Contact: Berna Ellorin
Secretary-General, BAYAN USA
“The involvement of US troops in a fatal raid of a Sulu village, south of Mindanao, killing eight innocent bystanders, including two children and pregnant woman proves Balikatan kills,” states BAYAN USA Chair Chito Quijano in response to the testimony of Sandrawina Wahid, a villager who claims to have witnessed US troops storm her village with Philippine troops earlier this month.
The Filipino-American alliance of over 12 organizations in the US is joining the massive movement for the removal of US troops from the Philippines, and Mindanao in particular.
Wahid testified she witnessed at least four US soldiers join Philippine forces raid her barangay (village). Among the victims who did not survive the raid was her husband, Private First Class Ibnol Wahid, a soldier shot while on vacation with his family. Soldiers also burned down houses and harassed villagers.
“The US troops are in the Philippines under the context of the Balikatan joint military exercises in order to train and assist Philippine troops in defeating terrorism. They are prohibited under Philippine law to engage in direct combat,” Quijano stated. “This incident proves otherwise. We demand an immediate investigation by government authorities of US involvement in this tragedy.”
Amidst growing protests in Manila in response to the Arroyo family’s exposed graft and corruption, bigger protests have emerged in Mindanao against renewed US military presence in the region, the extension of the US-Philippine military agreement known as the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA), and the return of the Balikatan joint military exercises, including major cities Cagayan de Oro and Davao.
“Balikatan literally means ‘shoulder to shoulder’, but people are dying because of it”, Quijano added. “The real terrorism the people need to defeat is state terrorism and political repression in the Philippines at the hands of Arroyo’s military and the US military.”
Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, in an effort to support the Global War on Terror, requested the Bush administration send US troops to Mindanao back in 2001 to defeat the Abu Sayyaf, a supposed Islamic fundamentalist group gone awry. Since the start of the Balikatan exercises after September 11th, no member of Abu Sayyaf has been apprehended. Many question of existence of the group and its relationship to the Philippine government.
“As tax season here in the US approaches, we are appealing urgently to US taxpayers to call on their government to withdraw US military aid to the Philippines. The last Appropriations Bill from the US Congress allotted $30 million in aid to the Philippines. This money is fueling state terrorism in our motherland,” Quijano ended.