Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) on the 30th Anniversary of the Filipino People’s Victory Over the US Military Bases
Thirty years ago on September 16,1991, the world applauded the Filipino people’s victory upon our strong and collective struggle to reject a new military bases treaty after the expiration of the 1947 Philippine-US Military Bases Agreement (MBA). That thousands upon thousands of arable lands with rich agricultural and mineral potential were under the military and administrative control of the US after Philippine Independence in 1946 was only one yet glaring aspect of the semi-colonial character of Philippine society. However, the decision to spurn the US military bases 30 years ago looses its commemorative meaning for our struggle for national sovereignty and just peace without a strong and collective push back against the resurrection of the bases treaty through new and implemented executive agreements that have legalized US military encampment on Philippine soil.
What took place after the so-called complete pull out of the US bases on November 22, 1992 are a combination of neoliberal economic conversion, environmental destruction due to toxic and hazardous waste and the restoration of US military forces presence through the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), Mutual Logistics and Support Agreement (MLSA) and Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). All of which undermine our victory and violate our right to self-determination. The conversion of the US bases into “free trade zones” or special economic zones has meant a ban on workers building unions and holding collective actions such as strikes despite exploitative and oppressive working conditions.
The US-Philippines military relations resulting in grave ecological damage and people’s continued exposure to health risks have remained unaddressed while US State Department retaliatory measures to the closure of the bases remain in place causing sickness and death to children and elders residing near the former bases. Prostitution of our women and the proliferation of red light districts for the sake of US soldiers may have been minimized with the closure of permanent bases. Nonetheless, the grim poverty in these places, abetted by a bases-dependent local economy, continues to make women and children vulnerable to abuse as well as shape the lives of Filipino communities. US war games continue with hundreds of troops scattered in various provinces through the VFA. US bases have been built anew with the EDCA signed by US Pres. Obama and Philippine Pres. Aquino. With EDCA, the Philippine government agrees to give full access to US troops, their warships and war materiel to station on facilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines nationwide and even the old US military bases in Clark and Subic.
In 2002, US citizen, Michael Meiring exploded a bomb in his room in the Evergreen Hotel, Davao City. A swift exit from a hospital where he was being treated was enabled by what journalists and peace and security researchers identify as FBI agents. The 2005 Subic rape case involving a Filipina and four United States marines took the headlines both here and abroad as it drew further criticism to the VFA, which was staunchly opposed by all sectors but finally approved and implemented by the US-Estrada regime in 1998. In October 2014, U.S. Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton killed Jennifer Laude. Pemberton was part of around 3,500 US sailors and marines who participated in the Amphibious Landing Exercise (PHIBLEX) in September 2014 under the VFA. The killing of Jennifer Laude took place a day after the drills ended while convicted killer Pemberton was on rest and recreation. On September 7, 2020, President Rodrigo Duterte granted absolute pardon to Pemberton as if his freezing of the VFA pull out was in June 2020 was not enough to signal craven puppetry and servitude to the US. In June 2017, the first official Philippine military confirmation of US military presence was made. US troops were on the ground “battling Islamic State-linked militants” in Marawi. Before this, both Philippine and US military officials only acknowledged “military assistance.” However, the Marawi Siege forced US officials to frame the assistance as part of the long-term “counterterrorism” project and a continuation of “providing support and assistance in the southern Philippines for many years.
“It is estimated that for the “Battle Of Marawi” (May, 2017) alone, the US delivered military equipment to the Duterte government amounting to $36 million. In December 2020, former US President Trump gifted Duterte a $29 million worth of defense equipment. Amidst the COVID-19 menace, defense secretaries of this unequal core-periphery alliance called the delivery an unexpected gift and a symbol of the “warm alliance” between the US and the Philippines. In March 2021, Philippine ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez stated that for the alliance to thrive, the US must equip the Philippines with “new aircraft and other hard assets.” This statement immediately followed an earlier revelation on Duterte’s plan to purchase 15 S-70i Black Hawk helicopters manufactured by PZL Mielec, a Polish subsidiary of the U.S. defense firm Lockheed Martin. This, as the report states, will allow the Philippine air force to retire its aging fleet of Bell UH-1 Huey helicopters. In April 2020, BAYAN and its allied organizations in the US exposed and opposed the notification received by the US Congress from the US State Department of potential sales of attack helicopters and missiles to the Philippines worth a combined $2 billion.
