Protesters said President Duterte has turned back on his tough stance against the US.
By RED CARAO
MANILA – Progressive groups took to the streets here today, July 4, to decry Filipino-American Friendship Day, seeing only a “lopsided” power relationship between the two countries.
The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) lambasted what it called US military intervention, under the guise of giving assistance to government troops engaged in armed fighting with the Dawlah Islamiyah in Marawi City. The clashes have dragged on for the past seven weeks.
Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. cited how the Philippines is now among the “priority areas” of the US Special Operations Command (Ussocom), which is focused against “violent extremist organizations” (VEO) such as the Daesh, or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Reyes said President Duterte’s acquiescence to the presence of US military troops in the Marawi conflict is “in direct contravention” to his strong statements for independent foreign policy earlier in his term. Duterte’s “turnaround” also shows his vulnerability to possible US intervention to bring down his administration if he goes against US interests.
“Gone is the tough-talking, anti-US leader of a Third World country. In his place is an insecure President, wary of a US-backed coup against his regime,” the group said in a statement.
Bayan led the protest that marched towards the US Embassy, but it was cornered by the Philippine National Police at Mabini Street, less than two kilometers away from the embassy.
The fourth of July was formerly celebrated as Philippine Independence Day after the US declared its former colony’s independence in 1946, on the same day as its own Independence Day. In 1962, President Diosdado Macapagal changed Philippine Independence Day to June 12, and declared July 4 as “Fil-Am Friendship Day.”
Flags waving and fists raised, the protesters collectively called for the end to US intervention in the Philippines, denouncing the “friendship” between the two nations as “one-sided and exploitative.”
“We cannot be friends with the government of the US, because for a long time they have subjected us to war, colonization, and the violation of our sovereignty,” Reyes said.
More than its military presence in the country, the protesters called against US influence in local politics, culture, and economy.
In front of a wall of police shields and with the whole street as their audience, the progressive groups showcased their calls for independent foreign policy, national industrialization, and genuine agrarian reform.
Just a few weeks after he swore his oath as president, Duterte threatened that the Philippines would be cutting connections with America, including the abolition of agreements, such as the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca).
“These one-sided agreements only benefit the US and caused nothing but harm to our people,” said Gabriela Women’s Partylist (GWP) Representative Arlene Brosas.
“Despite his anti-US rhetoric in the past, he was unable to translate it into actual state policy, and instead drifted closer to US imperialist embrace by implementing Oplan Kapayapaan, approving US military forces’ use of Philippine bases through EDCA, and declaring Martial law in Mindanao,” College Editors Guild of the Philippines said in a statement.
A year later, Edca and the Visiting Forces Agreement remain in effect. The protesters challenged Duterte to stand by his word, and to keep his promise of Philippine sovereignty.
“Duterte must not forget that his best chance against any US-backed coup is to side with the people and fight for their patriotic and democratic interests,” BAYAN said.