Marchers on the 116th year of the Philippine-American War called on President Aquino to take responsibility for the Mamasapano deaths, and to resign.
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA — Nationalists and anti-imperialists marched to commemorate the 116th year of the Philippine-American War on Feb. 4, with a call to make President Aquino, suspended Police chief Alan Purisima, and the US government accountable for the recent Mamasapano deaths.
The protesters denounced the Aquino government’s “attempts to smokescreen” its accountability in the Jan. 25 clash.
“This is additional ground to call for the president’s impeachment, resignation or ouster. It’s the latest in the long list of crimes and failures of the President,” said Teddy Casiño, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) spokesperson. Various groups have been calling for Aquino’s resignation or ouster over the unconstitutional Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) funds.
The protesters led by Bayan, held a short program at the foot of Mendiola bridge, then proceeded to march to the US embassy along Roxas boulevard. Some 20 police men from the Manila Police District blocked the road approaching the US embassy gate.
Most of the speeches were directed to the anti-riot police men, most of whom stood stoic as they faced the protesters.
“In essence and spirit, this protest includes you,”said Makabayan coalition president Satur Ocampo addressed the MPD men. He said that as the marchers commiserate with the Philippine National Police for losing men in Mamasapano, the police should also hold to task those responsible for the operation.
Stressing the suspected role of the US in the Mamasapano operation, Ocampo cited the presence of US servicemen of the Joint Special Operations Task Force (JSOTF) which is based in Camp Navarro, the headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga City.
“Historically, the Philippine government identifies with the interests of America, and does what America wants,” said Ocampo, noting the Philippine government’s obedience to the US War on Terror, declared by the Bush administration after the 9/11 attacks in 2001.
The SAF operation targeted international terror suspects Basit Usman and Malaysian Zulkifli bin Hir alias “Marwan” in the Moro rebel stronghold in Maguindanao. Marwan is on the top wanted list of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the two have a total bounty of $7 million.
Joms Salvador, Gabriela secretary general warned of more violations on civilians and state forces alike.
“This is not the only operation that US troops took part in,” said Salvador. “Because of the expansion of the Visiting Forces Agreement, and the Edca (Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement), there will be other places in the country, where there will be violations against sovereignty, against human rights, whether civilian or armed, like what happened to the SAF.”
US blood debt
Youth groups recalled the war crimes committed by the US in the country.
“The blood debt of the US which include the genocide of 1.5 million Filipinos in the Filipino-American war remain unpaid and their atrocities continue to spiral up. They’re even using Filipino troops as pawns in their interventionist terror war such as what happened the covert SAF operation Mamasapano,” said Charisse Bañez, national spokesperson of the League of Filipino Students.
Vencer Crisostomo, Anakbayan National Chair, said that Aquino “sacrificed his own troops in the name of the US war on terror.”
“This disastrous collaboration between Aquino and the US is a disrespect to all the victims of the Filipino genocide during Filipino-American War,” said Crisostomo.
“The Mamasapano encounter did not only cost lives, it also damaged the livelihood of the local people of Mamasapano. Aquino should be reminded that unlike in video games that he is fond of playing, lives are valued in the real world,” he said.
Amirah Ali Lidasan of Suara Bangsamoro pointed out the human rights violations against civilians during the operations.
“When Moro civilians are killed, they’d say, oh, it’s just normal, they live there. When your men get killed, you call them heroes. But just think, we also lost lives in a bloodbath which you both did not expect. And the fighting will just continue, because of the presence of the military, another encounter is bound to happen.
“The Aquino, Purisima and the US government troika must be made accountable for calling the shots in the bungled SAF operation,” said Bañez. adding. “but truth will not unfold unless the disgruntled members of the PNP and SAF and the Filipino people hound the regime with protests.”
The call for truth and accountability mount as some feared a whitewash in the investigation.
A “board of inquiry” (BOI) has been formed by the PNP, while a seven-member Special Investigative Cimmission (Sic) was convened by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to look into the January 25 clash in Tukanalipao village, Mamasapano town in Maguindanao province. Slain in the fighting were 44 men of the PNP Special Action Force, 18 MILF, and two Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, while at least two civilians were reported killed during the SAF operation.
“The PNP Board of Inquiry, composed of PNP Generals, is not expected to objectively investigate the killing of the 44 SAF personnel considering that they will investigate not just the involvement of US forces but also Pres. Aquino and PNP Chief Alan Purisima who are their superiors,” Bayan Muna partylist Rep. Neri Colmenares.
Among those to invited at the congressional investigation on Feb. 11 are Purisima and a representative of the US embassy. Colmenares had said that representatives of the US should be invited in the investigation, to shed light on their suspected role in the operation.
Kabataan partylist Rep. Terry Ridon said the USSOCOM Commander Joseph Votel and US President Barack Obama should also explain the extent of Washington’s involvement in Mamasapano operation.
Casiño said the BOI could be used to clear Aquino and Purisima of accountability in the incident. “President Aquino and Purisima are intent on absolving themselves, and the BOI could be used to absolve himself and his kabarkada.”
He added that the challenge for the House and Senate investigation is to invite the two to make them tell the truth.
International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS-Phils) Chair Elmer Labog said that some groups are already planning to file a complaint against the President before the International People’s Tribunal (IPT). Labog said that the IPT, “an international tribunal with unquestionable integrity,” is set to convene in Washington, D.C. this July.
“Pres. Aquino should be made answerable to these deaths and renewed violence not only on combatants but to innocent children as well,” said Labog.
Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago had said that President Aquino could be held accountable before the international criminal court (ICC) for the deaths of the elite police men.
“The President knowingly did not coordinate with the MILF, despite mechanisms such as the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) and international ceasefire monitoring. He willfully did not coordinate with the military under his command and even his own interior secretary Mar Roxas who heads the police force. Relieved SAF chief Police Director Getulio Napeñas became the unfortunate fall-guy and took all the blame,” Labog said.
“For us, this is the dire consequence of the US proxy war in Southeast Asia, particularly in Mindanao where some 320 US military personnel are still stationed as admitted by the US embassy in Manila. The US government provided a $6-million bounty for Zulkifli Abdhir aka Marwan and shared intelligence with Philippine counterparts on his location which paved the way for the planning and final execution of Oplan Wolverine until its tragic end,” said Labog.