Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts
Volume 3, Number 16 May 25 - 31, 2003 Quezon City, Philippines
Filipinos who want to learn a lesson or two about the neo-colonial relationship between their country and the United States can do so by taking another hard look at those presidential state visits to the United States. They will find that each time the republic’s president goes to Washington, the country always takes in more pain than gain.
all he got was a pledge of assistance on condition that U.S. investors earn their right to exploit the country's natural resources and U.S. military bases would stay indefinitely.
the huge drain to the treasury, succeeding presidents would take the same
traditional expedition to Washington to perform a ritual of reporting and asking
for favors, giving the impression that one doesn't become a president of the
republic unless you pay a courtesy call to the U.S. chief executive.
his 20-year rule, first as elected president in fraudulent elections and then as
a dictator, Ferdinand Marcos paid a visit to Washington several times impressing
the American leaders no end and earning for him U.S. support for his
authoritarian rule. He took pleasure in being the United States'
"spokesman" in Asia, articulating the hegemonic objectives of the U.S.
in the region through its wars of aggression and onerous economic policies.
was during Marcos's long reign that the Philippines' commitment to fight Mother
America's wars escalated and U.S. investors were given more special privileges.
U.S. support and military aid encouraged the dictatorship to launch a brutal
campaign of repression against the Filipino people.
first ever visit to a foreign country made by Corazon Aquino was to the United
States where she was hailed as an extraordinary president and a heroine. The
Americans thanked her as a president who guaranteed U.S. interests during the
transition from dictatorship to "restored democracy." And
incidentally, in line with that, she launched a bloody "total war"
campaign against the armed Left and the Moro rebels led by the same generals and
with the same U.S. military support that maintained a reign of terror during the
the president with the biggest collection of travel luggage and souvenirs, Fidel
V. Ramos was no stranger to America, having been trained there as a West Pointer
and as the CO of the Philippine mission to Vietnam in the 1960s. In his visits
to Washington, Ramos pledged to champion globalization in Asia even as he
secretly negotiated for the return of U.S. military bases albeit in new but more
extensive form - access agreement. Support for globalization found Ramos
pressing for the ratification of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade
(GATT) by the Senate where he was ably supported by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and
Blas Ople. As many of its exponents would later admit, GATT did a lot of damage
to the country’s poor producers, labor force and the economy itself.
to form, Ramos would not leave the presidency without railroading a midnight
agreement that would allow the entry into the country of U.S. forward deployed
forces and facilities - the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) in February 1998.
Today, he still shuttles between Manila, Tokyo and Washington as senior member
of the Asia Advisory Board of the powerful U.S. multinational investment firm
and defense contractor, Carlyle Group.
was the misfortune of Joseph Estrada not to have flown to Washington after his
election in May 1998 - as his predecessors would upon taking power - because by
this time his would-be host, Bill Clinton, was preoccupied with defending
himself against an impeachment over charges of immorality. He almost did not
make it to the coveted destination until - six months before he would be ousted
in a people power - he succeeded in securing a "working visit" to
his only official visit to the United States in July 2001 - his first as
president was in 1999 supposedly for an eye check-up - the president tried to
enlist the support of the U.S. in his war against the Abu Sayyaf and Moro
Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) arguing that Osama bin Labin had been supporting
the rebels for years. He also brought with him a laundry list of military
equipment and a request for military assistance for the Armed Forces'
visit to the United States had its own pomp and pageantry of sorts - air strikes
and artillery fire against the MILF in Mindanao that would last for months, with
the president later photographed in a commander-in-chief's camouflage uniform,
dark glasses and all and his bare hands digging into a lunch of roasted pig and pansit
with soldiers amid a smoke of gunfire in the backdrop.
proved to be his final act. At the height of the oust-Estrada struggle early
2001, police chief Gen. Panfilo Lacson reportedly made a sneak visit to Pentagon
to sell a civilian-military junta that would replace the beleaguered Estrada but
with the latter retained as a nominal civilian president. Before that could even
materialize, Estrada was already out.
