Statement on International Women’s Day:
Increased US militarization of the Philippines through the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), the Asian Pivot and the soon-to-be-operational Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) makes living dangerous and doubly difficult for women and children. This has been made clear by the country’s experience with US’s Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines. Again, this is the lesson we can glean from the recent events: the murder of trans-woman Jennifer Laude on October 11, 2014, as well as the killing and displacement of Muslim civilians during and after the Mamasapano tragedy on January 25 this year.
The World March of Women-Philippines and other women’s organizations and individuals gathered today, supposedly to celebrate International Women’s Day, bemoan the Philippine government’s acquiescence to all US military trainings, exercises, troop deployment, prepositioning of war materiel, patrolling Philippine waters and docking in Philippine ports of US warships and maintaining military advisers. These are all for US’ wars.
Jennifer’s murder is not an ordinary crime as the President pictured it to be. It is clearly a hate crime committed by a US soldier who enjoys the protection of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), hence the difficulty for Philippine police authorities to serve him an arrest warrant and present him in court for preliminary investigation. While custody comes with criminal jurisdiction over the crime, US authorities have custody of the accused Joseph Scott Pemberton. Even in court, the unequal relations manifest in allowing the attendance of several US military personnel while limiting Jennifer’s side to only her immediate family and her lawyers.
The urgency and secrecy of the special operation to get Marwan, carried-out for the US by the PNP Special Action Force (SAF), particularly the 84th Special Action Company skipped the PNP chain of command and defied the order by the President and Commander-in-Chief, Benigno C. Aquino III, to coordinate with the AFP. Evidently, the only consideration of this operation was the US’s desire to get Marwan and show a positive development in its war on terror as the ISIS continues to advance in several fronts in the Middle East and even in Europe. Hence the result: a tragedy that befell 44 members of the PNP-SAF, 18 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), at least five Muslim civilians killed, including a girl named “Sarah”, more than a thousand displaced, and a compromised peace process for the Mindanao-Sulu area.
The AFP is now into an offensive against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a splinter group of the MIFF. Already, this has displaced 8,130 families or 30,130 individuals. Women, the elderly and children bear most of the hardships and dangers that go with need to evacuate. Young women and children become more prone to trafficking and prostitution.
The World March of Women is definitely against terrorism but it laments the conduct of a war on terror that terrorizes civilians. We condemn the US military that has been dismissing as collateral damage the massive destruction and carnage it has done all over the world that spawn more terrorist groups. We call on the Aquino government to end the VFA and all agreements that tie the country to an unequal defense relation with the US and make the government an accomplice to the US’ war crimes in its unending quest for world dominance.
We call for peace and self-determination for Mindanao, and justice for all victims of US militarism!
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