February 2008).►


Anti-VFA rally in front of the Ateneo de Davao University, the virtual US Embassy


Carnage and Mayhem All Around

Immediately after 9/11, the Pentagon announced that it would be sending 3,000 troops to the Philippines for joint operations against the Abu Sayyaf.  Over 1,000 troops were eventually sent to participate in "Balikatan 2002" that took place in the combat areas of Basilan and Zamboanga where guerillas of the MILF were operating.  This differed from previous exercises since it was now located in war zones, with soldiers using live ammunition, with no time constraints.

In July 2002, an International Solidarity Mission conducted a thorough fact-finding mission that led to three important conclusions: "1) American soldiers were directly involved in the raiding and shooting of an unarmed civilian in his house; 2) human rights abuses are continuing unabated under the Arroyo regime and are abetted by US military forces; and 3) the US military support operations that displace and violate the rights of Moro people and other Filipinos, including women and children" (Solidarity Mission Statement, July 2002).  Because of such incidents, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel accused the regime of "treason," turning the country into a deadly laboratory for the testing of the effectiveness of US troops, tactics and weaponry against the so-called terrorists" (Ellen Nakashima, "Philippines Debates US Combat Role against Rebels," Washington Post, 23 Feb. 2003).

Another involvement of US troops in counterinsurgency plots may be cited here.  In 2004, US troops made the University of Southeastern Mindanao as their temporary camp, an area claimed by the MILF as their territory.  The US in effect converted civilians into human shields, potential collateral damage, in the event of armed confrontation between known antagonists in the region.  This was part of the annual "Balikatan" exercise, this time in Carmen, North Cotabato.  The humanitarian medical missions, distribution of toys, and building of Gawad Kalinga homes all serve as cover for US military intelligence-gathering and other tactical operations.  In 2006, the "Balikatan" exercise from February to March was the biggest, involving 5,500 US troops and 2,800 Filipinos.  This took place in the hotly contested regions of Jolo, Maimbung, Patikul and Panamao, Sulu, and North Cotabato.


A recent incident reveals how deeply entangled the US is in local counterinsurgency programs of the neocolonial state.  In the town of Ipil, Sulu, last February 4, the AFP killed eight non-combatants (women and children), including a soldier on vacation.  The widow of the slain soldier testified that she saw four US soldiers in a Navy boat.  Subsequently, General Ruben Rafael, commander of Philippine troops in Jolo, stated in an interview that "a U.S. military spy plane circling high above the seaside village provided the intelligence that led to the February 4 assault" and that "the crew of the P-3 Orion turboprop, loaded with a sophisticated array of surveillance equipment pinpointed the village as a stronghold and arms depot for the radical Islamist Au Sayyaf movement" (Paul Watson, "U.S. Role in Philippine Raid Questioned," Los Angeles Times, 9 March 2008).  This same P-3 Orion spy planes was mentioned by the US Embassy as ready to be used for the disaster relief in Panay and Negroes where the NPA guerillas are vigorously challenging AFP terrorism.  US embassy spokesperson Karen Schinnerer in Manila admitted that "an aerial reconnaissance vehicle" gathered intelligence over Sulu "at the request of Philippine forces."

Heavy saturation bombings in Barangays Buansa and Cagay, a camp of the MILF in Indanan, Sulu, were carried out for five hours on April 30.  Early last year, US troops participated in attacks on the Moro resistance fighters in this region.  Witnesses of this latest genocidal foray attested to US-supplied "smart bombs" dropped by OV-10 airplanes, slaughtering many members of the 360 families who fled the area.  Based on the research of Alexander Martin Remollino, US troops in Sulu belong to the Joint Special Operations Task-Force-Philippines that employs US Special Forces, Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations personnel "to conduct deliberate intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in very focused areas, and based on collection plans, to perform tasks to prepare the environment and obtain critical information requirements" (Bulatlat, 4-10 May 2008).  In lay idiom, this means clearing the area of enemy forces by spying and utilizing all weapons and logistics necessary to "neutralize" hostile elements.  Although the AFP claims that those attacks were aimed at the Abu Sayyaf  and the Jemayah Islamiyah, an Indonesian-based group, the MILF has responded by declaring that the territory involved is theirs and that no other group is allowed to operate from within the premises.

What is happening in the southern Philippines is clearly a carefully designed war to occupy and sanitize a whole region rich in natural and human resources, as well as a potential strategic base for military adventures.  The problem is that it is inhabited by Moros, aboriginal peoples, and other Filipinos resisting US imperial conquest and oligarchic despotism.  Prodded by the International Monitoring Team headed by Malaysia that helped enforce a ceasefire, the MILF and the Arroyo government were close to signing an agreement last February on wealth-sharing and ancestral domain.  But the US-Arroyo attacks have worsened the displacement of 75,000 Moro civilians -- the loss of property, farmland, and livelihood, not to speak of innocent lives -- and permitted more extra-judicial killings, illegal detentions, and torture of Moro dissenters and ordinary citizens (Sandra R. Leavitt, "Pressure Brings Continued Progress in Mindanao Peace Negotiations," Shigetsu Newsletter No. 912, 18 Feb. 2008).

Approaching the Endgame

What is the future for Arroyo's brutal authoritarian rule?  Collaborating with the torture president in the White House and his deceptive "iron fist and hand of friendship" policy, Arroyo has dug herself a grave deeper than all her corruption and ruthless political maneuverings can.  If US troops succeed in building infrastructure -- presumably better roads, schools, clinics, ports, which testifies to the failure of local governance -- will that wipe out Moro separatists, local civilians who demand jobs, dignity, social services, and a measure of communal autonomy that are due them under Philippine laws and the UN Charter?  A BBC reporter displayed her ignorance of the fraught history of US colonial domination of the Philippines -- its civic culture, social practices, and institutions -- when she reduced the whole complex fabric into a question-begging dilemma: "If Philippine government bodies could manage their resources to shelter and assist their own people, maybe all those special forces [US troops] could go home" ("US Plays Quiet Role in the Philippines," 28 March 2008).

But how can this moribund state apparatus controlled by US-loving oligarchs and their self-serving intelligentsia and bureaucrats manage to do that?  The economic crisis gripping the country seems irresolvable by Arroyo's handouts and paltry rhetoric.  The undefeatable MILF is withdrawing from peace talks with the Arroyo regime, just as the National Democratic Front (together with its "terrorist" affiliate, the NPA) has postponed negotiations unless the US-decreed stigma of "terrorist" is repudiated and extra-judicial killings halted.  Surely, ninety million Filipinos, with their long tradition of fierce insurrections, will not allow the shameless puppetry of the Arroyo regime, with her generals and kowtowing officials, to continue for another hundred years.  As a UPI Asia Online forecast puts it, the decrepit Arroyo band-wagon faces "bigger, bolder insurgency" in the years to come, despite the super-power's "humanitarian" schemes and grotesque patronage.

E. San Juan, Jr. was recently a visiting professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City.  His recent books are In the Wake of Terror (Lexington Books) and US Imperialism and Revolution in the Philippines (Palgrave Macmillan).  He will be a fellow of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute, Harvard University, in Spring 2009.




Filipino rebels warn US troops not to join combat

4:40 a.m. March 29, 2009


— Communist guerrillas vowed to intensify attacks against government forces Sunday and threatened to fight American troops if they join counterinsurgency assaults.

The 120,000-strong military played down the threat by the New People's Army, which marked its 40th anniversary Sunday, saying the rebels have been considerably weakened by battle setbacks and could be crushed by next year as President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has ordered.


"The New People's Army warns that it can defend itself and the people if assaulted by the puppet Philippine military and police and American troops," regional rebel spokesman Greg Banares said in a statement sent to news agencies.


U.S. and other foreign troops are barred from local combat by the Philippine Constitution.

The Maoist guerrillas say annual military exercises by American and Philippine troops to be held next month near their mountain strongholds in the Bicol region, southeast of Manila, are a cover for joint counterinsurgency operations.


