By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
Various groups have denounced the US-led military attacks against Libya after the United Nations Security Council passed resolution 1973 authorizing the attacks. Government employees, students and workers have launched protests, saying that the US and its allies should back out of the war in Libya.
Government employees led by the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage) held a protest in front of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) offices in Pasay City calling for the immediate repatriation of all overseas Filipino workers in Libya.The group also condemned the Barack Obama government’s escalation of military intervention in the war-torn North African country.
Courage President Ferdinand Gaite said the United Nations Security Council’s decision to launch air strikes and impose a no-fly zone in Libya was tantamount to declaring war.
“It will ultimately result in widespread damage to the lives and property of the Libyan people. We believe that the US/UN military intervention currently masquerading as a humanitarian mission is actually a war of occupation waged to gain control over the vast oil reserves of Libya,” he said during the picket.
The UN Security Council and United States Government claimed that their interference was aimed at “protecting civilians.” French, American and British forces have launched the biggest intervention in the Arab world since the 2003 when the US invaded Iraq. According to reports, Allied forces fired more than 120 Tomahawk cruise missiles and conducted bombing raids on 22 targets.
In a news report, a Libyan government health official said 64 people had been killed in the bombardment overnight. A spokesman for the Libyan opposition movement told the Al Jazeera that more than 8,000 rebels had been killed since the revolt began in February.
Gaite said the Libyan people’s sovereign right to struggle for freedom and democracy should be respected and that there should be no interference from foreign forces.
“Let the Libyan people decide their fate,” he said.
The Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) also issued a statement condemning the interference of the US and its allied forces in the escalating conflict in Libya.
“Under the guise of so-called “international humanitarian intervention,” the aggression is meant to advance the US, UK and France’s imperialist geo-political and economic interests in the largest oil economy in the African continent – even if it means making Libya another slaughter field like Iraq,” said KMU chairman Elmer Labog.
Labog said that Libya is among the world’s largest oil economies. He said that as in the case of the US’ interference in Iraq, the main objective of the US-led NATO military intervention in Libya is to take full control over the country’s oil reserves.
“The attack in Libya is also strategic in the military and political sense, with the intent of firming up US hegemony in North Africa and eventually Central Africa. The US-led military operation is taking advantage of the Gaddafi regime’s political crisis to justify its even more brutal warfare to advance US economic interests,” he said.
Labog also said the public would do well to remember what the US did in Iraq in 2003. “?”The US aggression in oil-rich Iraq was launched under the pretext of taking hold of alleged weapons of mass destruction. The US war in Iraq has killed around 1 million people, majority of whom are civilians, and all because of oil,” he said.
Obama’s Concern a Charade
Students have also expressed concern for the US military attack in Libya. Students led by the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) tied black ribbons along Taft Avenue in Manila and burned the US flag in different campuses in condemnation of the military campaign.
Cleve Arguelles, vice-chairman of the University of the Philippines Manila student council said they are calling on all people, groups, and nations working for just peace and development to pressure the American, German, French, Italian, and British governments to immediately put a stop to its hostile acts.
Rainier Sindayen, UP Diliman student council chairman said all of the US’ declarations that it was concerned for the Libyan people was a charade.
“The US is a self-proclaimed global policeman. It’s concern is all a charade,” he said.
The students also lashed out against the Aquino government’s passive support to the US, “even as it did nothing to help Filipinos our kababayans caught in crisis situations. President Aquino’s hands are also smeared with the blood of the Libyan people because he chooses to be silent on the US’ military interference in the country,” said Vanessa Faye Bolibol, NUSP secretary-general.
DFA’s Poor Evacuation Efforts
In the meantime, even as the bombs fall on Libya, Filipinos who work there are in even greater danger. Courage’s Gaite said the lives of so many OFWs are in direct danger because the DFA abandoned them after it ceased its evacuation efforts. He scored the DFA’s inefficient and insufficient response to the crisis
According to the DFA, there are about 26,000 Filipinos in Libya but the Philippine National Red Cross estimates the number to be about 32,000. According to the records of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), only a total of 9,039 Filipinos had returned from Libya as of March 18. There has been no new arrival of Filipinos who fled Libya in the last three days. OWWA head Carmelita Dimzon, however, has announced that they are expecting another 1,000 to 2,000 Filipino migrant workers to return to the country from Libya before the weekend.
Gaite said there have been numerous reports that even before the bombing attacks many OFWs in Libya were already raising the alarm that a civil war might break out in the country and they wanted to to be evacuated as soon as possible, but there was no clear evacuation plan by the DFA.
“As public servants, we call on the DFA to perform its mandate to protect the rights and promote the welfare of all Filipinos overseas. The DFA should ensure that not one Filipino is left behind in Libya, especially during these times of turmoil,” he said.
Gaite also criticized the government’s aggressive promotion of its labor export policy instead of providing Filipinos with stable jobs. He said that despite the myriad difficulties, thousands still leave the country to take their chances abroad because of poor working conditions, low wages and sorry employment opportunities in the Philippines.
“As the prices of basic commodities and services continue to skyrocket, wages and benefits are pegged at near-starvation levels while billions of pesos are lost to graft and corruption. We challenge the Aquino administration to provide Filipino workers with stable employment, substantial wages and better working conditions, instead of encouraging them to work abroad,” Gaite said.