EDCA: A threat to Filipino people's liberty and security

“My brother is not a pig!” This famous line of multi-awarded actor Ms. Nora Aunor in the 1976 movie, Minsa’y Isang Gamu-gamu (Once a Moth) is again a relevant line today as the United States government repositions and beefs up its military presence in the Philippines.

Aunor’s character, Cora dela Cruz, a nurse who wanted to work in America, cried out at the American soldiers who shot her brother to death. The scenes that showed the killing of fisherfolk at the periphery of the US bases by American soldiers again come to life with the signing of the Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). The images of rape, arbitrary killing/shooting, and the toxic wastes come back to the collective memory of a people who, in the 1990s, rejected the continued presence of the US military bases. The people remember how easily the US military got away with their crimes, and with impunity. 

The Philippine and U.S. governments, in time for Barack Obama’s Philippine visit, signed the EDCA in April. The agreement essentially provides unlimited and free basing rights for US troops in Philippine military camps and elsewhere deemed necessary. 

EDCA is the government’s ultimate act of betrayal of the people’s trust and surrender of the nation’s sovereignty and independence. It puts the Philippines in the orbit of imperialist wars. 

Internally, it is bound to escalate and prolong conflict in the country and the resultant human rights violations.

They never truly left us.

The Philippine senate, due to massive protests of freedom loving Filipinos, junked the 1947 RP-US Military Bases Agreement in 1991 forcing the US soldiers to pack up and leave.

In 1999, the Philippine government acceded to US pressure and approved the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), giving the word “visiting” a different meaning. The supposedly “just visiting” US soldiers are actually based permanently in the country and are involved, directly or indirectly, in actual combat operations under the guise of Balikatan Exercises. 

Though they never really left the Philippines through the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), the increased and more permanent physical basing of US troops are back through the EDCA; and, so is the outrage of the Filipino people. For a reason, a whole lot of reasons. 

Because even without the EDCA, human rights have already been committed involving US troops, albeit concealed and most often denied.

Kawagib Moro Human Rights Organization documented human rights violations perpetrated by US soldiers embedded in combat operations in Mindanao in the guise of going after the members of the Abu Sayyaf group. 

July 25, 2002, at around midnight, three soldiers forced themselves into the house of Buyong-buyong Isnijal, of Yakan tribe in Brgy. Camas, Tuburan, Basilan. According to Buyong-buyong’s wife, Juraida Hasalal Isnijal, two of the soldiers were Filipinos and one was a stocky-built African-American who was more than six feet tall. The American soldier, identified as Sgt. Reggie Lane shouted in English, “Sit down! Sit down!” This foreign soldier shot Buyong-buyong in the leg. The US military denied the shooting. 

In 2004, US soldiers shot and wounded Arsid Baharun while they were conducting marksmanship practice 
in Zamboanga City.

Sardiya Abu Calderon, 54, died of a heart attack when a helicopter with two American soldiers landed on 
their farm during the clearing operation conducted by the US troops and Filipino soldiers. The incident also 
happened in 2004. 

In November 2005, four visiting American soldiers raped “Nicole” inside the former Subic US military base. 

“Nicole” charged Daniel Smith with rape. The case, which ran for almost four years, ended with Smith 
leaving the country under the authority of US military officials in 2009.

The rape of “Nicole” consequently became an issue of who takes custody of Smith, given the existence of the

Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). Expectedly, the US prevailed. Even as the rape case was tried by a Philippine court, Smith and his three co-accused were placed under the custody of the US embassy in Manila. Smith was handed a life sentence and ordered detained at the Makati City Jail. US pressure on the Philippine government resulted in Smith’s return to the US embassy after spending a few days at a Philippine jail. His three other co- accused who were acquitted were immediately brought to Okinawa. 

Smith appealed his case. The Court of Appeals junked the lower court’s decision, acquitting Smith of the rape. 

In September 2006, bomb shrapnel hit the back of a 50-year old woman Bizma Juhan in Indanan, Sulu.

On February 4, 2008, in Barangay Ipil, Maimbung, Sulu, Rawina Wahid and her family woke up to a series of gunshots near their house. When the shots stopped, they abandoned their house and boarded a banca, hoping they could find refuge in the mangroves. But the soldiers followed and started firing at them despite their cries of, “sibilyan kami” (We’re civilians). Rawina heard someone shout in English, “Hold your fire.” Seven civilians, including two children and two teenagers, were killed during the incident. Wahid, was also shot. She, with her husband’s body, was brought to a navy boat. There she saw two US Navy soldiers before she was blindfolded and later brought to a military camp. The Philippine Army later announced the incident as a military raid against Abu Sayyaf members and denied having US soldiers in the operation. 

In 2010, Gregan Cardeño was hired by a private military contractor to be an interpreter for US soldiers stationed in a military facility in Marawi City. He was well versed in Bahasa Indonesia, Tausug and Cebuano. His job started January 30, 2010. On February 2, at 2pm, Carivel, Gregan’s sister received a call through Cardeno’s phone. SPO3 Ali Goubon Rangiris of Marawi Police Station was on the line informing her that Cardeno was found dead in the barracks of the Philippine Army’s 103rd Infantry Brigade at Camp Ranao, Brgy. Datu Saber, Marawi City.

A day before his death, Gregan called his sister and wife and told them of his difficult situation. He said he was doing a job different from what he applied for. More than a month after Cardeno’s death, Capt. Javier Ignacio of the Philippine Army, a friend of Cardeno who recruited him for the job, was gunned down. Ignacio helped Cardeno’s family shed light on Gregan’s mysterious death.

In June 2012, NDFP peace consultant Alan Jazmines wrote government agencies and human rights organizations on “intelligence operations of the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) within the sovereign territory of the Philippines were being undertaken underhandedly and without the Filipino people’s full knowledge. The absence of a formal treaty allowing such operations makes such spy operations and renditions illegal even from the point of view of the laws of the reactionary Philippine government.” 
Jazmines added, “Three of the prisoners detained at the Custodial Center were Indonesian nationals who were arrested in Malaysia and Indonesia, and who were apparently brought to the prison facility in the country allegedly at the behest of US government.” The Indonesians were said to assume “false Filipino identities to ‘legalize’ their detention” at the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame.

The US troops never left the Philippines. They are able to deny their transgressions legally through the various treaties that favour them. With the signing of EDCA, atrocities of US troops in the country are bound to worsen, at the same time drag the Philippines in US interventionist wars the world over. 

The permanent and increased basing of US troops in the Philippines is bound to embolden the Aquino government in implementing Oplan Bayanihan, a counterinsurgency program patterned after and financed by the US. The Aquino administration will inevitably cling to US support as it becomes more and more isolated from the Filipino people because of the many issues lodged against the president and the whole bureaucracy. 

Since the US-Aquino regime’s resorting to EDCA has put the people’s lives and liberties at stake, it is our duty to resist it. We have done it before by pressuring the Philippine Senate to junk the RP-US Military Bases Agreement. We can do it again, and more. This time we will ensure that the US troops will go, along with the American puppets in the Philippine government. ###
 

You may also want to visit:

Desaparecidos

Selda 

free all political prisoners