Peace Researcher 37 – November 2008
7 October 2008
ON US MILITARY BASING IN MINDANAO
An Appeal For Truth And Vigilance In The Midst Of Deceit
The Citizens' Peace Watch is gratified that we are contributing in a small way towards attaining the truth about US military basing in the country (i.e. the
We, however, raise issues with the manner by which the six hour-long "inspection" was conducted. First, it was conducted by and only with parties whose backgrounds cast immediate questions on their conclusions: they are known proponents of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), are on record as having defended or supported
Second, it was hosted by the very parties that were supposed to be subjected to the investigation: the US and Philippine military and defence officials who may be the very people responsible for the violations being investigated by the committee. Like giving a crime suspect the power to dictate what the Police can and cannot examine in a crime scene, the inspection gave the organisers the opportunity to stage manage the inspection, allowing the so-called investigators to see only what those being investigated would have wanted to see.
Third, it appears that the LOVFA did not interview a single person whose testimonies and opinions diverged from those of the ones being investigated. They could, for instance, have sought out the airport official who claims that the US has been expanding the structures it has been using inside the airport, or the Commission on Human Rights officials that investigated the involvement of US troops in the February 2008 incident in which eight civilians were killed, or rank and file Filipino soldiers who have said that they are barred from entering the Joint Special Operations Task Force – Philippines (JSOTF-P) compound, therefore belying the claim that the JSOTF-P camp is under Philippine control. This is like the Police not interviewing any witnesses whose testimonies could pin the suspect. Fourth, that only a limited number of reporters were allowed to cover limited moments of the event, raise further concerns on the openness and transparency of the process.
None So Blind As Those Who Will Not See
Given all these, it is no surprise that the
LOVFA members overlooked what they were supposed to oversee. It is not that
they did not catch sight of
The members of the LOVFA just refused to call what they saw as a "
The JSOFT-P headquarters in
Regardless of what are there, however, they are there for a purpose: to support US military operations. Biazon's claim that the base is "administrative in nature and not combat in nature" is contrary to how US and Filipino troops themselves describe the activities the
A Base Is A Base Is A Base
In other words, under the
In light of this, we with the Citizens Peace Watch reiterate our call for a truly independent investigation into the issue – an issue of grave constitutional import and an issue that affects the prospects of peace in the country and beyond. We call for the formation of an independent commission composed of people of unquestioned integrity and impartiality – none of whom should have voted on the VFA or similar agreement before and none of whom should have past or present ties with the military and the administration – and with real powers and resources to inspect the military bases, to compel officials to appear, to summon witnesses and to provide protection to them, to conduct their investigation without interference from US and Philippine militaries and the executive branch. Their findings could serve as the basis or guide for further legislative and judicial actions on the matter.
Pending these actions, we reiterate our call for the suspension of the deployments of US military troops to the country. No investigation can be fair and thorough as long as the subjects of the investigation are in a position to change the facts on the ground and to determine what can and cannot be investigated. The Citizens Peace Watch believes that the truth about
About The Citizens' Peace Watch
The Citizens' Peace Watch is an independent initiative of concerned citizens brought together by various non-government organisations and other civil society groups to continuously and consistently monitor the peace and security situation in the country in order to contribute to well-informed public debates and policy discussions.
[i] Citizens Peace Watch Final Report of Fact-Finding Mission to Zamboanga City and Sulu, February 2008, http://www.focusweb.org/philippines/docs/CPWReport.pdf
[ii] "No Secret US Military
Bases Found in
[iii] United States Department of Defense Dictionary of Military Terms, http://www.dtic.mil/doctrine/jel/doddict/data/b/00636.html.
[iv] Major Kevin T. Henderson, US Army, "Army Special Operations Forces and Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) Integration: Something a Joint Task Force Commander should Consider," monograph, United States Army Command and General Staff College, School of Advanced Military Studies, 19/5/04; another writer talks about a "Forward Operating Base 11" in the southern Philippines (Cherilyn Walley, "Impact of the semi-permissive environment on force protection in Philippine engagements," Special Warfare, September 2004); TD Flack, "When Visiting Jolo, Show a Little Courtesy, Please," Stars and Stripes, 12/3/07.
[v] "US denies building bases
[vi] Veronica Uy, "VFACom
[vii] For more on the actual
activities of US troops in Mindanao, see
[viii] For more on these changes to US basing strategy, see Focus on the Global South, “At the Door of all the East': The Philippines in US Military Strategy”, November 2007, www.focusweb.org/at-the-door-of-all-the-east.pdf A condensed version of this 140 page paper was published in Peace Researcher 36, August 2008, as “In The Dragon’s Lair”, by Herbert Docena, which can be read online at http://www.converge.org.nz/abc/pr36-163.html.