Protests Greet US Soldiers in Mindanao

Some 3,000 members of Muslim and women's groups on Tuesday, January 17, gave a rowdy reception for US soldiers participating in a military training exercise with Filipinos counterparts on Mindanao Island.

Protests Greet US Soldiers in Mindanao

It is appalling that the Arroyo government has allowed the US troops to enter the Philippine soil even at the height of the Subic rape case," Luz Ilagan, the chairperson of the Gabriela Women's Party, told IslamOnline.net on Tuesday, January 17, 2006.

A court in Olongapo city, near the former US naval port of Subic Bay north of Manila, has issued arrest warrants for four US Marines on charges of raping a 22-year-old Filipina during a large-scale joint military exercises with their Filipino counterparts late last year.

The United States has spurned a Manila request to hand over the four Marines to face criminal charges.

"The US government has decided that it will retain custody of the four US Marines accused of the crime of rape," the US embassy said Tuesday.

The case has drawn public attention in this former American colony and triggered anti-US protests both in Olongapo and in Manila.

Some legislators have also demanded that the government abrogate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), a treaty that spells out the legal framework for US soldiers in joint training exercises here.

Withdrawal

Luz opened salvos at the joint military training exercise with the American troops.

"To say that the Balikatan are for anti-terrorism is a total deception," she stressed.

"The US eyes the Philippines, especially Mindanao, for its rich natural resources and as a strategic military base in Asia and the Pacific."

She vowed continued protests against the US troops.

"We intend to mobilize the greatest number of our ranks to register our defiance against the entry of US troops. And we will continue to take to the streets until the government of George Bush leaves us alone."

Around 100 American and Filipino soldiers commenced their annual "Balikatan" military exercise.

Some 3,000 United States military personnel are expected to arrive this month for the training, a big contingent of which is going to the Mindanao island of Sulu next month.

The Mindanao People's Peace Movement (MPPM), a tri-people, grassroots coalition of human rights and peace groups, NGOs, churches, the academe and other institutions committed to lasting peace in Mindanao, called for the pullout of all military troops from Sulu after a week-long fact-finding mission on the island.

"Their (US troops) presence is a provocative act considering the commemoration of the centennial of the Bud Dajo (March 6, 1906) in which more than 1,000 men, women and children of Sulu died in the hands of American soldiers," the group said in a statement received by IOL on Monday, January 16, 2006.

Vulnerable

"Deploying US troops sends the wrong signals for their presence brings out old wounds," Lidasan said.

The Suara Bangsamoro (United Voice of Bangsamoro), a Muslim group, also demanded the withdrawal of American troops from Mindanao, the birthplace of Islam in the Philippines.

"[We demand] the pull-out of US troops in Mindanao as we've strongly demanded the pull-out of Armed Forces of the Philippines troops in our community and a stop to their military operations which has only resulted to numerous disregard of the rights of the Moro [Muslim] people," Amirah Ali Lidasan, the group's secretary general, told IOL.

She said that the Filipino Muslim communities in Mindanao "will be very vulnerable to military operations of US and AFP troops" as they have suffered from harassment and similar human rights violations like being tagged as sympathizers and coddlers of terrorists.

Another is the ever-continuing antiterrorism campaign that has affected innocent Filipino Muslims.

"Our communities have long been raided, zoned and our fellow Muslims indiscriminately arrested in the bid to present terrorists," she said.

Wary

Lidasan asserted that the people of Sulu remain wary of the presence of US troops despite promises that they will confine their activities to medical missions, distributing sewing machines and constructing infrastructures in the community.

In a debate about Balikatan aired over a local radio station, the representative of US troops in Sulu said that there are 250 US troops deployed in Sulu and they will remain in Sulu "as long as there are work to do".

"Both the undetermined range of their stay and the work that they will do are causing apprehensions to the people," Lidasan cautioned.

"The 250 figure are only those who will be paraded to the people, there are suspicions that others will be part of the combat operations of the AFP," she added.

Sulu activist Cocoy Tulawie said that stronger US military presence on the island will only worsen the already volatile situation.

"The US forces will never win the hearts of the people by doing infrastructure and other civic activities because we know about their vested economic and political interests in Sulu and Mindanao," he told IOL.

"The US has a clear reputation for being anti-Muslim and for warring against Muslim nations, so their mere presence might provoke war and permeate a sense of fear and insecurity on the majority of the people who have a clear mistrust against the US government."

Sulu has been the stage of two war offensives by the AFP in February and November of last year, which have caused massive displacement and grave casualties.

Attorney Nasser Marohomsalic, the head convener of the Union of Muslims for Morality and Truth (UMMAT), agreed.

He said that various cases have been brought before the Philippine Commission on Human Rights, independent human rights groups, the Congress, and the Senate implicating some US personnel in crimes against civilians.

"The Isnijal vs. Lane case never progressed for this US soldier was immediately spirited out of the country. This case is a stark reminder to all Muslim people that the US government will always arrogantly assert that it is above Philippine laws just as it has abominably refused to be bound to the rules of the International Court of Justice," Marohomsalic told IOL on Tuesday.

Lidasan questioned the government's commitment to realizing peace in Mindanao.

"Deploying US troops sends the wrong signals for their presence brings out old wounds and injustice to the victims of US aggression in the past, the previous Balikatan exercises and the horrors that their fellow Muslims in Iraq have faced at the hands of US soldiers.

 

Source: Ýslamonline.net

Last Mod: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
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