U.S. Government Must Officially Apologize
for Atrocities in Philippine-American War
By Prof. Roland G. Simbulan
National Chairperson, Nuclear Free Philippines Coalition
Fil-Am Day Statement, July 3, 1998 Media Briefing, UCCP Building, 877 EDSA, Quezon City.
On the occasion of “Philippine-American Friendship Day” this July 4, on the year of our Independence Centennial, we are starting a campaign both here and in the United States, to correct and rectify the historical distortions committed against the Filipino people and the nation during the Philippine-American War. This was a “dirty” war treacherously begun when the United States from 1899 to 1902 snatched away the gains of the newly-born Philippine republic, and committed atrocities of genocidal proportions in a conflict which was objectively an American war of conquest.
It is high time that the Filipino people sought an official act of atonement and an official apology from the U.S. government for the American aggression and the countless atrocities committed against Asia’s first Philippine Republic, its heroic sons and daughters.
Filipino historians like Agoncillo and Constantino have estimated that more than 300,000 Filipinos, mostly civilians perished as a result of the American onslaught against our new-born Philippine Republic. The most barbaric forms of torture and interrogation such as “water cure” as well as scorched earth military tactics and the brutal “reconcentration” of civilians were applied against the Filipino people. The most inhuman and brutal tactics experimented earlier against American Indian tribes in the American frontier were again applied and practiced by U.S. military veterans of the Indian campaigns. Worse, all of these are treated in all official U.S. documents and history books as part of “the Philippine Insurrection” to disguise the nature of the Filipino people’s heroic resistance.
The term “Philippine Insurrection” implies an uprising against an already established American regime in the Philippines where for the most part, the conflict was objectively an American War of conquest, invasion and forcible occupation. We launch this campaign – both here and in the U.S. for an official public apology from the U.S. government, even as we seek the support of the Estrada administration to back up this campaign to rectify that past. Just as Asian countries have successfully sought the official public apology by the Japanese government for its atrocities during World War II, we now likewise seek the rectification and correction of the real “war of independence and liberation” during the Philippine-American War. History must at the least officially take stock of the truth for, it is “the truth that shall set us free.”
On this occasion of Fil-Am Day, we specifically recommend the following measures to be taken by the Estrada Administration in the implementation of an independent foreign policy towards the United States:
To seek an official public apology from the U.S. government for the snatching of Philippine independence, and the atrocities and genocide committed during the Philippine-American War;
To officially seek from the U.S. government the correction in all official U.S. documents, historic markers and history books of the term “Philippine insurrection” to describe the 1899-1902 armed conflict between the Philippines and the U.S. and instead change it to “Philippine-American War” between two established sovereign states;
The Philippine government should correct its past records to officially exonerate and vindicate Filipino independence fighters from the masses like Macario Sakay, Benito Natividad, Francisco Carreon, Julian Montalan, Lucio de Vega, Leon Villafuerte, Aniceto Aruga, Cornelia Felizardo, Asedillo among others who were hanged and persecuted as common criminals and felons at Muntinlupa and by the American Colonial Courts in the early 1900s. These records must now exonerate these sons and daughters of our people;
The Estrada Administration must seek the renaming of colonial streets like “Taft Avenue” and others still named after Filipino collaborators and opportunistic elite and instead be named after Filipino freedom fighters like Sakay who have for so long been wronged by official history;
The Estrada Administration should review the former Ramos administration’s Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and take a stand consistent with Pres. Estrada’s pro-sovereignty position when he was with the “Magnificent 12” Senators.
U.S. ambassador Thomas Hubbard’s recent remarks that he is optimistic about the ratification of the proposed Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) under the incoming Estrada Administration is MISPLACED as it miscalculates the depth and width of present-day Philippine nationalism which seeks a more equitable relationship with all countries based on mutual respect and reciprocity.
U.S. ambassador Hubbard should be reminded that President Estrada, unlike his predecessors, does not owe his victory as president to the sponsorship of the United States, but to the poor majority of Filipinos who have long been impoverished by U.S.-designed and IMF-packaged policies in the Philippines. President Estrada, in his past declarations and deeds as Senator and Vice president of the Republic, has been known to advocate friendly ties with the United States and other countries but based on the principles of mutual-respect, reciprocal relations and the advancement of Philippine national interest. This was precisely why he had voted to terminate U.S. military bases in 1991.
The Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) cannot be consistent with these principles because:
a) The United States through the VFA can bring into Philippine territory, nuclear weapons without any official declaration on the contrary, in gross violation of the Philippine Constitution;
b) The United States can commit crimes against ordinary Filipino citizens especially women and children, and yet, if certified on official duty, be immune from Philippine courts and laws;
c) U.S. military personnel through the VFA are given special privileges and exemptions concerning visa requirements, harbor and customs regulations and fees, driving permits and licenses, upon the entry and stay in the Philippines (which is not specified or limited), without any reciprocal agreement concerning similar numbers of visiting Filipino military personnel in the United States.
Furthermore, the Visiting Forces Agreement is not consistent with true friendship with other countries, much more with respect to an ally. It is also inconsistent with the desire of an increasing number of American taxpayers from U.S. churches, academe, trade unions, professionals, etc. not to use the U.S. armed forces in foreign conflicts and interventionist policies.
We hope that the Estrada administration will have more dignified foreign policy that does not support the interventionist policies of the United States. The Filipino masses voted overwhelmingly for the Estrada administration so that it can make a difference.
We hope too, that the Estrada administration will undertake an independent foreign policy truly reflective of the Constitutional policies of “national sovereignty, territorial integrity, national interest and the right to self-determination.” Finally, we hope that it can effectively enforce the charter’s policy of freedom from nuclear weapons, not only nationally, but also regionally in the ASEAN region.
The date posted here is due to our website rebuild, it does not reflect the original date this article was posted. This article was originally posted in Yonip in 2002