Philippine officials have denied the rebel claim, saying the joint exercises – called "Balikatan" or shoulder to shoulder – will focus on humanitarian projects and medical missions in several impoverished rural communities.


"After 40 years, their number is going down, their ideology is barely recognized and majority of their fighters stay in the group just for the money," military spokesman Brig. Gen. Gaudencio Pangilinan said.


"They can be defeated, at the minimum marginalized," Pangilinan said, when asked if troops were on track to meet the target set by Arroyo to defeat the guerrillas when she steps down in June next year.


A confidential police intelligence report issued last December said the number of rebels dropped to 5,239 last year from 5,761 in 2007 because of battlefield losses. The number of rebel firearms was reduced by 5 percent to 5,390, it said.


Despite the setbacks, rebel attacks rose by 16 to 323 last year, the report said, adding the targets included government forces and businesses such as mining companies, which were attacked for extortion.


Norwegian-brokered peace talks stalled in 2004 when the guerrillas accused the Philippine government of instigating their inclusion on a U.S. list of terrorist organizations.





Masked female activists display a flag of the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines and other underground organizations during a lightning rally marking the 40th anniversary of the communist armed group, the New Peoples Army Thursday, March 26, 2009 in Manila, Philippines. The activists shout slogans urging women to join the armed struggle. (AP Photo/Pat Roque) - AP




Lyda Canson, Gabriela Davao Chair

News Release
March 10, 2009
References: John Concepcion, spokesperson, KARAPATAN-Bikol

KARAPATAN-Bikol unveils pre-Balikatan human rights violations.
Two civilians already killed by military due to Balikatan clearing operations.

The human rights alliance KARAPATAN-Bikol revealed that human rights violations are about to increase as the Balikatan exercises draws near. As of now there are 174 human rights violations in the region primarily perpetrated by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP).

According to John Concepcion, spokesperson of KARAPATAN-Bikol, “The worst the AFP has done so far is the killing of Rafaela Polborido, 1 year and 4 months old and the injury of her family by a grenade launched by elements of the 901st Infantry Brigade in Brgy Balanac, Ligao City, Albay. It is very ironic that Brgy. Balanac where the human rights violations are being done by the military is just adjacent to Brgy. Paulba were a so-called medical mission is to be done by the US troops. Are they ensuring that more people would come to the medical mission by injuring and terrorizing them first?”

“Additionally the AFP particularly the 31st Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army under a certain Second Lieutenant Santander, shot Barangay Councilor Marlo Perez of Barangay San Rafael Norte, Lupi, Camarines Sur critically wounding him last February 25. The military along with some Civilian Auxiliary Forces Geographical Units (CAFGU) also shot and killed a fisherman named Dominador Barbado from Barangay Adiangao, San Jose, Camarines Sur last March 3,” added Concepcion.

“Aside from these last February 23 an attempt on the life of BAYAN MUNA-Camarines Sur secretary general Jariz Vida was taken by elements of the 9th Infantry Division (ID) Military Intelligence Battalion (MIB) led by a certain Lieutenant Bandola when Vida was in the anti-VFA caravan in Naga City. The AFP has displaced thousands of farmers in the third district of Albay. The military has also implemented a curfew in some barangays in Legazpi City like San Roque, saying that because it is near the naval facility. In the town of Santo Domingo all the barangay captains were summoned by the Army to support the Balikatan exercises,” he expounded.

“These indiscriminate human rights violations are done by the military in their clearing operations for the upcoming Balikatan exercises and they are covering the whole region, particularly the eastern side of Bicol facing the Pacific Ocean where we believe that they are to perform some naval exercises and combat operations,” said the human rights advocate.

“The Balikatan exercises have not even started yet but the human rights situation in the region is already worse, what more if it is in full swing. Again we are calling on the stopping of the Balikatan and the scrapping of the VFA, before more Filipinos are killed or injured,” ended Concepcion. # # #






Palborido victims, Balanac, Ligao City

Victims of clearing operations for the Balikatan Exercises


Lives and sovereignty sacrificed
By Tony Guevara

Jocelyn Polborido along with her children started their day on February 18 like any other day. They woke up around 6 am ate little breakfast and bade goodbye to her husband who went to Palapas, Ligao City, Albay to queue for more affordable National Food Authority (NFA) rice. Little did they know that before lunch the same day their lives would change forever.

