By Nora O. Gamolo
In a politically daring, but creative manoeuvre, youth groups threw paint at the cemented fence of the United States Embassy a day before the start of joint exercises between Filipino and American troops.
Called Balikatan, the exercises are now being done simultaneously in several parts of the country.
Decrying the presence of all American troops in the Philippines, the Anakbayan, the comprehensive patriotic alliance of several Filipino youth organizations, said in the statement, “These war games are among the arrangements between the U.S and PH governments which allow American soldiers to supposedly ‘visit’ our country. But in reality, these allow U.S troops to base themselves in the Philippines without the actual and physical military bases which we evicted back in 1991 and which are expressly forbidden under our Constitution.”
It added, “We oppose the ‘basing without bases’ primarily because it violates the sovereignty and independence of our nation. In the past, the American military bases and personnel have interfered in our nation’s affairs. They bloodily suppressed pro-independence uprisings during the time we were a colony of the U.S, and during the Commonwealth. Even after the granting of our so-called independence, American troops again intervened by directing the mass murder of Filipino guerrillas of the HUKBALAHAP (Hukbong Bayan Laban sa Hapon, or Anti-Japanese People’s Army).”
Anti-Balikatan groups feel that both China and the US are ultimately interested in exploiting the Philippines for their own political and economic ends.
"It is foolish for us to valiantly stand against China on one hand while pussy-footing US intrusions into Philippine sovereignty. Both must stop, and we must defend ourselves against both," said young lawyer Terry Ridon, spokesperson and general counsel of Kabataan Partylist, which has one representative in Congress.
"Other foreign troops cannot engage in military exercises without an enabling treaty," Ridon asserted.
The 1987 Constitution requires the ratification of a treaty to even allow for 'mere entry' of foreign troops. "US and other foreign troops cannot hide behind the cloak of disaster management to cure the unconstitutionality of this year's Balikatan exercises," Ridon explained.
Even if among the alleged thrusts of this year's Balikatan are disaster management and community development, such activities are well within the confines of military operations with clear military objectives, he claimed.
Anti-Balikatan groups have said that disaster management and community development measures are conducted simultaneously with community intelligence gathering, surveillance operations, geo-mapping of terrain and topography, all of which serve clear combat objectives of the US Joint Special Operations Task Force.
"As such, US troops, in the guise of exercises and community activities, are in fact engaging in direct combat operations in the country, which completely tramples upon Philippine sovereignty," Ridon explained.
The presence of U.S troops serves as a deterrent to any patriotic and pro-people decisions the host country’s government might undertake, especially if it runs counter to the interests of the American government, added Anakbayan.
Declassified files of the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency have revealed U.S military action against nationalist governments in Cuba (Bay of Pigs Invasion), Chile (1971 Coup), Nicaragua (Contras of 1980s), and Venezuela (failed 2001 Coup).
US military forces have been accused of bringing in nuclear material into the Philippines, an action expressly prohibited in the Philippine Constitution.
After the 1991 Mt. Pinatubo eruption, evacuees were housed in the just-abandoned U.S bases. Hundreds became sick with radiation poisoning and died, to say nothing of hundreds of evacuees’ children who have suffered birth defects. As of present, we do not have the power to inspect American soldiers to ensure that it does not happen again.
U.S soldiers have been known to sexually abuse Filipinas, as well as encourage prostitution which also exploits them. In other countries, they are also notorious for committing massacres, such as the July 2007 massacre of a dozen Iraqis, including two journalists, by a U.S military helicopter crew. Recent events, such as the ‘Subic Rape Case’, have shown that our government has been rendered helpless in bringing erring American soldiers to justice.
Now considered as the most recent threat to the Filipino people, ‘killer drones’, or unmanned aerial vehicles of the US military are now reportedly seen in certain areas.
While touted as ‘smart weapons’, activists lament that they either missed their targets or deliberately targeted civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan.