Why We Oppose
U.S. Military Intervention
This Statement was read by Gathering for Peace Lead Convenor Wigberto E. Tanada, President of the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM), before the Public Hearing of the House Committees of National Defense and Foreign Affairs, Congress of the Philippines on measures in Congress pertaining to the presence of US troops in Mindanao, Jan.30,2002.
The Philippines has now become the staging ground for what has been described by the American media as the second front of the U.S. war on terrorism after Afghanistan. Six hundred US troops, including 160 members of the U.S. Special Operations Forces, are scheduled to begin tomorrow "joint militarys exercises" with the Philippine military, activities which have become the camouflage for actual combat operations in Mindanao , particularly in Basilan and Zamboanga.
Despite the efforts of both the governments of the Republic of the Philippines and of the United States of America to downplay the deployment o US forces in Basilan and Zamboanga as mere "training exercises", the specter of foreign military intervention now hounds the Filipino people.
We are alarmed over the lack of transparency by the Philippine government on this issue. We feel that the public has the right to be informed over the real reasons behind the deployment of US troops in combat zones. The inconsistent and conflicting statements of government officials from Malacanang, the Department of National Defense and the Department of Foreign Affairs on whether the US presence is simplty part of joint exercises or really a direct participation in military combat operations raise both constitutional and legal questions.
We believe that the invitation for US troops to go into combat zones in Mindanao and go after a local bandit groups, the Abu Sayyaf, is unconstitutional. It goes beyond the legal parameters of the Visiting Forces Agreement(VFA) and the Mutual Defense Treaty(MDT). We believe that President Macapagal-Arroyo overstepped her powers in inviting US troops and that these kinds of actions should be legally governed by a treaty ratified by the Senate of the Republic of the Philippines. We wish to call the attention of the Committees of National Defense and Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives to Senate Resolution Number 18 concurring to the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). The resolution states that, "Nothing in this resolution or in the VFA should be construed as authorizing the President of the Republic of the Philippines alone to bind the Philippines to any amendment of any provision of the Visiting Forces Agreement."
While we support the efforts of the government against the Abu Sayyaf and other bandit and criminal groups in the country, we question the necessity and wisdom of inviting foreign troops on Philippine soil to address a domestic problem. We raise our concern over the casual attitude displayed by the Arroyo administration over the setting aside of sovereignty issues in favor of expediency. The public is being made to believe that the "assistance" of the US in crushing the Abu Sayyaf is the ultimate solution to the problem when, in fact, there are pending issues such as the military's connivance with the terrorist group. We believe that the failure of the government to address the problem has to do more with political will than a lack of capacity.
We find it extremely unsettling that the Philippines has now become the second front for the US War against Terrorism. The fact those high-caliber officers of the US military are on top of the "war games" dubbed Kalayaan-Aguila 2002 is a clear indication of how the US government perceives these operations in relation to its ongoing campaign against terrorism.
Our country's own experience has shown that the military solution to a socio-economic problem cannot be addressed this way. The old tactic of "body counts" against criminals or perceived enemies has long been discredited. The American experience during the Vietnam War, the anti-Huk and the current anti-insurgency campaign in the Philippines has shown that the military solution is ineffective and even aggravates problems deeply rooted insocio-economic structures. Adding up "body counts" of enemies killed is good only for military statistics, but it may further add fuel to the problem if the local socio-economic issues are not addressed to alleviate poverty and lack of economic opportunities.
We are alarmed by reports of rising human rights violations (zoning, mass house arrests, dislocation) and hostility in Mindanao in the name of anti-terrorism efforts. We fear that the US-led campaign and the growing anti-Muslim sentiments brought about by the events of Sept. 11 attacks on America may breed further violence and intolerance, and undermine the efforts to resolve the armed conflict in Mindanao.
We share the global concern against terrorism. We should put a stop to terrorism in all forms. We must, however, bring in to the discussion larger issues, issues that are now being covered up or ignored and are now further dividing our people.
While we recognize the growing threat of terrorism, we continue our strong resolve as NGOs and people's organizations to address the more persistent threats to humanity brought about by growing poverty and inequality.
GFP Secretariat, PRRM Building,
56 Mother Ignacia St., Quezon City
Call Lenard, Ember, Divine
Tel. 372-4989 or 372-4991
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.