“Years of the United States’ domination of our economy, influence in politics and culture, and military intervention, have proved that friendship isn’t the sane word to describe the US-PH relationship. Slavery is much more precise.” – League of Filipino Students
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – Various progressive groups trooped to Kalaw Ave. to march to the US Embassy in Manila this Friday, July 4 on the occasion of “Filipino-American Friendship Day.” Even as they marked the day with a gathering, they consider the so-called friendship as a sham.
“Years of the United States’ domination of our economy, influence in politics and culture, and military intervention, have proved that friendship isn’t the sane word to describe the US-PH relationship. Slavery is much more precise,” LFS national spokesperson Charlotte Velasco said.
“The friendship between the Philippines and the US has always been a highly unequal one — highly beneficial to US imperialists and most detrimental to the Filipino people,” said Roger Soluta, secretary-general of Kilusang Mayo Uno.
“Activists and patriots have always considered this so-called friendship as sham and unequal, favoring the stronger and more powerful USA,” Joms Salvador, secretary-general of women’s group Gabriela, said during the protest action.
The idea of marking July 4 as special — it used to be a legal holiday in the Philippines called “Independence Day” from 1946 to 1961, and now it is a so-called Fil-Am Friendship Day – is “a myth-making ritual” targeting the minds of Filipinos, according to the Congress of Teachers and Educators for Nationalism and Democracy-UP. In a statement, the teachers and educators pointed to the sheer lie of calling as friend a state who has committed grievous atrocities and economic plunder on our people.
They quoted Jose Maria Sison’s summary of ‘this horrible secret’: “The US started to unleash a war of aggression against the Filipino people on February 4, 1899. This has come to be known as the Filipino-American War. The US used superior military force and extreme barbarity of more than 126,000 troops to conquer the nation of 7,000,000 people. It ruthlessly carried out massacres, the torture of captives, the re-concentration of population, scorched earth tactics and food blockades. It killed more than 700,000 or 10 per cent of the Filipino people from 1899 to 1902, directly through its brutal operations and indirectly through consequent famines and epidemics. Likewise, it proceeded to kill 800,000 Filipinos up to 1916.”
In 1946, amid persistent efforts to achieve independence, Filipinos were “granted” what amounted to a mere “nominal” independence. Activists said one “puppet government” after another have from then on resided in Malacañang and crafted and implemented laws frustrating the peoples’ quest for genuine independence.
Today, Contend-UP lamented that most Filipinos are being kept ignorant about these “dark secrets of American imperialism.”
As more topics about the history of US-Philippine relations were removed or glossed over in basic education, teachers mourned how the “people were blinded from knowing about the deception the US used against Aguinado and Filipino revolutionaries, the imposition of the anti-flag law, the branding of Filipino resistance fighters as brigands and outlaws, the intervention of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in our local politics and elections, the unequal treaties and agreements they imposed (Bell Trade Act, Laurel-Langley Agreement, Parity Amendment, among others) that plundered our people of their patrimony and natural resources, the social havoc wrought by their military bases in conjunction to the Mutual Defense Treaty, and the continuing presence of US troops in our sovereign soil through the Mutual Logistic Support Agreement, Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement, the Visiting Forces Agreement, regular Balikatan Exercises, and the subservience of our military to American aid and technology and anti-insurgency tactics.”
Under the Aquino administration, such puppetry continues, and rules at its worst, according to the July 4 protesters.
“An Amboy [American boy] that he is, Aquino, like his predecessors, has abandoned the interest of the Filipino people and offered our sovereignty, our women and children to the US on a silver platter. Regardless of the costs to women and children, as our experience during the time of the US bases taught us, Aquino is determined to take his place as his US master’s favored,” Salvador of Gabriela said.
The protesters gathered at Plaza Salamanca before marching to the US Embassy in Manila, but columns of policemen held them back at Kalaw Ave., where they were forced to stop and where they eventually held their program. They burned the US flag while chanting “US troops out now.” And also, “Junk EDCA.” Youth groups such as the Kabataan Partylist, Anakbayan and League of Filipino Students also conducted a parallel US flag burning activity in protests at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP).
Similar protest activities were also held in the cities of Iloilo, Baguio, Naga, and Davao, the Kabataan Partylist said in a statement.
“Staging a protest rally during the Filipino-American Friendship Day may seem ironic for some, yet the real irony lies in the EDCA which allows the US and its allied countries to again bastardize our sovereignty by exploiting Philippine bases,” said Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon.
Signed last April, the EDCA seeks to expand US military activity in the Philippines through increased rotational presence and the use of extant, as well as new or upgraded and expanded Philippine military bases.
According to the three petitions filed in the Supreme Court questioning the constitutionality of the agreement, the EDCA violates the 1987 Philippine Constitution with regard to national sovereignty, territorial integrity, and national interest; the preferential use of Filipino labor and domestic materials; tax exemption; freedom from nuclear weapons; role of the judiciary in settling disputes; autonomy of local government units; and treaties with other countries, specifically military treaties.