Without warning, elements of the 901st Infantry Brigade fired upon Jocelyn and her children Daisy four years old, Ina 5 years old and Rafaela 1 year old, while they were playing outside their house. As the family ran for cover, the soldiers continued firing at them and even used a grenade launcher. This caused a fire which eventually destroyed the house where they took shelter.

When the smoke cleared Jocelyn and all her daughters along with other relatives were all injured. Jocelyn and Ina both sustained wounds on their hands and head while Daisy and Andrea were both wounded on their hands. Eufemia, the sister-in-law of Jocelyn, was hit on the right side of her head and Rafaela, the youngest daughter of Jocelyn was hit on the nape.

Injured and bleeding they ran to the chapel together with their mother-in-law Gloria Polborido to get help from barangay officials repairing the chapel, to get them to the hospital. The officials led by Barangay Captain helped them to get to a hospital but the military stationed in the vicinity of the chapel did nothing to help their victims.

On the 12 midnight of the 19th of February, Rafaela lost her life due the shrapnel wounds she sustained from the AFP’s grenade. She was only a year and 4 months old.

“We’re civilians!”

This was the cry of Barangay Kagawad Marlo Perez of Barangay San Rafael Norte, Lupi, Camarines Sur but soldiers of the 31st IB Philippine Army kept firing at him and his uncle last February 25 around 2:30 pm. The more than 15 troops were led by a certain Second Lieutenant Santander wounded Perez critically because the bullets that were used on him were double action ones.

Perez said that “the military did not even think twice when they shot me and my uncle, even if they know that we are civilians and that we are not armed. They even made me kneel even if they already knew that I was wounded. What’s worse that while kneeling they even touched my wound, punched my several times and began interrogating me. They keep saying that I am a New People’s Army (NPA) member, even when they know me personally as a barangay official and a coordinator of the Camarines Sur People’s Organization (CSPO),”

“Fortunately my uncle was able to escape and call our barangay mates for help to bring me to a hospital. If not for them I would be dead already,”

Looking for fish, found death instead

This is what happened to Dominador Barbado, a fisherman from Barangay Adiangao, San Jose, Camarines Sur, when soldiers and elements of the Civilian Auxiliary Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) shot him while fishing on the shores of Presentacion, Camarines Sur, last March 3. Now Barbado is already buried and his family is left with no bread winner.

Clearing operations

“These indiscriminate human rights violations may seem unconnected but they are done by the military in their clearing operations for the upcoming Balikatan exercises and they are covering the whole region, particularly the eastern side of Bicol facing the Pacific Ocean where we believe that they are to perform some naval exercises and combat operations,” said John Concepcion, spokesperson of KARAPATAN-Bikol.

“The Balikatan exercises have not even started yet but the human rights situation in the region is already worse, what more if it is in full swing. Again we are calling on the stopping of the Balikatan and the scrapping of the VFA, before more Filipinos are killed or injured,” added Concepcion.

Medical missions not worth our sovereignty

Meanwhile, Professor Jocelyn Bisuña, spokesperson of Bikolano Alliance for Nationalism against Balikatan (BAN BALIKATAN) said, “We will not be bought by token humanitarian missions that hide their true purpose in coming here. Many Bicolanos ‘rights have already been violated and lives have already been lost, we must put a stop to it now.

“It would be naïve for us to think that the US Special Forces will come here to Bicol just to play doctor and dentist. They have clear strategic military objectives along the lines of securing US political and military interests. Our rights, lives, freedom and sovereignty are definitely worth more than a few token medical and engineering missions and many of our countrymen have died fighting for it,” ended Bisuña. # # #


From KAIBA NEWS groups



Maritime protest vs the VFA/Balikatan in Bicol

Legazpi City

March 16, 2009