may have been instrumental for having the VFA ratified by the Senate in 1999 but
it was Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who used it – along with the cold war-relic
mutual defense pact with the United States – to re-establish the Philippines
as a strategic part of America's military power and armed aggression in
Southeast Asia. In her November 2001 meeting with Bush, she agreed to increase
the deployment of U.S. forces in the Philippines on the pretext of war exercises
and fighting the Abu Sayyaf.
the same meeting, the emperor and his vassal also hatched a plan to include the
NPA and Jose Maria Sison in the U.S. list of foreign terrorists. Thanks but no
thanks to the two leaders, these secret agreements have heightened the wanton
violation of the country's sovereignty and increased the level of military
atrocities as a result of renewed offensives against both the Moro and NPA
guerrillas, their mass bases and suspected front organizations.
a time when U.S. armed aggression and its desire to consolidate the American
Empire (also known as imperialist power) are igniting outrage and
anti-imperialist sentiments in many countries, Bush has found in Macapagal-Arroyo
one of a few allies who stood by the side of the aggressor. As a reward, the
U.S. emperor invited his puppet to a second visit topped by a state dinner at
the White House and a toast for a vibrant friendship and alliance between the
countries. The emperor hailed his guest as a defender of world freedom even as
in her own country the anti-terrorism bill being pushed by Malacañang will undo
what chartermakers have crafted in the name of freedom.
We may yet see another reward for Macapagal-Arroyo in October when Bush reciprocates by visiting Manila - an occasion that can be used to endorse her candidacy in the May 2004 presidential election. It's all in the script.
also received pledges from her host for a Philippine share in the economic
reconstruction of Iraq in exchange for her support for the war against Saddam
Hussein. The president has been cashing in on Bush's recent imperial conquests
and the pillage of sovereign countries hoping that such support by a small,
powerless nation would earn for Macapagal-Arroyo's allies in the construction
and trade sector some lucrative contracts. The big puzzle however is how this is
going to happen considering that the colonial takeover of Iraq's economy -
dubbed as a "mass privatization program" - is being dominated by
Bush's own predatory allies in the U.S. military-industrial complex such as
Halliburton, Bechtel, Chevron Texaco and other companies.
trip to the United States reaffirms the decades-old ridiculous doctrine
subscribed to by previous administrations that the country's destiny lays in its
continuing faith in Mother America. True, these presidential state visits have
been somewhat "forward-looking" too - they always looked forward to
pledges of economic and military aid in exchange for maintaining a neo-colonial
relationship with the United States. But after a century of colonial and
neo-colonial ties, the country is poorer than ever, unemployment is getting
worse and prospects of a better life among majority of Filipinos are growing
dimmer by the day.
the first place, not one of those visits ever addressed such important issues as
an American apology for the 1.5 million Filipinos killed in campaigns of
genocide by U.S. mercenaries during the Philippine-American War and millions
others more who died during World War II for defending Mother America. Thousands
of old WWII veterans have never been given what is due them including fair war
pensions and other benefits. The demand for compensation for the deaths and
ecological destruction caused by the toxic waste abandoned by the U.S. military
facilities has all but been forgotten. How about the scores of Filipinos who
were mowed down by American soldiers around the military bases simply because
they were mistaken for wild boars and scavengers?
of friendship and in the name of defense alliance, all violations to the VFA
where scores of Filipinos have been killed or maimed are best not talked about
in court. We also wonder whether Macapagal-Arroyo took up with Bush the plight
of hundreds of U.S.-based Filipino-Americans arrested, questioned or about to be
deported like criminals as the U.S. government – under its new homeland
security - tightens immigration laws.
makes Macapagal-Arroyo’s visits doubly important to the Americans is that they
come at a time when the United States is fast losing its traditional allies in
Europe, Asia and other regions and it needs junior partners who can be trusted
to boost its wars of aggression, forge new security partnerships and consolidate
its imperial power. As the puppet president commits herself to support the U.S.
imperial agenda the Philippines will be more and more deeply involved in
Washington’s armed interventionism abroad even as the country’s own economic
and political resources cannot address its own systemic problems.
Filipinos who want to learn a lesson or two about the neo-colonial relationship between their country and the United States can do so by taking another hard look at those presidential state visits to the United States. They will find that each time the republic’s president goes to Washington, the country always takes in more pain than gain. Bulatlat.com