Today, September 16, 2011, the anti-US Bases movement in the Philippines commemorates the 20th anniversary of the rejection of the 1947 RP-US Military Bases Agreement. But even if this commemorative event is being conducted in a celebratory mood, it is also marred by recent WikiLeaks accounts, which confirm what we have been claiming these past years—that the US military presence in the Philippines, in fact involvement in local defense and security actions, is indeed very real. (Please see reports on Wikileaks accounts: http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/-depth/09/14/11/wikileaks-cables-us-forces-directly-involved-mindanao-terror-hunt)
The Wikileaks accounts confirm too the reports that Focus on the Global South issued in 2007, “Uncovential Warfare,” which documented that the US military has actually been involved in direct military combat in the Philippines—in direct violation of the Philippine constitution. (Access report at: www.focusweb.org/pdf/unconventionalwarfare.pdf and www.focusweb.org/node/1293)
Piecing together documentary evidence from the US military as well as from eyewitness accounts, these reports were among the first to expose the presence of a special US unit called the Joint Special Operations Task Force which has actually been continuously deployed in Mindanao for the past 10 years, contrary to US and Philippine government pronouncements running back to 2001. In 2008, the Mindanao-based Ctizens’ Peace Watch conducted a Fact Finding Mission yielding similar evidence of US military structures in Zamboanga and the sighting of American soldiers in actual combat. The Task Force’s presence in Mindanao has also recently been confirmed in an article in the Washington Post. (ttp://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/top-secret-america-a-look-at-the-militarys-joint-special-operations-command/2011/08/30/gIQAvYuAxJ_story.html)
The Wikileaks accounts confirm Focus’ contention that the US and the Philippine governments have been engaged in an effort to cover up the nature of the deployment. According to the Wikileaks cables, US officials were instructed to deny involvement in combat when asked by the media.
In response to the disclosure of the WIkileaks cables, Focus on the Global South today said:
“Now that the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) is under review in the Philippine Senate, it is critical for us in the people’s movement that advocated and struggled against the US bases not only to pursue the implications of the Wikileaks reports but to elevate our struggle towards revising our foreign policy and put in place one that is principled, and that truly honors and promotes our independence and sovereignty as a people and nation.
The rejection of the bases treaty was indeed a historic event, a triumph of the people’s movement and the Filipino people to have helped push the Senate’s rejection of the treaty in 1991. This 1947 agreement had allowed the United States to extend the stay of its bases in the country for 99 more years until 2046 if it wasn’t for the persistent struggle of the people’s movement and the Senate rejection.
The Philippine government, now under President Noynoy Aquino, cannot just have business-as-usual relations and engagement with the United States, enticing US economic investments while ignoring the implications of continued US military presence for our sovereignty and even our own security. The blatant disregard by the US government of Philippine law during the rape case filed by a Filipina against its soldiers in 2006 should remain a grim reminder of what the US can do to advance its interests.”#