Countering lies of EDCA
The July 4 protesters cited the dangers the EDCA has brought on Filipinos. Countering the selling points frequently cited by the Aquino administration to promote EDCA – for example the idea that the country would gain automatic support from the US in times of conflict, say, with China over territorial disputes — Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon said that it is so untrue.
“What Aquino and Defense Sec. Voltaire Gazmin must realize is that the access agreement poses more danger – rather than relief – to our country and our sovereignty in the long run,” the youth solon said. He recalled the many times in Philippine history when the nation was dragged into wars because of the US military foothold here.
“Aquino is jeopardizing the country’s safety and security for an access agreement that has no solid foundation. It is the task of every patriotic Filipino to vehemently oppose this new move,” Ridon said.
The US is simply taking advantage of Philippine territorial dispute with China to expand its military presence in the Philippines as part of its “Pivot to Asia” program, KMU said in another statement. Soluta, KMU secretary general, explained that in using the China issue, the US is presenting its re-occupation of the Philippines like it is the only alternative to China’s aggressive statements and actions in relation to Philippine territory.
“We oppose the EDCA and US re-occupation of the Philippines in the same way that we oppose China’s aggressive statements and actions in relation to Philippine territory. We want national freedom for the Philippines, not to become a protectorate of the US,” Soluta declared.
At a forum organized by Gabriela also on July 4, about “EDCA: The unequal US-RP Friendship and its impact on Women and Children,” lawyer Evalyn Ursua said that after she read the content of the signed EDCA, she thought: ‘The promised modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines will never happen with EDCA.’
Ursua had represented “Nicole” of the infamous Subic rape case, where the accused rapist Lance Corporal Daniel Smith was taken at night by US personnel, with the assistance of the Philippine Justice Department, from the Makati City jail to the US Embassy.
UP Prof. Roland Simbulan, an expert on geopolitics, said in several interviews that the US military in fact are the ones controlling and limiting the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. As part of the US military aid and loan package, Simbulan said, the Philippine government often receives junked, decommissioned, obsolete and often overpriced military hardware from the US. He also said the US does not want Philippine forces to develop its external defense capability, as that would rid the US of its one excuse for being here.
Yet, their presence is doing the country so much harm. According to Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Emmi de Jesus, “We cannot emphasize enough the social costs of this executive agreement, including the wanton prostitution and rape of women and children that would inevitably result from the presence of US troops amid such poverty and joblessness in our country.”
De Jesus, along with Gabriela Women’s Party colleague Luzviminda Ilagan, is among those who filed a petition at the Supreme Court to declare the EDCA as unconstitutional.
“We have a great battle to wage against all institutions – from the families to our schools – that continue to perpetuate the myth of benevolent assimilation through the Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement and Transpacific Partnership (TPP),” said Prof. Gerry M. Lanuza, chairman of Contend-UP.
Mindful of US imperialist’s mythmaking abilities, Contend is asking the Filipino people to recognize that “the Americans had succeeded through massive public colonial education to distort our history, to produce un-Filipino Filipinos who love the Americans more than our motherland, and to indoctrinate citizens who worship the supposedly superior American way of life.” Contend challenged the Filipino people to expunge the miseducation that the US has done.
Calls for Aquino’s Ouster
The protesters slammed the propensity of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III to enter into agreements like the “grossly lopsided EDCA,” seeking to further open up the economy to freer entry of what protesters describe as plunderous companies engaged in mining, logging, energy and agri-business projects, and export-oriented, low-wage ‘industries’ such as those in economic zones and BPOs. They urged the public to join the growing calls for Aquino’s ouster, whether by impeachment or by resignation.
The League of Filipino students (LFS) tagged Aquino as the “number one puppet” of the U.S. They claim his “corruption as well as treason in having surrendered Philippine sovereignty to the US government under EDCA comprise salient bases to call for his ouster.
Even President Aquino’s “arrogance” over superstar Nora Aunor’s exclusion from this year’s batch of National Artist Awardees did not escape the attention of progressive groups.
“If I were Nora Aunor, I would not want the approval of a traitor like BS Aquino who have sold out our sovereignty and tampered with public funds through the DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program). On both issues of snubbing La Aunor and the traitorous act of selling our sovereignty to his foreign masters, Aquino committed grave abuse of power,” said Benjie Valbuena of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers. The teacher-leader warned the public that Aquino’s behaviour is revealing of his upbringing (a haciendero and an Amboy) and his despise of the common people, nothwitstanding Aquino’s campaign line that the people are his Boss.
There are many ways of ousting a proven corrupt and mendicant president, the July 4 protesters said. “Impeachment is not the people’s only option to hold the president accountable,” Rep. Ridon of Kabataan Partylist said. He added that of all people, “Aquino should know and recognize the united power of the people.”