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Volume 2, Number 7              March 24 - 30,  2002                   Quezon City, Philippines

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Rejoinder to Pro-Balikatan Arguments


By Capt. Dan Vizmanos, PN (ret.)
Convenor, Junk VFA Movement

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To enhance public enlightenment, following is a rejoinder to pro-Balikatan arguments. Use of the word “America” or “U.S.” does not refer to the American people, many of whom have supported our stand against U.S. military bases in 1991 and the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) in 1998. It refers rather, to the powerful conglomerate known as the “U.S. military-industrial complex” which American presidents serve as “chairman of the board.”

1. America is our friend. So what’s wrong with allowing U.S. forces into the country to help us put an end to the Abu Sayyaf problem?

  • If America is our friend, then why did it support the Marcos dictatorship for 14 long years? “Mr. President, we admire your adherence to democracy,” was how Vice President George Bush Sr. greeted Ferdinand Marcos when he visited the Philippines during the period of martial rule. At that time, thousands of Filipinos were being tortured and “salvaged” (extra-judicially executed) by the military and police henchmen of Marcos.

  • Why did America support Great Britain and not the Philippines over the Sabah territorial issue?

  • Why has America refused to clean up the toxic wastes that its military forces had left behind in Clark and Subic despite its tragic effect on Filipino lives and the local environment?

  • Why did America double-cross Emilio Aguinaldo in August 1898 and in February 1899 that marked the beginning of the Filipino-American war where more than 600,000 Filipino civilians died?

2. Filipino soldiers still benefit from U.S. training in Balikatan.

  • What do U.S. instructors know about the terrain in Basilan and the history, culture and grievances of the Moro people?

  • What can U.S. instructors teach the Filipino soldiers in counterinsurgency and irregular warfare? The Armed Forces of the Philippines’ experiences in this most difficult form of warfare spans over a period of more than 50 years. U.S. forces were directly involved only once in counterinsurgency war. This was in Vietnam where they failed miserably.

  • Training in the use of sophisticated weaponry is peripheral to the Abu Sayyaf problem. Essentially, the problems facing AFP combat units on the island arise from a) faulty and questionable leadership; b) its effect on troop morale; and c) lack of people’s support due to government’s condescending treatment of the Moro people as second-class citizens and failure to sincerely address their problems and grievances.

3. The Philippine economy and military stand to benefit from Balikatan 02-1.

  • Hundreds of RP-U.S. joint military exercises have been held during the last 50 years. Following the pro-Balikatan logic, the Philippines should by now be at the forefront of economic development and military capability in Southeast Asia. But why is the country at the tail-end instead? This is because RP-U.S. economic and military agreements are actually one-sided, unequal and onerous impositions that serve U.S. interests primarily.

  • Even if U.S. promises them double of what it promised the Philippines, other Southeast Asian nations will not accept if it means allowing U.S. military intervention in their internal affairs. They have a high sense of self-respect and national dignity. Philippine leaders are political prostitutes.

4. U.S. troop participation in Balikatan 02-1 is not for combat but for training purposes.

  • There are many cases where military exercises are used primarily as instruments of power politics rather than for troop training.

  • The veil of confusing semantics and lack of transparency that characterize Balikatan 02-1 is easier to understand when pieced against the backdrop of U.S. Department of Defense East Asia Strategy Report of 1995, as follows:

“This report reaffirms our commitment to maintain a stable forward presence in the region, at the existing level of about 100,000 troops, for the foreseeable future…for maintaining forward deployment of U.S. forces and access and basing rights for U.S. and allied forces…If the American presence in Asia were removed…our ability to affect the course of events would be constrained, our markets and our interests would be jeopardized.”

12 February 2002

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