Karapatan to Duterte: Remove US troops from PH now, scrap EDCA, VFA

In a protest action at the US embassy today, Karapatan called on President Rodrigo Duterte to stop the joint Balikatan exercises between the US and Filipino military and remove all US troops in the Philippines.

"We call on Pres. Rodrigo Duterte to walk the talk and decisively terminate one-sided military agreements with the United States government, such as the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). If this administration is serious in asserting Philippine sovereignty against the US, it should start by booting out US troops and doing away with treaties and deals that trample on the nation’s sovereignty,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said. 

“It is thus no wonder that alleged Abu Sayyaf operations in areas which are considered ‘agreed locations’ for construction of US facilities in the country have started coming up. Such ludicrous stories whipped up by the US government, in cahoots with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, is probably meant to justify the EDCA,” Palabay added.

With EDCA’s implementation, construction of facilities at the Basa Air Base in Pampanga, Bautista Airbase in Palawan, one in Cagayan de Oro, Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, and the Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base in Cebu are underway. The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of EDCA on January 12, 2016, despite constitutional questions raised against the agreement.

“Such agreements allow US troops in the country without being subjected to PH laws, allowing them to commit rights abuses with impunity. Such a brazen act of disregard against our sovereignty has caused outrage from the Filipino people, with no less than the government as a willing accomplice to the blatant violation of our own laws and our own people,” she added.

Palabay said the joint military exercises, made legit by the US-RP VFA, and the EDCA complement US-driven counter-insurgency programs in the Philippines, through which communities and progressive organizations have been targeted. From 2001 to 2016, the US government has provided the PH military over $749.65 million purportedly for “peace and security,” including counter-terrorism assistance. 

“The recent proposed bill by US Senators Marco Rubio and Ben Cardin on restrictions on foreign assistance to the Philippine National Police due to its human rights record vis a vis the war on drugs conveniently disregards the longstanding role of the US government in fostering the climate of impunity in the Philippines by funding the PH government’s war against the people, which continues to result to extrajudicial killings and other rights abuses. US funds for so-called human rights and civil society organizations in the Philippines are meant for NGOs conducting ‘security sector reform’ in line with US counter-insurgency projects supporting the US agenda in the country,” Palabay said.

US Pres. Donald Trump is set to continue his government’s pivot to Asia, by promoting his warmongering in the region and maintaining US troops in strategic locations. We should resist all forms of US intervention, as we uphold people’s rights and national sovereignty,” Palabay concluded.