On July 30, 2021, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited the Philippines and commended Duterte for the latter’s promise to bolster the two nations’ 70-year treaty alliance by upholding the VFA. This is none other than the US staging a theatre of war against Chinese incursions in the Indo-Pacific region. This proves that the VFA is a key defense pact that allows for US forces and ships to operate in the Philippines, including conducting large scale combat exercises between US and Philippine forces to purportedly thwart Chinese dominance in the region. While Washington refuses to be transparent on specific US arms sales, Austin affirmation of the US commitment to support the Philippine military signals none other than the use of tax dollars to fund death squads and human rights violators from within Duterte’s government. Consolidating Counterinsurgency: US-RP military relations The alliance between an imperialist power like the US and a semi-colonial state like the Philippines is a partnership that uses “terrorism” as pretext to carry out endless wars of aggression against the Filipino people.
The hostilities experienced by the critics of the tyrannical Duterte regime— incarceration of dissenters, killings of activists and the fake drug war—are instances of state terrorism perpetuated to maintain US global hegemony. The US imperialist state and the Duterte puppet state are fully consolidated and united in increasing capacity building for a so-called military modernization program, which is none other than the implementation of US Counterinsurgency (US COIN). US COIN is a comprehensive campaign of violent suppression against forces regarded as threats to US hegemony. Since the US imperialist hijack of the 1896 Revolution, US COIN has been implemented for the ruthless destruction of all forms of anti-imperialist resistance. The alliance between the U.S. and the Philippines is the longest and the most crucial anchor for US hegemony in Southeast Asia. The region is central to the emerging US-China competition and the New Cold War that the US pursues to advance its national interests amidst deep economic crisis.
Cultivating the so-called US-RP alliance is one of the top priorities of US Pres. Joe Biden on account of his determination to thwart Chinese expansionism in the Asia-Pacific. However, the campaign for human rights and to stop the killings in the Philippines pushed by progressive US-based organizations exposed the appalling human rights record of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), which includes the extrajudicial killings of environmental and land rights activists. As a result, a pending bill in the US House of Representatives that halts all security aid to the Philippines was proposed last year by members of Biden’s Democratic Party. Yet genuine progressives in the West and national liberation activists worldwide know that US COIN is a bipartisan approach to ensure US economic, political and military dominance worldwide. Duterte’s National Task Force Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), created by Executive Order No 70 in December 2018 is an intervention made by the “security sector”, the AFP, a most reliable and loyal armed force to the US State Department. US-directed Counterinsurgency Program Against GPH-NDFP Peace Talks Two key interventions took place, which prove that the AFP is the most reliable conduit of US COIN.
First is a deliberate push from the AFP to cancel the Royal Norwegian Government-assisted peace talks between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). Second, Duterte scuttled the peace talks and instead put up the NTF-ELCAC with himself as Chair. In the budget deliberations in Congress, Duterte lackeys would fight tooth and nail for a NTF-ELCAC budget of at least Php16 billion for 2021 and 28.1 billing for 2022. For four years, we have been witness to the worst human rights violations, a transfer of wealth to the new Duterte loyalist elites, massive land-grabs, and full scale militarization of urban and rural communities.
This situation, however, is not new to us. Marcos’ martial law was a period of atrocious attacks on the people vis a vis a dramatic increase in military and economic aid from the US. The Filipino people’s resolve to defend national sovereignty and assert our democratic will against the US-Duterte regime is labelled a terrorist act. We have been paying a high price for our struggle—no less than our comrades freedoms and lives— as the US imperialist state use tax dollars for drones, missiles, guns, surveillance aircraft and other artillery that turns the Philippine landscape into killing fields. Thirty years after making a mark in global post-war history, our struggle against U.S. militarism and imperialism remains to be a life and death struggle for millions of Filipino peasants, workers, overseas Filipinos, indigenous peoples and national minorities. These marginalized sectors have been the targets of a militarist program of “national security.” Our vision to put an end to relentless assaults on our national sovereignty may only bear fruit within the context of peace building that carefully tackles the roots of poverty and armed conflict in the land.
BAYAN calls for the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and condemns special privileges and criminal immunity to U.S. personnel and so-called civilian personnel who commit atrocities against rural and urban communities. BAYAN maintains that the executive decision made by Presidents Aquino and Obama to reinforce U.S, military control through EDCA is a violation of our national sovereignty and the Philippine Constitution as well as a grave assault on our right to self-determination. BAYAN holds the US imperialist state and Duterte’s AFP for the violent dispossession that our Lumad and Moro brothers and sisters have suffered by turning Mindanao into a laboratory for counter-insurgency tactics. BAYAN firmly rejects all infrastructural aid that comes with US military largesse that has no other purpose other than the projection of U.S. military power and intervention. We call on our people to organize for the scrapping of the VFA, EDCA, MLSA and the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT). We call on our allied organizations to forge the strongest anti-imperialist alliance with progressive organizations worldwide. We call on all peace and justice loving citizens to support the Filipino people’s struggle for human rights and social and economic reforms to be lifted up on the peace table, a scenario that is only possible without the tyrannical Duterte regime that serves two plunderous masters, the U.S. and China. #