Last week another contingent of the expected 660 U.S. soldiers arrived in the Philippines. Their arrival was greeted by an explosion that killed five Filipino civilians.
Being called “the biggest expansion of Washington’s war” since the attacks on Afghanistan, this deployment is supposed to aid the Philippine government in capturing the Abu Sayyaf Group, a splinter terrorist group known for kidnappings and decapitations.
According to reports, Abu Sayyaf received much of its “terror training” during the U.S.-backed war in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union.
Working-class and people’s movements in the Philippines have declared this military maneuver illegal and against the constitution. They also charged the Arroyo government with “seeking U.S. help to solve a domestic problem.”
UP Rage Against US Aggression (UP RAGE), a University of the Philippines coalition of students, faculty and community activists, charged that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s government deliberately undermined the independence of the Philippines by authorizing U.S. military presence.
They accused her of trying to frame all of her political opponents, especially those who oppose U.S. military intervention, as supporters of terrorists.
In a February statement UP RAGE said that “the choice … is not between U.S. military support and the Abu Sayyaf. One only needs to look at the past to realize that both have wreaked havoc on the people’s lives and livelihood.”
A recent New York Times opinion piece by Nicholas D. Kristof pointed to evidence of atrocities conducted by the Philippine army during internal operations against suspected opponents of the government.
Kristof argues that the Unitd States ought to have “misgivings” about “siding with murderers and torturers in a way that dishonors our larger purposes.”
What is clear, in the view of many Filipino activists, is that the convergence of U.S. military forces, the Philippine Army and terrorist factions will likely result in enormous bloodshed, but the violence will target primarily civilian populations, create a refugee crisis, and destabilize the government. None of this, they say, will lead to victory against terrorism.
Further, the Moro National Liberation Front, which has successfully won internationally recognized autonomy status for Muslims in the Moro region of the Southern Philippines, has refused to accept incursions against its autonomy by U.S.- or Philippine-led military actions. This autonomy was ultimately granted after years of violent attacks by the Marcos dictatorship against the Moro people.
Arroyo, who ascended to the presidency in 2000 after mass demonstrations and protests against corruption and influence-peddling forced President Jose “Erap” Estrada resignation, has since promised closer ties to the U.S.
For her opponents, this kind of relationship with the U.S. has meant military occupation, loss of national sovereignty, economic subordination to U.S. corporate interests, and violent conflict.
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org