Monday, February 20, 2006

BM criticizes US disrespect to locals

Bayan Muna solon leads ‘jogging protest’ vs. US-RP military exercises

Bayan Muna (People First) representative Joel Virador today led more
than 50 activists and supporters in a renewed effort to stop the
biggest edition so far of the RP-US Balikatan military exercises by jogging
to the United States embassy.

“What the Filipino people needs is regular exercise that is good for
the health and not the Balikatan exercises that give rise to rights
abuses and the disruption, if not destruction of the local people’s
daily lives and livelihood. In this way, we pursue our call to end the
presence of US troops on Philippine soil,” Virador said.

A small police force guarding the US embassy gates were taken by
surprise by the joggers who were mostly women and some children from
Bayan Muna and other groups.

The 22nd RP-US Exercise Balikatan 2006 that shall run from
February 20 to March 5, at least 5,500 US troops will be doing various
sorts of ‘cross- trainings, civic and military aid’ in the biggest of the
37 ‘joint exercises’ scheduled this year.

The provinces of Sulu in Mindanao, Cebu in the Visayas and
various points in Luzon are the sites of Balikatan exercises this year.

“Alongside with 2,800 Filipino soldiers, we are sure that
definitely, more abuses from these combined number of troops will
happen,” Virador said.

News reports revealed that the latest Balikatan edition has actually
started with supposed ‘humanitarian and civic assistance’ in Jolo,
Sulu wherein stray animals have been mercilessly shot by US Navy
Lieutenant Mike Rice.

“We do not need to wait for human casualties or the rise of
prostituted women in Sulu, in Cebu or Central Luzon before we think of booting
out these US troops. These soldiers do not even have even the
slightest respect for our own compatriot soldiers. They should be made to
leave,” Virador said.

The exercise is one of 37 joint US-Philippine military exercises
planned during Fiscal Year 2006 under the auspices of the Mutual Defense
Board and the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

US disrespect to locals

The solon also criticized the US military initiative of not giving
any terms of reference (TOR) or any framework of activities that US
soldiers would undertake in the venues of the joint military exercise.

“This only shows the utter disrespect of the US government and its
forces with regard to our national sovereignty and laws. In Sulu, a
war-like atmosphere was created by the US troops with the incessant
humming of helicopters, barricading of beachfronts, diggings in rural roads
and insulting acts to the local Muslim culture,” Virador said.

The Bayan Muna solon is actively campaigning for the abolition of
unfair US-RP bilateral agreements such as the Mutual Defense Treaty of
1951 (MDT) and Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

“The MDT and VFA legalize US intervention in the country and this
should be immediately stopped. Our people do not need US troops on our
soil. The American troops are using these ‘humanitarian missions’ and
‘trainings’ to smokescreen their real agenda in the country. The US
should stop pretending to be peacemakers when they are in fact the
biggest provocateurs and warmongers in the world. We will continue to work
for the abrogation of the MDT and the VFA in all arenas possible,”
Virador said.

Among the groups that jogged with Bayan Muna were the Solidarity
Action Network of Mindanao (KATIG-Mindanao), Bagong Alyansang
Makabayan (BAYAN), Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), Moro-Christian People’s Alliance
and the Suara Bangsamoro party. #

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